News

'Mr Arkwright' dies

Geoffrey Law

A well-known Preston character and Friend of the Harris, Geoffrey Law, "Mr Arkwright",(89) has passed away.

He was a familiar figure about the city, pushing a bicycle laden with bags of leaflets and pens (for sale) celebrating his great hero Preston-born Sir Richard Arkwright. He successfully campaigned to save Arkwright House, Stoneygate, from demolition.

 

Shop workers, staff at the Harris, taxi drivers and everyone heard his enthusiasm. He wrote to the Lancashire Evening Post and appeared on Radio Lancashire promoting Arkwright and the Lancashire cotton heritage. He walked in the 1992 Guild as Arkwright.


Alex Walker, Head of Arts and Heritage at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, said:
"He was a great character and a good friend (and Friend) of the Harris.  I particularly remember how delighted he was when we acquired the portrait of Arkwright with the National Portrait Gallery.  I introduced him to Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, at the event we held at the Harris and he was so happy that evening."

Geoffrey Law was born in Preston and educated at Hutton Grammar School. Hutton gave him a love of English literature which lasted all his life.

His father was owner of the Preston Box Company which made cardboard boxes for English Electric and Beech's chocolates. Geoff volunteered for the Home Guard 'Dads' Army' as a youth. Their base was Mac's Cafe, Barton. They practised shooting on Parlick Fell.

Geoff joined the Army and served in North Africa, Italy and Austria. He took part in the savage Battle of Monte Cassino and he fought against the Waffen SS in Italy. He toured the empty Colosseum, soon after British troops occupied Rome. In Austria, which he said was "thick with Nazis", he cared for Army horses leading to a life-long love of horses. He was based at Schonbrunn barracks, Vienna, now a popular tourist site. British soldiers played football in the palace grounds. They were forbidden to fraternise with the Viennese.

He recalled having to repatriate White Russians and Cossacks to Yugoslavia as part of a deal between Churchill and Stalin. Knowing that they were going to certain death by the KGB, the Russians protested wildly. Some committed suicide.

Geoff was a modest hero: awarded the Africa Star, Italy Star and bar, and other medals. He disliked 'fuss' about them.

After the war he returned to the family firm. He was the first person - perhaps the only one - to drive a Bond three-wheel minicar from Preston to Almelo, Netherlands. He didn't easily settle into Preston Box so he left home and went to London.

At first it was hard in London, sleeping for a while at Rowton House tramps' home. But he soon got part-time jobs: washing up at Lyons Corner House, Trafalgar Square, cleaning offices and car parking. He parked smart cars for Sixties celebrities such as Peter Sellers, Britt Eckland and the Profumo set.

He was a keen fan of Sir Winston Churchill. He was among the last people to see Churchill alive in public. Churchill, when dying, came to the window and waved to his fans in the street below.

He returned to Preston living in Aubigny Drive Fulwood with his mother. He became involved in the campaign to save Arkwright House which was reopened by Princess Alexandra. Arkwright and the Lancashire cotton industry became a great passion of his. He couldn't understand why Preston Council seemed to neglect Arkwright House's heritage.

He worked as a sweeper at Roach's paper mill. He enjoyed the job's freedom. He also sold dental equipment and furniture polish. He was proud that his polish was used on the oars of Oxford University's racing boat and to polish bagpipe parts for the Scotch Guards.

As a keen Civic Trust member he campaigned on other local issues. Aidan Turner-Bishop, Preston & South Ribble Civic Trust said,
"Geoff was tireless in his enthusiasm for Arkwright and Preston's heritage. He was kind, intelligent and modest. He will be missed."

He moved into Dovedale Court care home six years ago and later into Greenfield home, Ingol. He still visited Preston centre to keep in touch and to 'blast way' about the Arkwright Project.  He died on Tuesday January 29. His funeral is at Preston Crematorium on Friday, February 15 at 11.15. All past and honorary "Arkwright Commandos" are invited.

- Letter the LEP 05/02/13 written by Aiden Turner-Bishop

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