The announcement that the chairman of the National Trust, Tim Parker, is also to be chairman of the Post Office is a repetition of history. For his predecessor at the trust by 130 years, Sir Robert Hunter, was also a leading light in the Post Office, serving as its solicitor.
Robert Hunter, began his career as solicitor to the Commons Preservation Society in 1868. He moved to Haslemere in 1882 to take the job with the General Post Office, and founded the National Trust in 1895, becoming its first chairman. Now more than a century later Tim Parker shares a similar connection with these two institutions, which are part of the fabric of this country.
Tim’s appointment to the Post Office was accompanied by press reports containing such euphemisms as ‘transformation’ and ‘modernisation’, anticipating cuts. Let’s hope, however, that he aspires to emulate his distinguished predecessor in both roles.
Robert Hunter campaigned for commons and open spaces and was responsible for saving many of them.
Ben Cowell, in his excellent book Sir Robert Hunter (Pitkin 2013), quotes Hunter’s daughter Dorothy who wrote of his unfailing gentleness and chivalry in all personal relationships; his loyalty in friendship; his unselfishness in giving credit to others; his deep love of beauty in all its forms, together with a happy readiness to enjoy the pleasant and amusing little things that sweeten daily life; and withal his quiet, level-headed idealism, founded on a steadfast belief in the power of goodness and the progress of humanity.
These were the qualities which led the trust through its early years, making it the effective and influential body it is today. I am sure that Tim will take note.