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Oliver Chadwyck-Healey

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Oliver Chadwyck-Healey (c1887-1960) of Morgan Brothers (Publishers) and The Engineer


1960 Obituary [1]

We regret to have to record the death last Wednesday, February 24, of Mr. Oliver Chadwyck-Healey, who was chairman of Morgan Brothers (Publishers), Ltd., proprietors of this journal, from 1948 to 1956. He was seventy-three years old.

It is quite easy to write a factual obituary and we suppose that the facts about a man's life do give some impression of his character. For, in a rough kind of way, there is a correlation between the job a man does and what he is. But the correlation is often very rough and the events of Mr. Oliver's life give little clue to his real personality.

He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford, read Law and was called to the Bar but never practised. He first joined the staff of THE ENGINEER in 1910. In January, 1914, he became a director. After service during the war in the Royal Berkshire Regiment, he came back to THE ENGINEER and was appointed managing director in 1922.

On the amalgamation of The Engineer, Ltd., with Morgan Brothers (Publishers), Ltd., he was appointed joint managing director, taking up that position on May 1, 1929. In December, 1942, he became sole managing director, a position which he held until September, 1945. At that time he became deputy chairman of the company and on the retirement of his half-brother, Sir Gerald, in 1948, he was elected chairman. He retired from that office in March, 1956, but remained a director right up to the time of his death.

Mr. Oliver never set out to make himself well known to the staff and consequently he never attained much popularity in this office. But he liked to know, and indeed insisted on knowing, what was going on. To the editors of the firm's journals his most striking quality was a clarity and independence of mind. It was always worth taking a problem to him, even a technical one, because so often he could throw light upon a means of thinking it out. This same independence of mind was brought to bear in the discussion of any subject, for example, of policy, which was before him. He had, too, an almost inhuman detachment. All editors at times receive letters of the kind which begin: "Dear Sir, - We are shocked and surprised that a journal of your standing ...... ," and conclude by asking nastily what it is proposed to do about it. There must be few editors who have not got hot under the collar upon reading such a letter and who have not desired to dash off an impetuous and rasping reply. Not so Mr. Oliver when shown such a letter! No doubt his legal training came to his aid. His temper was completely under control. "Is he right?" he would ask; and "What did we print?" The rudeness and the fury of the correspondent's language would be wholly disregarded. Any action taken must, he insisted, be based upon the real facts and however distasteful it might be to an editor suffering from a sense of cruel insult, a courteously-framed letter must go back.

To younger men this detachment was not a little frightening. Mr. Oliver seemed to be too unemotional to be quite human. But closer contact with him revealed some inward human frailties; and an attractive, self-mocking humour. Besides, on occasion in what appeared to be a cold and unemotional judgment, he would remark that be didn't think one could really ask someone to behave in some particular way, a conclusion which could in reality have only been reached on emotional grounds! Upon still closer acquaintance, his vivacity was revealed.

Then would come the discovery that he had joined the Board of Management of the Hospital for Sick Children in 1925 and that he bad been very active ever since in the management of London hospitals, having at one time as a particular concern the organisation of the Emergency Bed Service. In fact, the better one knew Mr. Oliver, the greater the affection and the esteem one had for him.

Mr. Oliver always kept a sharp look-out on the journals published by the firm and an especially sharp one on THE ENGINEER. He was very quick to spot errors of any kind and particularly those which can so easily be made in quotation. Once, unaccountably we translated "Timeo Danaos" as "I fear the Danes." Mr. Oliver wrote to say that for his part he had always understood it to be the Greeks but that, of course, he stood to be corrected by the editor! To the very end he kept up this scrutiny. It is the small things in life and death, not the larger ones that prove the more poignant. The thought that we shall never again receive deserved but kindly criticism from that quarter brings sharply home to us the fullness of our loss.


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