Born 1/9/1939, died 6/6/2022
Simon was born in Calcutta, educated at Shrewsbury and Cambridge where he represented the University in the Pentathalon. He joined the Dunlop tyre company and was sent on an elite management in the US. Overseas postings followed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Zambia, where, as managing director, he restructured the company ensuring Africans were promoted to the top positions along with Europeans who had previously dominated the top management positions.
His next posting was to Dunlop France, which at the time was haemorrhaging money and on life support. He had to deal with hostile unions protected by the government’s rigid labour laws and new Japanese owners who wanted to completely restructure the company. When he eventually returned to the UK, he left a Dunlop France that still competes profitably in a difficult, technically advanced market.
He then became the director of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Trades with a brief to steer the UK motor industry into the European single market.
Simon’s last email was sent to his family and friends on the 3rd June saying that he had been diagnosed with cancer and expected to have only several months left. Four days later we received the news that he had died peacefully on the 6th at his home Symnells in Aldington.
By Shamus Foster
My father would often introduce himself by saying “I’m a Bengali”.
A statement that certainly displayed my father’s characteristic enjoyment of dropping arresting statements into conversation – often with strangers or first acquaintances I might add – who would naturally be startled to learn that Simon, outwardly the quintessential Englishman saw himself as a Bengali.
And, yes, he was born in Calcutta but there was much more to it.
Bengalis have a justified reputation as writers, poets, musicians but also astronomers. In the popular imagination, they are seen as dreamers - creative, versatile, often with expansive characters and always opinionated. So, his claim was also a genuine statement of character, and he was proud to call himself a Bengali.
Which begs the question, having been born in a wider world and demonstrated his adaptability in many countries, why Kent?
To understand this, you must know that this place was his ancestral homeland and Aldington, the family village. When, as a family, we lived abroad in the Far East or Zambia, this was the place that we sped back to on the long vacations, our oak tree, and from where he set out again into the world strengthened and spiritually renewed.
My father’s attachment to Kent was profound but occasionally comical. When he would collect us from boarding school, we developed a collective ritual whereby, as we crossed the boundary between Sussex and Kent on the M20, we would inhale deeply and sagely agree how much better the Kentish air was.
In my case the appreciation was tinged with relief at putting some distance between myself and my boarding school, but I think that my father really believed the air was better in Kent.
Later, on a more serious occasion, when visiting from Australia I commented to him on the sheer pleasure that he gained from his life here – to which my father replied in all sincerity that for him to be in Kent and at Symnells really was an earthly form of paradise.
It meant that when the opportunity presented itself, he planted himself here properly and threw himself into the life of the place, both as a servant of Kent and a man of the village.’
Despite his claims that he was just ‘mucking about on the water” or his oftquoted Kentish phrase “Once a man, twice a boy” Simon’s passion for preserving and improving the unique culture and circumstances of Kent was hard to ignore.
The causes that mattered to him literally across the county ranged from the Faversham Creek Trust to preventing a new detention centre being planned for the village. No doubt he would have handled the latest housing development battle on his very doorstep with characteristic deftness but, reluctantly, has had to leave it to others to take up arms on his behalf.
Throughout it all, it was my father’s energetic concern for people and the places he loved that animated him.
Colleagues and friends know how kind he could be beneath the confident exterior. As a family, we were the beneficiaries of his love and attention, although at times his energy and his convictions could be maddening.
But above all, he was loving and loveable and he loved the land where we have gathered. So whenever you find yourself in the area next, take a deep breath of the good Kentish air and remember that Simon will be enjoying it here with you.
A PERSONAL REFLECTION
By Brian Pain
I first came across Simon when we were still operating Standard Quay as a proper working boatyard.
He turned up on the deck of the dry dock whilst I was crawling under the bottom of a barge in mud and tar in the mirky depths of the dock. He shouted down to me in what seemed at the time a somewhat imperious voice asking what I was doing. (A question I’ve often asked myself over the years).
I soon got to know him well and he became more and more interested in the Creek.
Partially galvanised by the impending loss of Standard Quay and also by seeing an opportunity to “compete” with the very impressive voluntary achievements of his wife Phillippa who worked with the South Georgia Heritage Trust and other Antarctic organisations, he was one of the founder members of The Faversham Creek Trust in 2011.
Because of the contacts made during his previous life as a high-powered business executive, he was uniquely positioned to negotiate a 30 year lease on the Purifier Building at a peppercorn rent from Morrisons supermarkets.
Over the next two years an enthusiastic group of volunteers worked hard to secure funds and rehabilitate the building from the roof down.
Simon is particularly remembered during this time for his impressive labour in the removal of several feet of pigeon droppings which covered most of the ground floor. All transported away from Faversham in his longsuffering trailer to another lucky part of Kent.
He also secured a half size replica of the Graveney Boat and exhibited it at many schools around Kent explaining its part in the history of Faversham Creek.
He remained Vice Chairman until the end of 2017 but had become increasing disillusioned, I think, by the fact that the creek bridge and basin regeneration had become bogged down in local politics.
After Simon’s home and family, his biggest love was his Dutch sailing barge “Hoop” which he kept in Oare Creek.
One of the many pieces of wisdom Simon imparted to me was: “never write more than that which fits on one side of an A4 sheet of paper if you want people to read it”.
So it would be best to stop h……..