Philip Cowan

The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries -

AN AD­MIRER of Dis­raeli, and an ac­tive sup­porter of the Lib­eral party, my un­cle Philip Cowan stood for par­lia­ment as Lib­eral can­di­date twice, re­tain­ing his de­posit both times, writes Jonathan Sa­muel. In the Gen­eral Elec­tion of 1964, he was can­di­date for Padding­ton South – the same con­stituency held by Lord Ran­dolph Churchill in the 1880s and 1890s.

He had the most re­mark­able mem­ory of any­one I have known. He could mem­o­rise a full pack of cards and mul­ti­ply seven digit num­bers in his head, and pos­sessed an amaz­ing col­lec­tion of as­sorted knowl­edge. Al­ways an as­set in shul quizzes, he was once a com­peti­tor on Ra­dio 4’s “Brain of Bri­tain” gen­eral knowl­edge panel game where he gave a cred­itable per­for­mance.

The son of a civil ser­vant, Joseph Cowen, Philip was born on the verge of the Sec­ond World War, the youngest of three si­b­lings. Grow­ing up un­der ra­tioning he reached the height of 6ft 2in on the pow­dered eggs and the care­ful but nu­tri­tious diet pro­vided by his mother Re­becca.

Philip was a schol­ar­ship pupil at St Paul’s School, study­ing Latin and Greek, and won an open schol­ar­ship in clas­sics to read PPE (Pol­i­tics, Phi­los­o­phy and Eco­nom­ics) at Cor­pus Christi Col­lege, Ox­ford.

At Ox­ford, he was Pres­i­dent of the Ox­ford Univer­sity Lib­eral Club and ac­tive in the Ox­ford Union. He worked as an in­vest­ment an­a­lyst and the peak of this early ca­reer was his year at Slater Walker, work­ing as an ideas­man for city high flier, Jim Slater in 1970.

At the age of40 Philip passed the Law So­ci­ety ex­ams, but find­ing lit­tle work in that field on qual­i­fy­ing, he set up and ran his own em­ploy­ment agency for lawyers. He also de­vised and set up a non-profit-mak­ing fund, con­trolled by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the main ed­u­ca­tional bod­ies, that re­ceived money on de­posit and di­vided the in­come be­tween the in­vestors and char­ity.

As a bach­e­lor, which was per­haps his one re­gret in life, he cared for his el­derly mother and in ma­tu­rity de­voted him­self to run­ning chil­dren’s char­i­ties such as the Na­tional Chil­dren’s Char­i­ties Trust, Alexandra Rose Day and a med­i­cal re­search trust. He was con­cerned about fraud­u­lent char­ity col­lec­tors and was a vo­cal critic of the Char­ity Com­mis­sion for its in­ef­fec­tive­ness in pre­vent­ing fraud. He started a com­pany called “Char­ity Check” which as­sessed the gen­uine­ness of char­ity col­lec­tions and funds. He drafted sev­eral suc­cess­ful par­lia­men­tary Early Day Mo­tions aimed at re­form of the char­i­ta­ble sec­tor.

Philip was al­ways brim­ming with bright ideas, some of which came to fruition years af­ter he sug­gested them. He once pro­posed a light go­ing around a race track to rep­re­sent the world record pace for Olympic rac­ing. He thought of launch­ing a Se­nior Cit­i­zens’ Party in the Euro­pean Elec­tions and he pre­dicted that sci­en­tists will dis­cover a way to elim­i­nate age­ing.

A mem­ber of West Lon­don Synagogue, Philip re­mained sin­cere in his re­li­gion, and in his sup­port for Is­rael and the Jewish peo­ple. He con­tin­ued to work on his knowl­edge of He­brew and of Ju­daism through­out his life.

To­gether with an in­cred­i­ble mind, he had a very soft heart. He was a man of gen­tle cour­tesy and his in­tel­li­gence was touched with a slight air of amuse­ment.

Other in­ter­ests in which he ac­tively par­tic­i­pated were “To­rah with Laura”. a Talmud class at Lon­don’s Alyth Gdns Synagogue, Hamp­stead’s, Cafe Philo, High­gate Lit­er­ary So­ci­ety, the Probus Club, and the Jewish Vol­un­teer Net­work.

Philip Cowan: in­tel­li­gence and concern

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