Nigel joined the 8th Hussars in Luneburg in early 1955, and throughout his Short Service Commission led 1st Troop in ‘C’ Squadron (commanded then by Maj John Meade).

Lt N Clark JP DL
Lt N Clark JP DL

Nigel’s first troop sergeant was the late Chippy Wood, who remained a friend after he retired to run a pub in Kent. Nigel’s second troop sergeant was Freddie Toms, who died last year. Together Nigel and Freddie took under their wing the ‘wild-child’ Trooper Jim McLucas, a recently joined Junior Leader who had rather fallen among thieves in Maj Richard Roffey’s ‘A’ Squadron and had been given to ‘C’ Squadron to sort out.

They were happy days, and the now-retired Lt Col Jim McLucas MBE wrote from France to Nigel’s wife Jane the moment he heard of his sudden death:

‘…he was a fine gentleman. I trusted and respected him totally, as did all in his troop. He never failed to help and support us through the often difficult times that, as young men, some of us went through. Soldiering with him was an honour and a privilege.’

Fast forward 50 odd years: many letters of condolence to Jane contained much the same sentiments from young people (of a similar age to the young soldiers Nigel once led) who worked with him in advertising, racing, his charities, and his civic duties.

As a troop leader, Nigel was good at his job and was much liked and respected by his brother officers and his soldiers alike. Having been in Repton’s 1st XI he soon became a leading light in the most successful soccer team the 8th Hussars had fielded for a very long time. I thought then – and on the strength of his many successes in later life still think – that he would have made an extremely good soldier and would certainly have given pretty hot competition to those of his contemporaries who entertained even modest military ambitions. Even when rowing with his friends Nigel always rowed to win!

He applied the same dash and energy as a young Cornet in the 8th Hussars to his social and working life after he left the Army. Nigel kept in touch with the Regiment, and for many years during the mid-70s and 80s, he and Mike Phayre-Mudge were the killer team who organised the Irish Hussars’ officers’ annual dinner, and the officers’ lunch after the Cavalry Memorial Parade.

Nigel continued these duties on his own for a few more years after we sadly lost Mike to cancer. And Nigel’s hospitality in Annabel’s for his Regimental friends and their camp-followers after the Regimental Dinner was generous to a fault.

Nigel’s remarkable success in advertising formed the rock-solid base from which he made his mark in equal measure in other fields. During a 37-year career his ability, flair, energy and innovative approach to any challenge won him and his team’s many major campaigns. To pick but two, the Army Officer recruiting campaign was widely praised for its originality in addressing important questions about the role of officers and their profession within modern society; and about the same time, Nigel began his long association with Great Ormond Street Hospital, his team at CDP conducting a memorable publicity campaign for the Wishing Well Appeal that eventually raised £54 million, helping GOSH to become one of the leading paediatric hospitals in the world.

Nigel loved racing and over the years he owned legs of a number of good horses in several syndicates. None of them was world-beaters, but his colours were often in the frame. Over time his enthusiasm and organising ability became widely recognised, leading to close involvement in the management of racing. He was a founder Trustee of the British Racing School and of Racing Welfare, a Steward at five race courses and a Director of three. He was a hardworking member of the Jockey Club and masterminded the establishment of Sunday racing right from its initial concept.

As chairman of three other important and hardworking committees, he was deeply involved in the development of jump racing. While chairman of Kempton for 10 years, and then its President until his death, he saw through major improvements and the introduction of an all-weather track, while improving the jump racing there as well. It was an astonishing record of achievement.

Nigel had developed formidable powers of persuasion during his advertising career, and one of the secrets of his success as a charity fundraiser was his ability to identify and then harness goodwill among his increasing circle of friends, many of them involved in racing. His achievements on behalf of others were legion, but three highlights stand out: GOSH’s annual income rose under his direction over 11 years from £5.4 million pa to £29 million pa; The Kingston Hospital Cancer Unit Appeal achieved its target of £4.5 million in just four years, and from 1981 onwards he personally influenced the raising of £223 million for charities (that is an average contribution of nearly £9 million during each of those years).

Overall Nigel helped almost 40 charities, either by raising funds or serving as a Trustee. It is a simply outstanding record of service to others.

As if he wasn’t already busy enough, Nigel served for 20 years as a magistrate on the Richmond Bench, and in that same period also served as a popular and much respected Deputy Lieutenant for Richmond on Thames. One of the many mayors he worked with wrote:

‘Nigel was such a joy and comfort to this nervous new Mayor…the Deputy Lieutenant came complete with all the confidence, grace, and dignity of the office that one would hope for, combined with a wicked sense of humour and an enviable ability to find common ground with everybody from all walks of life’.

Nigel’s success in business and his equally impressive achievements in the worlds of racing, charity fundraising, and civic duty singled him out from the crowd. Yet he never received any civic honour or award. Mike Cattermole, in the Racing Post, believed that Nigel’s charity work alone ‘…should have been recognised with a knighthood years ago’. And Richard Lavelle wrote to The Times: ‘Too many, his influence for well-justified recognition by the award of a major honour, and it remains a mystery why this never happened.’ Nigel’s countless admirers remain as astonished as they feel disappointed for him.

Nigel behaved like the gentleman he was all his life; straight, honest, and loyal, and he treated everyone the same, whether duke or dustman. He was a natural leader who inspired devotion in all his teams – and of course, they gave him their very best in return.

Nigel touched so many lives with his warmth, compassion and kindness; his helpfulness to anyone who needed a leg up in life, and by his remarkable generosity. He was a brilliant sailor, and in his beloved Cornwall kept almost more boats than horses. He was a role model to the young, and a shining example of how unselfish commitment to others really can make a difference.

He was also good fun to be with, a very spoiling host, and charmingly gregarious at work and play. He won all hearts everywhere he went, he was interested in everyone he met and successful in everything he did. In short, Nigel had an almost unfair share of all the virtues – for which his less gifted contemporaries forgave him years ago!

Nigel died in Cornwell on 25 August 2007, immediately after winning his third rowing race that day during the annual Helford Regatta. He was 71.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 8th Hussars
  2. A short history of The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars