Lt. Col. Peter Durie

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Lieutenant Colonel Peter Durie OBE GM DL (1926 - 2010)

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Durie, who died on 2nd March 2010 at the age of 84, was a remarkable man who excelled in three separate spheres - the army, business and charitable and community activity in Bristol.

Born on New Year’s Day 1926, the youngest of four children, his early education was a little haphazard and he did not go to school until he was eight, having taught himself to read using the Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogue. At Fettes, he was in the first XV , the shooting VIII and Pipe Sergeant in the pipe band. On leaving Fettes he followed his Father and elder brother into the Royal Artillery, being commissioned into the Royal Horse Artillery in May 1945 serving in India and then Palestine for the final months of the British Mandate.

In 1951, when serving in Germany that he was awarded the George Medal for saving the life of his Signals Sergeant whilst on exercise. The aerial on a wireless truck made contact with some overhead power cables carrying a current at 20,000 volts. The Signal Sergeant placed his hands on the tailboard of the wireless truck thus earthing the current from the power cable. The Signal Sergeant was electrocuted and would undoubtedly have died if Durie had not broken the circuit by pulling him away from the vehicle. The sergeant had ceased breathing and was unconscious with severe electrical burns, but his life was saved. Durie himself received a heavy electric shock and was burned. As the citation said: “There can be little higher praise than that it can be said of a person that he was prepared to risk his own life to save his comrade’s. This tribute can be worthily paid to Captain Durie”

In 1955 he was appointed as Brigade Major in Cyprus at the height of the EOKA troubles. For his services there he was awarded the MBE. Later, he became an instructor at the Staff College at Camberley and was undoubtedly destined for the highest reaches of the Army had he not decided to retire from the army for family reasons. Although passing out top of the Civil Service Direct Entry Exam for Principals he opted for business, joining Courage where he became a Group Assistant Managing Director in 1974 even though he had opted, again for family reasons, to move to the West Country, near Bristol, retiring there in 1986 as Chairman and Managing Director of Courage Western.

Never one to stand still, this gave him the opportunity to throw himself into a variety of new activities in Bristol. He became chairman of the Bristol and Western Health Authority and then of the United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust. He soon saw that Bristol needed a new children’s hospital and took the lead in raising £11 million towards the costs of the new hospital through what became the Wallace and Grommit Appeal. The Bristol Royal Hospital for Children was opened in 2001. He was appointed OBE in 2002 largely for this work.

Although never having attended university himself, he became heavily involved in Bristol University as a Member of Court and Council becoming Pro-Chancellor in 1994 always promoting the excellence of the University and its facilities. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2002 . None of this prevented him from taking on other community responsibilities. He was Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers, the Greater Bristol Trust and was also a Deputy Lieutenant of Avon and then Somerset.

He had a son and daughter by his first wife, Mary Bowlby who died in 1982, and is survived by them and by his second wife, Constance Linton.

DRCD 2011

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