Major John Parry (1921-2002)
Major John Parry, who died while fishing in Scotland aged 81, combined a successful career in the brewing industry with a lifelong passion for field sports and the countryside.
John Matthew Croose Parry, the eldest of three sons, was born on March 20 1921 near Queenstown, Co Cork, where his father, a chemist, was working for the Irish brewers Beamish. Parry developed a passion for salmon fishing at an early age, accompanying his father to fish the River Lee.
His first school was Castle Park, outside Dublin, but his mother moved her three sons back to England on the death of her husband when John was 10.
He was sent to Marlborough, where his education was punctuated by frequent illicit excursions to fish the nearby River Kennet.
In 1939, aged 18, he went to work at the Stock Exchange; but, with war looming, he also joined the 1st/5th Queen’s Royal Regiment in the Territorial Army. His brief career in the City ended on September 3 1939 when he was called up with the rank of second lieutenant.
After training, his regiment was sent to France in May 1940; but Parry, to his disgust, was left behind. He was considered too young, and he was also asthmatic – an affliction from which he suffered throughout his life, and which ruled him out of active service overseas.
Undeterred, Parry joined the Reconnaissance Corps, at that time based near Lockerbie, and threw himself into teaching battle skills and providing realistic combat experience. He became Adjutant of the Training Centre in 1942. Meanwhile, field sports were never far from his mind. In early 1941 he caught his largest salmon, 30 lbs, fishing the Annan with a trout rod; and in the winter of 1942-43 he hunted Captain Dudley Smith’s private pack of beagles, which were kennelled nearby.
In 1943 the Training Centre moved to Catterick in Yorkshire. Parry, by now a major, approached his commanding officer, Colonel W H Whitbread, for permission to take on the Trinity Foot Beagle pack, which was hundreds of miles away at Sheerness, Kent, and badly in need of a home.
Billy Whitbread agreed, and Parry travelled south to collect the hounds. His only means of moving them was by public transport; so he loaded the entire pack into a taxi to get them to St Pancras station, where he bought 16 “dog tickets” for the train to Yorkshire.
He was next sent to command the Reith Battle School, near Durham, a duty he performed with great vigour. His organisational skills and flair for using a combination of high explosive and live ammunition provided vital training for young soldiers preparing to face the dangers of battles ahead.
After being discharged from the Army in 1946, Parry was invited by Billy Whitbread to join his company, Whitbread & Co, in East Anglia. On completing his training as a maltster, Parry was appointed manager of the company’s maltings in Norfolk and Kent.
In 1955 he moved to Suffolk to join Ipswich Malting Company as sales director. This company was eventually taken over by Associated British Maltsters, and in 1964 Parry moved to Lincolnshire, working from the headquarters at Newark as Group Sales Director.
Within two years he was appointed managing director and chief executive of Associated British Maltsters, which was by then the largest company of its kind in Europe, with maltings throughout the United Kingdom as well as in Ireland, Germany and Australia. In 1973 the company was taken over by Dalgety; Parry joined Dalgety’s main board, remaining a director until his retirement in December 1990.
On his move to Allington, near Grantham, Parry began a long association with the Belvoir Hunt. He was tall and lean and was considered a particularly fine and fearless horseman across country. His horsemanship was sometimes tested in unorthodox ways. On one occasion, when he was riding out on a young horse, Parry took the opportunity to call at his butcher to collect the Sunday joint. His mount took fright at the sight of raw meat and horse, joint, butcher and Parry flew off in four separate directions.
He was Treasurer of the Hunt for 16 years, Field Master for two years in the mid-1970s, and Master from 1987 to 1989.
In 1976 he joined Conservative Central Office, and for 18 years was fund raiser for the Eastern Counties and later the East Midlands. For this work he was appointed CBE in 1994.
From 1984 to 1990 he managed the fishings on the River Lochy near Fort William, and served on the Committee of the Association of Scottish District Salmon Fishery Boards. He himself fished salmon and trout with great skill.
Meanwhile, at the Old Rectory, Allington, he ran a successful flock of sheep and kept several hives of bees.
He was an excellent shot. During the summer months he lovingly nurtured a small number of pheasants; during the winter, with equal affection, he plotted their demise. He trained his own Labradors and ran them at game fairs.
In his youth Parry painted exquisite watercolours of wildlife, and all his life he remained a keen botanist and naturalist. The exact date of his death is uncertain, but it is believed that he was actually playing a salmon on the River Spey when he suffered a fatal heart attack; his body was not found for some time.
When he died in 2002, he was survived by his wife Jean, whom he married in 1947.