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Hugo Arthur Dunn-Meynell
1926 - 2013
On Wednesday 2nd April, 2014, at 11am a service of thanksgiving for the life of Hugo Arthur Dunn-Meynell was held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.
The Venerable David Meara delivered the bidding:-
We gather today to celebrate the life of Hugo Dunn-Meynell in the week in which he would have celebrated his eighty-eighth birthday, and within the first week of summer-time, when the turning season reminds us of the promise of new life and fortify our sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.
We remember today a businessman, advertising executive, writer, broadcaster, a lover of food and wine, but above all a true gentleman, a proud descendant of Catholic recusant family who could trace their line back to the Norman conquest in 1066.
After wartime service in the Royal Navy Hugo met André Simon, founder of the Food and Wine Society and became a leading light, eventually, on his retirement from the advertising industry, becoming International Chairman and setting the Society on its feet.Hugo was involved in the origins of commercial television, and became a consummate TV and radio performer. He was tenacious, full of life, a man of great good humour and a born optimist. Today we give thanks for a long and full life well lived, and we commend him to the Lord whom he loved in life, and who now enfolds him with the promise of eternal life. May he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing to us all.
Listen to Address:
It’s a great privilege to be able to talk for a few minutes about Hugo’s life in advertising. I remember Hugo with great affection not least because he employed me when running his own advertising agency and we worked together for a great number of years. The advertising industry is made up of a hugely eclectic range of people who come into the industry from many different backgrounds. Hugo, after the war-a war spent in the navy -worked first for a firm called Finders. This was the company that introduced credit cards into Britain under license from Diners Club. As MD, aged 26, one of his principal tasks was to bring in US dollars and so he toured the US under the auspices of the British Travel and Holidays Association making endless TV and radio appearances as well as press briefings extolling the virtues of Britain
Hugo was entranced by this new medium: television— and as a result of his Television experience was offered a job with advertising agency Osborne Peacock at a salary of £1,000 a year, which a slipshod accountant translated into £100 a month—an error Hugo managed to overlook, and he became the Manager of the newly created TV dept. Here he created over 100 Television commercials at a time when commercial Television was in its very infancy. The agency Osborne Peacock had an office in Manchester where it started and one in London.
Hugo loved to tell the story of the M D of Manchester one Godfrey Hope, who was fearful of losing one of the agency’s major clients- which was a brand called Cephos. Cephos was an analgesic like aspirin and when Godfrey Hope heard rumours that the client was visiting other agencies he hit upon a charming ploy. He took the directors’ box at Manchester City for a big local derby football match and invited the whole board of Cephos to lunch there. In the middle of the lunch he suddenly said- “look at that plane on the horizon’. As it approached the football ground they saw the plane trailing a huge sky banner reading the Cephos slogan “Cephos kills colds and flu”. The client was impressed but as the plane did a curve the banner inexplicably split and one part dropped away whilst the rest continued behind the plane for the rest of the afternoon, backwards and forwards trailing the words “Cephos Kills. That’s how the agency lost the Cephos business.
In the early days of TV advertising it absolutely gushed money, expenses were lavish and Hugo was a frequent visitor to the advertising film festival in Venice and he would often recount the ‘money no object’ jamboree he had down there with a good friend Peter Marsh -Peter later going on to become another iconic figure in the industry. As Hugo would recall they partied incessantly staying in the finest hotels, eating in the finest restaurants and being entertained sumptuously by the TV contractors and film companies looking for business. Sadly, in the industry, those days have gone.
In the late 1960s Hugo started his own agency Dunn-Meynell Keefe which grew rapidly. It was the agency I joined. It had many and varied clients and became well known for an award winning poster campaign for Elliot shoes. The poster was the first ever showing a beautiful nude, artfully photographed I have to say, but wearing only a pair of white knee length Elliot boots. The theory was that the boots would be the focus of the advertisement. Well that was the theory.
At Dunn-Meynell Keefe one of our clients was the British Legion for which we ran advertising for Poppy Day. At a planning meeting in the agency run by Hugo we recognised the principal weakness of the British Legion was that it only collected its annual income on one day a year Poppy day. We conceived it would be better to drop Earl Haig’s Poppy day, as it was then called, and go instead for Poppy week and spend the advertising budget principally on recruiting collectors for the entire week.
This innovative idea had to be sold to the client and Hugo did it. As a result the takings absolutely shot up and it has been poppy week ever since and what is now the Royal British Legion has never looked back.
Dunn-Meynell Keefe was later bought by his old employer Osborne Peacock which by then owned several agencies. After a series of further take-overs and mergers, all too common in the advertising industry, the agency which finally emerged was Lonsdale Osborne. A large agency with large clients and a large staff. I by then was Managing Director and Hugo was the Deputy Chairman, as well as filling the role of Client Services Director. As very much a people person and as a skilled and articulate communicator he was the perfect man to run the client relationship side of the agency.
