Monday 30 November 2009

Stuart Staveley

We are sad to report that Dr Stuart Staveley (Vice President of the EBU) has passed away.

John Williams who knew him well has written the following obituary:

I arrived at the EBU in Thame in the Spring of 1978, charged with taking over from Stuart Staveley as Executive Secretary of the EBU.

The EBU had recently established offices at 15B High Street, but part of the operation – the trading department – was located in the Staveley private household across the road at (I seem to remember) No. 81. Stuart was assisted – some might say ruled – by his wife Ann, who acted as Assistant Secretary. Certainly it was Ann who took all the phone calls from Harold Franklin during the day and night-time, and by and large did his (i.e. Harold’s) bidding.

I had a few precious months with Stuart while he tried to school me in the mysteries of management of the EBU. He was a careful and punctilious manager ("look after the pennies" was his byword), and this was entirely in keeping with his other role as a part-time lecturer in classical history at London University. Stuart was the ultimate academic. He deplored and despised anything that wasn’t correct or traditional in the modern world. He insisted on spelling Yugoslavia with a J.

Stuart was a founder of Aylesbury Bridge Club, where he took me to play with him soon after I arrived. Naturally, I had to learn the Blue Team Blue Club book from cover to cover – the most rigorous and structured of bidding systems – at 24 hours notice in order to do this. (When we played, every system bid in the book seemed to come up, and I got them all right, much more by luck than judgment, which Stuart accepted without comment.) He was a fine technician at the bridge table, though Ann regarded him as far too passive in the bidding.

At this time Stuart and Ann were looking towards retirement in Scotland (though Ann was already ill and sadly didn’t survive long in their remote highland cottage).

Stuart had set himself the task of writing a book on the history of punctuation in the English language – perhaps not destined for best-seller status – and this kept him occupied for a good time.

He didn’t lose his bridge contacts, remaining as Secretary of the International Bridge Press Association for some years. He had accepted a role as a Vice-President of the EBU (though he never attended meetings) and made occasional appearances at European and World events in a press role.

The last time I saw him was at the World Teams Olympiad in Maastricht in 2000, when we shared a table at the final dinner, and he had some cutting things to say about substandard fancy cuisine. He was accompanied, I recall, by his “new” wife, also called Ann – which somehow seemed entirely fitting.

Stuart was in many ways the founder of the modern EBU. He will be remembered fondly and with enormous respect by all who knew him.