Walter Hayes The Times letters

The Times
February 12th & 13th 2001
Courtesy and copyright of The Times.

A church luminary

From the Chairman of The Churches Conservation Trust

 Sir, Walter Hayes (obituary, February 2) is mourned not only by the motor industry but by a multitude of smaller worlds in which this extraordinary man – bibliophile, historian and animator of all manner of cultural enterprises – played a key part. One of these was the Churches Conservation Trust, of which he was a former chairman.

Armed with a camera to help him to recall favourite details of tracery, stained glass, or amusing inscriptions, he delighted in trawling 320 churches of special historical or architectural importance cared for by the trust when no longer needed for parish use. He was a lover of the past who relished modernity; he approved of girls’ choirs in cathedrals and had a distinctly tabloid approach to the human interest aspect of church history.

He transformed the trust’s annual review from a dry statement to a gorgeous thing full of pictures and stories, successfully designed to beguile people who had never thought of popping in to look at a church.

His memorials are in their fabric as well as in the gardens at Stowe, restored after the National Trust appeal he chaired raised £1 million.

Yours sincerely,

Liz Forgan,
The Churches Conservation Trust,
89 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1DH
February 3.

Journalism’s loss
From Mr Brian Stringer

Sir, I knew Walter Hayes (obituary, February 2; letter, February 12) when, at the age of 32, he became Editor of the Sunday Dispatch. He was at that time the youngest national newspaper editor in Fleet Street.

I was a young reporter on his staff. Shortly after his appointment in 1956, he called me into his office, took out his wallet and gave me a bundle of notes. I was instructed to take the money to a man at an address in London, but I was not to tell him whom I represented or where the money had come from and nor was I to ask any questions – I was merely to say: “It is a gift from a friend.”

Of course, curiosity got the better of me and I found out that the recipient was an impoverished war hero so down on his luck that he was contemplating selling his medals including, as I recall, his VC. At a time when editors, than as now, were often despised I was quite touched by this act of kindness, as was the grateful VC who never found out the name of his benefactor. His removal as editor after only a few years may have been the motor industry’s gain, but it was certainly journalism’s loss.

Yours sincerely,
Brian Stringer,
9 Leicester Avenue,
Timperely, Cheshire WA15 6HR.
February 12