Don Prichard - Obituary

Don Prichard


Recently we have been informed, sadly, of the death on 9th September 2011 of Dr. Don Prichard, aged 79.  He was a lifelong Member of the Association and played hockey for the Old Bordenians occasionally when he left School in 1949.  Subsequently, he enjoyed a remarkable career - which is evident from the following Obituary written by Graham Allatt, reproduced with his kind permission and that of the Friends of the British Library Newsletter in which it originally appeared. 


 Dr Don Prichard, deputy chairman of the Friends from 2002 to 2007, was a wise and energetic member of the Council and was instrumental in professionalising the organisation of the Friends and improving relations with the Library during his tenure. After standing down from the Council he agreed to act temporarily as co-ordinator of the volunteers.

Don had a tremendous breadth of knowledge, an inexhaustible fund of anecdotes and the gift of being able to talk to anyone and everyone. Whether speaking to Library staff, volunteers on the desk or other Council members, he always had a friendly word.  He also had a clear vision of the right way forward, and did a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure the Council’s decisions were implemented effectively. The Friends owe much to him.

Don was born in 1932 in Gravesend. He was educated at Borden Grammar School, leaving at 16 to join Bowater as a laboratory assistant but continuing his education by studying chemistry at night school.  After completing his National Service with the famous East Kent Regiment, the Buffs, he qualified as a chemical engineer at London University. In 1957 he married Beryl; they were the perfect partners for over 50 years.

He moved first to ICI at Middlesbrough (where his two sons were born) and then to Dow Chemical, where he remained for the rest of his career.  At Dow, Don was initially designing and commissioning chemical plants but in 1974 he went to Madrid to run the human resources function in Spain. With his tremendous people skills, this played to his greatest strength. He became fluent in the language and developed a love for all things Spanish. After a few years he moved to Zurich to run Dow’s human resources operations for Europe and in 1988 went to Hong Kong as HR director for the Far East and Australasia. He retired in 1993 and came back to London to live in the Barbican.

Don was determined to be just as active in retirement as he was during his working life. He immediately embarked on studying for an MA at Birkbeck College, London University. As if this were not challenging enough, he followed it with an MPhil in History, followed by a PhD and an MSc in the history of science.

Don and Beryl led an active social life. They found time to travel widely in Europe, on walking tours and to music festivals and art galleries. Don was particularly fond of hearing baroque music in the buildings where it would originally have been performed.

It was through this musical passion that I met him, and it was he who introduced me to the Friends. He and Beryl befriended me during a baroque music festival in northern Spain. I happened to mention that I was looking to take on additional voluntary work: within five minutes he had recruited me as treasurer.

Of many fond memories, two in particular stand out. The first is an oft-repeated image of Don striding out over the Spanish Pyrenees, setting a cracking pace at the front of our party. This was despite his being the oldest in the group, conceding 30 years to some of the younger members.

The second is when one of our walking parties had a reunion at St Paul’s Cathedral, because a member was singing choral evensong as part of a visiting choir. Don kindly arranged to conduct a tour of the triforium for all concerned, and with characteristic vigour and enthusiasm regaled us with tales of the cathedral, its architect and its construction. The very next morning he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, but there was no hint of any ailment during our visit. His bravura performance was a measure of the man.

Graham Allatt

Comment received from Frank Hales (13/02/13): So sad to hear of the passing of Mr Nicholls my English teacher at the School and Don Pritchard. I am sure I knew Don from Holy Trinity Church Choir but mainly I remember him for hockey and his motorbike.  My first game for Old Bordenian thirds was whilst I was still at school. He took me on the back of his bike to Herne Bay where we lost 10 - 0. I came back in a minibus with a form along each side and not enough room for everyone so Alan Sampson lay along the laps of the players on one side of the van. My next game was away at Woodfield Hoists in Rochester where we won 10 - 0. This time I came home on a service bus.

Frank W Hales 1951 to 1957