Obituary: Hugh Playfair (CR 1960-68)

HUGH Playfair (CR 1960-68) was born in St Andrews, Fife, on 5 December 1935, and educated at Oundle, where his lifelong interest and career in history was first kindled, along with a fascination for church architecture.

From Oundle he passed into King’s College, Cambridge, to read history, followed by National Service with the Somaliland Scouts (1957-9), before embarking on a career as a schoolmaster. A Diploma of Education from New College, Oxford, set him up for his first teaching post at Marlborough College, starting in 1960, when he also became an officer in the Combined Cadet Force. Eight enjoyable years at Marlborough involved teaching A Level History, and being form master to a junior form teaching History, Geography, English and Divinity, while also commanding the CCF from 1966, and coaching the 2nd XV, helping with Athletics, and being the last master in charge of Boxing.

Keen for new challenges, he obtained a two-year leave of absence to take up a post at Cranbrook School in Sydney, Australia, little knowing that it would turn into a five-year stay from 1969-74. The bulk of his career was then spent at Canford School, teaching history, politics and religious education. There his chief interest was the CCF, for service to which he was appointed OBE in 1989.

He took early retirement in 1993 to enable a return to Australia (where he had met and married his wife, Bridget) on a Royal & Ancient Golf Club tour. Golf was a passion throughout his life, being a native St Andrean. He had joined the club on turning eighteen, following in the footsteps of some forty members of the Playfair family, and won the R&A’s Jubilee Vase in 1954.

His long-standing interest in church history and architecture, together with his calling as a Lay Reader from 1987, led to him becoming Chairman of the Bath & Wells Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches for seventeen years, helping churches to repair and reorder their buildings. He also founded the Friends of Somerset Churches and Chapels in 1995 (now the Somerset Churches Trust), and was Chairman for its first ten years. The trust honoured Hugh with institution of ‘The Playfair Prize,’ awarded annually for the best church restoration project in the county. His service to the church was recognised in 2016, when he was nominated to receive Maundy Money from HM The Queen at St George’s Chapel.

Hugh passed away on 22 December, 2017, leaving his loving wife, Bridget, three children, Patrick, Edward and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren. He was the author of a number of books reflecting his interest in family and church history.

Hugh George Lyon Playfair, OBE
1935 – 2017