Leonard Alfred Cooper Newns was born in St Neots, a quiet little village in Huntingdonshire in 1915. Although christened Leonard, he acquired the nickname 'George' in the early part of the Second World War. The name stuck and everyone in the Civil Service where he later worked knew him as George, as did half the family. The other half of the family know him as Len, or Uncle Len and refuse to have anything to do with the name George!
At home during his childhood, there was one tap in the house, no electricity, an outside loo, and a pit for rubbish in the garden He remembers going to bed with a candle and sitting in the living room with only the light from the fire and one safety lamp so see by. He was left with his grandparents in St Neots while his parents went to London to find work – and it was some years before he went down to join them.
He went to primary and secondary school in Ealing where he remembers looking at the cattle in the fields. When he was about 11 his father spent a weeks’ wages buying him a violin and from that moment music became an integral part of his being. The violin went with him everywhere.
At 17 he started work as an office boy while he studied accountancy at night school, finally qualifying at the age of 24. During this period of work and study, he bought a Hawaiian guitar and he and two of his friends formed a guitar group and played to small audiences around London. Just as they were getting well known war broke out again, and his life, along with that of his generation changed forever. The band split up. Amazingly all three survived the war but sadly the group never re-formed.
At the beginning of the War he decided to join up and queued for three days outside the recruiting office as his office had closed at the declaration of war. On that third day his father came by on his bicycle with a letter telling him to report back for work. In retrospect this saved his life as most of his contemporaries never came back from active service.
While waiting for his call up papers he joined the home guard and in 1940 he was eventually called up – not into the military, but into the civil service where he and 99 other young accountants assisted bomb damaged companies to restart their books. He moved rapidly into other work, catching black marketers, and making sure that no one pinched or forged ration books. In 1942 he met his wife, Dorinne, and despite a respectably long courtship and many separations eventually married in 1944.
In 1945 their first child Christopher was born, followed by Richard in 1947 and Frances in 1949.
He had remained in the Civil Service after the war and stayed in with various postings and positions until in 1953 he was posted as Assistant Trade Commissioner to New Delhi. This was followed by postings as Trade Commissioner to Madras – Now Chennai – and Singapore. After Singapore came Australia and a posting as Deputy High Commissioner. Through this period his trusty violin accompanied him and he would always find someone to play with either as a violin duo or with a pianist.
The North Africa desk in London was his next appointment and the family moved back to the UK. Then came his final posting in 1971 as Director of Exports for the West Midlands and eventual retirement from the Civil Service in about 1980. After his distinguished Service to the Crown he was awarded the Imperial Service Order that was presented to him by Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace.
In 1986 his daughter Frances started the Charity, Dogs for the Disabled and he worked with her to get the charity off the ground. Today the charity is known as Dogs for Good. (At the time of his death George was still President of the organisation.)
He always had a project – always creating new carvings and working hard on his music and playing in his beloved orchestra.
But time catches up with us all and at 92 he had to give up his car and driving licence as his sight and hearing were beginning to fail him. It wasn’t until he was about 97 that he had to give up playing in the orchestra – but this didn’t stop him. He then dusted off his Hawaiian guitar and started playing it again and at age 98 he felt he need some help so his son came from Australia to look after him and he began work on his first album of Hawaiian music which was ready in time for his 100th birthday.
His health and general frailty were a great burden to a mind that wanted to keep creating things. But this was not to be and he finally slipped away peacefully in his sleep, a little short of his 102nd birthday.
His sons Rick and Chris are proud to be known as his sons and his Granddaughter Debbie is proud to be known as his granddaughter.
Christopher Newns 2017