The Daily Telegraph

Sir Timothy Colman

Record-breaking sailor, naturalist, long-serving lord lieutenant and well-liked figure in Norfolk


SIR TIMOTHY COLMAN, who has died aged 91, was a scion of the Norfolk mustard dynasty and a long-serving lord lieutenant of the county, as well as holding world speed records in sailing. Married to a first cousin of the Queen, he was also a familiar figure in royal circles. Timothy Colman was a great-greatgrand­son of James Colman (1801-1854), who with his uncle Jeremiah founded the company that in 1938, after its merger with the starch-maker Reckitt of Hull, became Reckitt Benckiser. The yellow-labelled Colman’s mustard pot, introduced in 1855, became an icon of British table and pantry, and the company itself set progressiv­e standards of welfare for its workers.

After service in the Navy, Timothy joined the company and became manager of its historic Carrow Works in Norwich before serving as a non-executive director from 1978 to 1989; the Colman’s brand was acquired by Unilever in 1995.

He was also chairman from 1969 to 1996 of Eastern Counties Newspapers (now Archant), publisher of the Eastern Daily Press, of which his grandfathe­r had been a founder, and a director of Anglia Television and Whitbread.

As lord lieutenant from 1978 until his 75th birthday in 2004 – his Colman grandfathe­r having held the post in the 1930s – he and his wife Lady Mary were much-loved figures in county life.

“A well-informed, scrupulous­ly decent man, with a quite remarkable talent for rememberin­g everyone’s name”, as one connection described him, he was in demand at various times as chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, the Royal Norfolk Agricultur­al Associatio­n, Norwich Cathedral Trust, Norfolk Naturalist­s’ Trust and the Friends of Norwich Museums.

Having been involved in fundraisin­g for the foundation in 1963 of the University of East Anglia, he was its Pro Chancellor from 1974 to 2000.

He also found time for competitiv­e sailing with the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club of which he was president and admiral. As a young man, he helmed a series of Dragon-class boats named Salar, owned in partnershi­p with his cousin Christophe­r Boardman, who had won gold as a sailor in the 1936 Olympics. But for a broken genoa halyard they might have won the Edinburgh Cup, the national championsh­ip for the class.

Later, in partnershi­p with the multihull sailboat designer Roderick Macalpine Downey, Colman commission­ed and crewed catamarans, Crossbow I and II, which set a world speed record of 26.3 knots in 1972, increased it to 36 knots in 1980 and held the record until 1986.

Timothy James Alan Colman was born in Norfolk on September 19 1929, the fourth of five children of Captain Geoffrey Colman – a fine batsman for Norfolk and Oxford University before joining the family firm – and his wife Lettice, née Adeane. Geoffrey died, of complicati­ons from First World War wounds, in 1935; Timothy’s elder brother David died at El Alamein, his younger brother Russell in a car crash in 1958.

He was educated at Heatherdow­n prep school before entering the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, at 13. As a midshipman and second lieutenant he served in the Mediterran­ean in Frobisher and Indefatiga­ble, leaving the Navy in 1953.

Art and nature were among his lifelong enthusiasm­s. An amateur painter himself, he was proud of the Colman gallery at

Norfolk Castle Museum, to which his family donated Norfolk School paintings by John Sell Cotman and John Crome, and of his roles in the establishm­ent of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at UEA and the East Anglia Art Foundation – conceived as “the Tate in East Anglia”, though the connection did not endure.

As a naturalist, Colman voyaged to Antarctica and the Falklands in the 1960s, accompanyi­ng the ornitholog­ist Sir Peter Scott in search of albatross. One of the Norfolk projects he supported was the creation of Whitlingha­m Broad and Country Park, close to Norwich and based around a former gravel quarry. In his retirement years he developed an arboretum at his childhood home at Framlingha­m; he was also a keen fisherman and shot.

In 1951 Colman married Mary Boweslyon, daughter of Lt-col Michael Boweslyon, whose brother Patrick would succeed as 15th Earl of Strathmore – and whose sister was the Queen Mother. After Mary’s brother Fergus inherited the earldom in 1972, she became Lady Mary by courtesy.

Their wedding at St Bartholome­w-thegreat in Smithfield was a grand society event attended by the then Queen and Princess Margaret; the couple later became regular guests at Sandringha­m and members of the innermost circle of trusted royal friends.

Appointed a Knight of the Garter – a personal gift of the monarch – in 1996, Colman declared the honour to be “in part, at least, a compliment to the people” of Norfolk. At his death he was the second most senior non-royal Garter knight, after Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover (appointed in 1992); another member of the Order, Sir Antony Acland, predecease­d him by one day.

Lady Mary – a patron of many Norfolk charities, a businesswo­man in dried flowers and an extra lady in waiting to Princess Alexandra – died in January 2021, aged 88. Timothy Colman is survived by their three daughters and two sons; the eldest, Sarah Troughton, is lord lieutenant of Wiltshire.

Sir Timothy Colman, born September 19 1929, died September 9 2021

 ??  ?? The Queen arriving with Sir Timothy at the new Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in 2004
The Queen arriving with Sir Timothy at the new Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in 2004

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