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Past Master Karl Davies 1954-2017

A tribute to Past Master Karl Davies

By Hew R Dundas, Past Master & Almoner to the Company

Iam honoured in having been invited to deliver this address in Karl’s memory because he had been my very greatly-valued friend and colleague for nearly 15 years and our paths through the Company were almost identical. In what I say, I will focus on Karl’s huge contribution to the Company, to the City and to the Livery.

Paraphrasing Sir Winston Churchill, “Karl was a very modest man” BUT, in contrast to the target of Sir Winston’s remark, he had a very great deal to be immensely proud of, his service to the Company itself, and to the wider City, being wholly exemplary.

I first met Karl when he was Chief Executive of the City Disputes Panel, then based in the CIArb offices in Bloomsbury Square; his off-the-record observations of life there were hilarious at the time but became of considerable value later. Over an extended lunch in 2004 (one of several over the years ….), I persuaded him to apply for Admission to our Company to which, unsurprisingly (innate modesty again), his answer was along the lines of “I’m not qualified, not good enough …..” but I managed to override that.

He was admitted as a Freeman in 2004 (with my seconding his application) and progressed to the Livery on 4th May 2005 and it took little persuasion on my part to persuade him to take over from me as Chairman of the Events Committee which, up to that point, had been somewhat sleepy. Wholly unsurprisingly a mini-explosion of activity subsequently followed …. Thereafter, Karl became a Trustee of the Company’s Charitable Trust and he seemed to volunteer to serve on any committee available. To all such committees, he brought the benefits of substantial business experience, an exceptional degree of insight and perception, a dedication second to none and an eye for detail of legendary precision: whereas the opening “Mr Chairman, on a point of order …” can, from others, lead to silent groans, in Karl’s case you knew that he had something genuinely useful to say even if he was not always met with unanimous agreement.

By the time that I was sounded out about becoming Junior Warden, I had learned that it was essential to create a good working relationship with those a year ahead and a year behind. When, approximately a year later, I was consulted about Karl’s possibly succeeding me, I was very pleased to have such a strong back-up to lean on and I often did so, not least concerning City minutiae on which Karl was the undoubted expert in the Company.

Karl’s had three major achievements before becoming Master, the first two related to the grant of our Royal Charter in my year as Master, presented by HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO on 12th May 2012. While I had dealt with the Charter itself, Karl, always energetic in anything he did, substantially took over the detailed planning of the Royal Charter Banquet where his knowledge of protocol and his attention to detail made the planning for the State Opening of Parliament look straightforward.

Karl’s second very significant achievement, and an enduring one, was to take the bones of the Charter and build onto them the flesh of how the Company would operate in practice, most notably with the creation of both new Company Rules and Terms of Reference for all the committees. These vitally important contributions will form an enduring legacy by which Karl will be remembered for years to come.

Karl’s third major achievement was the Mediation Competition which he largely created and ran for its first several years with great success and with enduring value to its student participants.

Karl’s very substantial achievements in respect of the Company stand as they do but, you might imagine, what effect did these have on the wider world ? Before, during and after his year as Master, Karl made one other major contribution, not just to the City but ultimately to the greater good of UK PLC: 12 Modern Livery Companies form the Financial Services Group and provide advice to the Lord Mayor on all relevant matters, particularly in advance of foreign diplomatic trips. Karl became the Company’s FSG representative and, applying his vast experience of the financial sector, injected ferocious energy thereto.

Similarly, Karl served on a charity committee chaired by our Liveryman, Alderman Dame Fiona Woolf DBE, Lord Mayor 2013-14, relating to the Lord Mayor’s Appeal; she tells me that “Karl was a warm and wise supporter, generous with his thoughts and ideas for the start-up of the new long term Appeal charity”.

Karl was an enthusiastic participant in the Company’s involvement in the Lord Mayor’s Financial Literacy Project with Clara Grant Primary School in Tower Hamlets. His vast knowledge of the financial world enabled him to explain matters to the children in a way that they understood while his infectiously bubbly personality kept them amused while they were still learning from him. I recall many occasions when he was wholly engaged with assisting the children, once even sitting on the floor with his group in one of the exercises.

Perhaps Karl’s most prominent characteristic was his integrity which shone through powerfully and he was unquestionably a Man of Principle, sometimes defending his principles with great dedication; in the time-honoured phrase, he did not ‘suffer fools gladly’. His personality had many dimensions to it and, while in some ways a very private person, his tremendous force of personality made him the ideal Company representative at major events. He was often very witty, sometimes with an acerbity perhaps derived from his northern origins in Birkenhead of which he was so proud. As we are all well aware, he was an intensely caring person, most notably in looking after Joy when she was suffering from serious medical issues.

Since this Address will be followed by the Arbitrators’ Anthem, I will close by highlighting some of its text which was so relevant to Karl and to his life:

“… the Lord knows the way of the righteous”: Karl was more righteous than almost anyone I know;

“Their delight is in the law of the Lord”: Karl adhered to a very strong moral code;

“everything they do shall prosper”; Karl has left us all a great legacy which will continue to prosper despite his sad and premature passing away;

“Great peace have they who love your law”: all those present here today will agree that Karl has earned, in abundance, that ‘great peace’.

Hew R Dundas
Past Master (2011-12) and Almoner to the Company
Note: this Tribute is a lightly amended version of the Address delivered at the Service of Thanksgiving on 9th October 2017.

Download a copy of the Order of Service