Few people can have immersed themselves so fully in their local, civic and business life as Jeremy. He was reminiscent of those significant Victorian entrepreneurs who would not only be highly successful in their business careers but equally wholehearted in their charitable work.
Jeremy was born and grew up in China, where his father was a banker with what is now the HSBC. Although the Japanese had occupied Shanghai in 1937, the International Settlement remained untouched until the fall of Hong Kong in 1943. The International Settlement was then occupied and Jeremy and his parents interned in a nearby school at Lunghwa. There, the family shared a room with three other families, divided for privacy by curtains they improvised. Their living space measured only some 24 square metres. Among the internees at the centre was the Ballard family. J G Ballard, the future author, was two years older than Jeremy and both boys attended school in the camp, the teachers being camp inmates from a number of professions. These experiences formed the basis of Empire of the Sun, although Ballard exercised considerable artistic licence in writing the book, notably removing his parents from the bulk of the story.
Last year, Jeremy celebrated his teddy bear’s 100th birthday with a party. The bear had accompanied Jeremy throughout the war and had survived being bayoneted by a Japanese guard. When the Americans entered Shanghai in 1945, Jeremy, then aged 12, was badly emaciated, weighing only a couple of stone.
Peace brought Jeremy to England and he continued his education at Berkhampsted School later gaining a place at Jesus College, Cambridge. During National Service he was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps which he served in Malaya. He later served in the TA, retiring in 1999 in the rank of Colonel. His business career began when he joined Shell in 1957, and with his newly wed wife Janet was deployed to Chile for two years.
It would be the international transport of bulk freight by rail which would be Jeremy’s specialty and he pioneered the use of tank containers for the movement of chemicals, grain and china clay. He became a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Transport and its vice-president from 1990-93. He chaired the Association of Private Wagon Owners from 1980-91.
Parallel to these activities, Jeremy was active in both Dulwich and the City. He was elected to the Worshipful Company of Carmen, becoming in due course Master. His interest in music led him to found a choir from within the Company and also in the Company of World Traders. Subsequently he was approached to stand for election as Lay Sheriff of the City of London to which he was elected in 1993. His work as secretary to the then Lord Mayor’s charity, the St John’s Ambulance Brigade resulted in his raising the staggering sum of £1.2million for the Brigade for which he was invested a Knight of the Order of St John.
In Dulwich, and during his busy career, he devoted a huge amount of time to service as a Dulwich Estates’ Governor (later trustee) and he served on the board for 24 years and was chairman from 1994-96. He also served as Governor of Dulwich College for 10 years and also of St Olave’s and St Saviour’s School. He was an energetic chairman of the Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery and at the time of his death was raising funds for the Dulwich Sports Club for a new indoor cricket school. He had been secretary of the club from 1964-73.
By nature Jeremy was pleasant and easy-going, a great ally in many causes, equally willing to pick up his accordion to go on a carol singing evening or shouldering some more onerous charitable duty. The thousands of letters he sent appealing for good causes, he wrote by hand, typical of the huge effort he put into everything he did. It was very difficult to say no to Jeremy.