Obituary: Christopher Davies, leading light of Colinton Village

Christopher Davies BEM. Born: November 6 1939 in Coven, Staffordshire. Died: September 23 2020 in Edinburgh

Christopher Davies was at the heart of Edinburgh’s Clinton Village
Christopher Davies was at the heart of Edinburgh’s Clinton Village

During the last 15 years or so, if there was any club or activity in Edinburgh’s Colinton Village, the odds were that Christopher Davies would be involved, such was his energy, drive, interest and ability to motivate others.

Christopher was the firstborn of a vicar and his wife living in a small town in the Midlands. As a young boy, his wartime contact with Germans interned nearby inspired his interest in the German language and a lifelong appreciation of other cultures.

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He went to Durham University to study modern languages, becoming fluent in German, French and Swedish, and then Cambridge University for teacher training. However, he soon decided teaching was not for him, and he took up a management role, first with Chloride, then Unilever.

From the early years of his management roles, he developed an interactive style; he would often be seen on the factory floor speaking to employees of all grades – maybe not unusual now, but certainly then.

He met his wife Elisabeth (who survives him) when she was an au pair in England. Elisabeth is Swiss – such was Christopher’s mastery of German that she thought he was a native speaker! Throughout their married life they always spoke Swiss German at home. They married in Switzerland in 1962, and had two sons, Benedikt and Patrick.

Work carried him and his young family to many overseas posts – Vienna, Sydney, then Newcastle, before moving to Edinburgh in 1983. He worked for Nairn Floors Ltd in Kirkcaldy, initially as marketing director and then managing director.

He was immensely proud of his firm when it was awarded the Royal Warrant as Manufacturers of Floor Coverings. Subsequently he led the Seafish Industry Authority, then took management roles in Austria, Sweden and China. One of his last commissions was to close down an engineering factory in Austria, an unenviable task, viewed by others to have been achieved smoothly with a minimum of job losses.

‘One of his last commissions was to close down an engineering factory in Austria, an unenviable task, viewed by others to have been achieved smoothly with a minimum of job losses’.

Christopher’s retirement gave him time to enjoy more beloved music, joining The Edinburgh Academy choir. His guitar and piano held a very special place in his life. Many recall musical Epiphany celebrations at home, when Elisabeth would treat everyone to Swiss delicacies.

He was an accomplished golfer, and worked tirelessly attempting to prevent the Torphin Golf Club from closing. His fishing exploits with the Midlothian Angling Association particularly on Loch Watten and Glencorse reservoir, were greatly enjoyed – even spawning his poetry book, Reflections from the Water.

He was an active member of the Episcopal Church in Colinton, editing, printing and circulating The Sign magazine: he encouraged other viewpoints and debate, chairing an organisation, Faith in Older People, which became Scotland-wide.

Colinton Garden Club thrived under his leadership for many years – he would claim he was no gardener, but a manager. He represented the club at the Scottish Gardeners Forum. Tickets for the club’s Christmas Pantomimes were heavily sought after, and summer outings oversubscribed.

He was a stickler for good grammar, and had a flair for writing, publishing and printing the Garden Club magazine. He would still chair events with panache, and perform, even when it became obvious Parkinson’s disease had established its hold on him.

Glenlockhart Probus club also benefited from his contributions – it became a well-known secret that he would always have fish and chips after the meetings, something that was never allowed at home!

It was fitting tribute to his huge contribution to the life of Colinton that he was awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) in 2013 for services to the community. Christopher was awarded the Freedom of London in 1999.

The last two years or so of his life were spent with increasing disability and hospitalisation, the distress of which was exacerbated by the isolation that covid precautions demanded.

He had great pride and interest in his sons and their families, and some grandchildren were able to take part in his funeral.

A kind, tolerant, sociable and gifted man, Colinton will be the poorer without Christopher Davies.

PENNY McKEE