Bernard Lyons

BORN LEEDS, MARCH 30, 1913. DIED FUL­MER, BUCKS, APRIL 12, 2008, AGED 95.

The Jewish Chronicle - - OBITUARIES -

ANOTED PHI­LAN­THROPIST in his na­tive city of Leeds, Bernard Lyons con­trib­uted to the city and Jewish com­mu­nity through his busi­ness life. He grew up in a fam­ily of four girls and two boys, whose Pol­ish-born par­ents started a flour­ish­ing menswear busi­ness. Bernard and his younger brother, Jack, who died in Fe­bru­ary, left Leeds Gram­mar School to join their fa­ther. Their Alexandre shops ex­panded na­tion­wide in the post-war years and their fac­tory ex­ported suc­cess­fully.

The 1954 merger of Alexandre with United Drap­ery Stores, un­der Bernard Lyons as man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, made UDS owner of 1,300 high street cloth­ing shops un­der a variety of names.

Af­ter their fa­ther’s death in 1959, Jack saw to the re­tail side while Bernard took over man­u­fac­tur­ing. In 1972 Bernard be­came chair­man of UDS, with Jack as deputy chair­man, un­til the group’s sale to Han­son in 1982. He then looked af­ter his private fam­ily in­vest­ment com­pany.

Along­side his prom­i­nent busi­ness ca­reer he gave pub­lic and com­mu­nal ser­vice, for which he was ap­pointed CBE in 1964. He was pres­i­dent of the Leeds Jewish Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil from 1956-68 and its first life pres­i­dent. He do­nated the Bernard Lyons com­mu­nity cen­tre, which opened in 1962 in the new Queen­shill Jewish Hous­ing Es­tate.

In the 1950s he was chair­man of the Judean Club for Boys and Girls and pres­i­dent of the Leeds Or­phan Aid So­ci­ety. He also fundraised for Is­rael through the JNF and JPA (now UJIA).

In the city he was a Tory coun­cil­lor, to­gether with his wife, Lucy, from 195165, and a ma­jor donor to the Con­ser­va­tive Party, while on friendly terms with Labour prime min­is­ter Harold Wil­son.

From the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive of the Coun­cil of Chris­tians and Jews in 1967, he be­came a mem­ber and later chair­man of the York­shire and North East con­cil­i­a­tion com­mit­tee of the Race Re­la­tions Board. He was a JP and deputy lieu­tenant of the West Rid­ing.

But his big love was Leeds Univer­sity, where he funded schol­ar­ships, the law li­brary’s ex­pan­sion, a lec­ture­ship in com­mu­nity and race re­la­tions, and tex­tual re­search. He sat on the univer­sity court in 1964-65 and re­ceived an hon­orary doc­tor­ate in 1973.

He de­scribed his fam­ily’s early life and busi­ness growth in Thread Is Strong, and wrote a novel, The Nar­row Edge. He spent his last years in his homes in Buck­ing­hamshire and Florida.

Pre­de­ceased by his wife in 2002, he is sur­vived by three sons; Stu­art, Gra­ham and Robert; daugh­ter, Adri­enne; nine grand­chil­dren and two great-grand­chil­dren.

Bernard Lyons ( back row, fifth from right) at Leeds Univer­sity in 1973

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