Past WCB Master Robin Pooley OBE dies aged 84

Past WCB Master Robin Pooley OBE dies aged 84

Meat Management is sad to record the passing of Robin Pooley OBE who died recently. Robin was the widower of Margaret, father to daughter Jayne and brother to his twin Peter. He was a past master of the Worshipful Company of Butchers (WCB).

Robin Pooley OBE. Image courtesy of Phil McCarthy Photography.

Robin Pooley was Cornish, and proud of it. He was born into a Cornish family on 19th June 1936. He spent much of his early life in Cornwall and on leaving school he dived straight into the meat trade, working as a slaughterman for Alf Meade in Reading.

His National Service followed and was at the time of the Suez Crisis when he was posted to Egypt. He was mentioned in dispatches and ended his service with the rank of captain.

Back in civilian life he joined the Towers meat business of which his father Melville was managing director. Towers, being very much a New Zealand Company, it sent Robin out there to learn the New Zealand side of the business. It was during his time in New Zealand that Robin acquired his life-long love of fishing.

In 1971 he broke away from Towers and became general manager of the CWS Meat Division. This was a very significant operation in what were then pre-supermarket days. At the same time the late WCB past master of WCB Colin Cullimore was running Dewhurst. Between them they controlled some 3,000 butchers’ shops.

“As to how he was regarded by those who knew him, you look no further than the great quantity of messages received expressing respect, regard, admiration, gratitude and affection. I do not expect to see his like again.”

From 1976 to 1981 he was managing director of Buxted Poultry. His career then took a very new direction when he was offered and accepted the position of chief executive of the Potato Marketing Board with the brief to sweep away the outdated thinking and practice of the Board and the industry, and to make them fit for the future. In this he was spectacularly successful and this success continued when he moved to the private sector in 1988 as managing director of Anglian Produce, a position he held until 1997.  His work involved all aspects of the potato business, in this country and world-wide. His received wide recognition for his contribution, notably in being awarded an OBE in the 1997 Birthday Honours.

From 1995 to 2003 he served as chairman of five agriculture based organisations and was a director of several others. From 1996 to 2007 he served on a committee of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and lectured at the Royal Agricultural University, Cambridge, Nottingham, Naples and Stara Zagora in Bulgaria. In 1999 he chaired the MAFF enquiry into meat hygiene and from 1996 to 2003 was a NFU council member.

He was Clothed as a Liveryman of the WCB in August 1958 and was Master in 1987. At the time he was the youngest master ever, as far as was known.

His leisure interests were shooting, fishing and especially Freemasonry, which he embraced with enthusiasm. He rose to high rank in that organisation, and would certainly have risen  higher had his health held out. Robin was a generous contributor to his Lodge and raised substantial sums for charity.

In 1972 he married Margaret, a farmer’s daughter, Sadly she died in 2019. They have a daughter, Jayne.

In 2006, Robin had a series of brain haemorrhages from which he made a remarkable recovery, but in 2016 he developed serious problems with his hips which rendered him chair bound. However, despite these burdens, he remained constantly cheerful and amazingly optimistic. Although his body was failing him his mind was as active and productive as ever and even in his last days he was still wrestling with solutions to the world’s many problems.  Sadly Robin succumbed to Covid-19 in late January of this year.

Commenting on his old friend, John Tuckwell, himself a past master of the WCB summed up the life of a very popular and successful man saying: “His long catalogue of successes and achievements confirm that he was a remarkably able and very clever man. He had a quick brain, a ready grasp of facts and a mastery of the English language. He had a phenomenal memory for people and events. He seemed to know everyone, and everyone seemed to know him.

“He was a natural leader, with the knack of inspiring people to want to do their best for him. He was a fine orator, and as an off-the-cuff speaker he had few equals He was always ready to give advice and practical help to any who asked. He was kind, generous and affable, and great company.

“As to how he was regarded by those who knew him, you look no further than the great quantity of messages received expressing respect, regard, admiration, gratitude and affection. I do not expect to see his like again.”

*With thanks to John Tuckwell for his help in creating this tribute.

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