Amongst our clients were many Japanese ones like Toshiba, Yamaha, Pioneer hi fi and others. Hugo and I agreed that it would be a good idea to visit these clients in their own HQs in Japan and so off we set fortified for the plane journey by a fine bottle of White Burgundy from Hugo’s cellar and some chocolate cake and ripe brie provided by Tish. There was a large quantity of brie, more than Hugo and I could eat. As the journey progressed it became more and more of a battle to contain the smell of the brie as it drifted round the warm plane. As soon as we arrived at Narita airport the remainder went straight into the nearest waste bin.
After we had finished all the client meetings we had a spare weekend and decided to go out to the coast a long way from civilisation and stay in a ryokan. A ryokan is small traditional single story inn usually attached to a natural hot water spring used for bathing-something the Japanese are very keen on. In the late afternoon Hugo and I decided we would try the bathing. Attached to the ryokan was a large glassed in area, glassed in over shrubs and rocks, like a vast conservatory and containing 3 large rock pools full of hot water. These 3 pools varied from incredibly hot, to unbelievably hot to insanely and impossibly hot.
After washing we gently, very gently and slowly lowered our naked bodies into the boiling water and sat there motionless. Getting hotter and hotter, we were about to get out when a door at the other end opened and bevy of about 12 naked secondary school girls entered and stood staring at these strange round eyes at the other end of the pool and then stepped slowly into the water. Hugo and I averted our eyes and prayed they would not be long. Our prayers were not answered. Unable to endure the heat any longer I stood up and at 6 feet and with a beard, as I had then, I was clearly a fascinating object as 12 pairs of eyed swivelled to look. Red as lobsters Hugo and I rapidly donned our gowns and beat a hasty retreat to our rooms.
It was on this trip that Hugo, by then world president of the international wine and food society, was invited to a gala dinner by the Tokyo chapter which they had specifically put on in his honour. The Tokyo chapter only had about 18 members: the president of IBM, President Hirohito’s private secretary, the president of Suntory, the president of Matsushita the president of Toyota and so on. Truly the elite. Typical of the man, Hugo insisted I join him for this dinner and he duly arranged it—and I wasn’t even a member. It was probably the most fantastic meal I’ve ever eaten-7 courses with the finest wines to match.
There are many such stories I could tell about this talented and most generous spirited man but time presses. In 1978 Hugo retired from advertising to concentrate on his outside interests in the world of wine and food about which we will hear from Mimi very shortly. In the grey suited, computerised, numbers driven world which advertising has now become we shall not see his like again.
Listen to Address:
I am Mimi, daughter of Hugo’s friend, the 4th-generation Bristol wine merchant John Avery. For 30 years, my late father liaised closely with Hugo through the International Wine & Food Society, and it was via this friendship that I came to apply for the position of Member Services Secretary of the Society, working as a duet with Hugo for just over 5 years.
You’ve heard from Jim Surguy about Hugo’s adventurous and often hilarious advertising career, which began in 1957 when he was 31, and was preceded by his equally colourful Managing Directorship of Finders, Ltd, when he became quite well-known as ‘Mr Knowledge’, thanks to Finder’s universal swiftness at providing anything from 300 male toads to the address of an ice-skating rink in Baghdad.
Hugo’s interest in eating well had begun much earlier, as a boy at home in Streatham, South London and surprisingly, at school, where the priest in charge of boarders scoured neighbouring farms for good ingredients. He first tasted wine -- either a generic red Entre Deux Mers claret or the rather grander Mouton Rothschild (Hugo liked to tell a good story, and details could vary!) -- at the age of 21, when the Bishop of Coutances came to luncheon at the Normandy château of his friends the Montgermonts, where starry-eyed Hugo was staying in 1947 -- his hosts’ habitual alcoholic drink being cider pressed from their own apples.
That same year, Hugo stood in for an ailing comrade from his end-of-war, Royal Navy days at the Wine and Food Society’s first post-war Christmas dinner at the London restaurant Quaglino’s. He was rather ‘awed’, he writes, ‘by the ambience and, after 8 years of austere diet, its creative cuisine and what, even as a novice, I could recognise as good wine. I was also a little overpowered by some of the famous names on the seating plan. ‘ One of these put him at ease, and introduced him to the then 70-year-old André L Simon, transplanted Frenchman and former champagne salesman who had founded the Society in London in 1933, and by 1939, expanded it to many towns in the UK, to several American cities, and even Paris.
Simon found Hugo a place at his own table and, he goes on, André’s ‘parting words that night were “I have not long to live. You must carry our torch when I am gone”. Perhaps the inaccuracy of the former prophecy -- Simon survived for another 23 years -- retarded vindication of the latter, as,’ Hugo observes, ‘I did not become the Society’s International Chairman until 1978.’
In the meantime, he was ‘entranced’ by Simon’s ‘simple philosophy’, that ‘food and wine are gifts of the Creator which should be appreciated for their true value, and ought to be within reach of everyone. It was cultural, not hedonistic’. This was a meeting which shaped the course of Hugo’s adult life.
In 1948, he went on from that memorable dinner to buy his first bottle from ex-RAF man Laurence Webber at Green’s wine merchant’s in London’s Royal Exchange. Hugo doesn’t seem to have recorded its identity, and Laurence, still alive at nearly 90, and for many years a Master of Wine, doesn’t recall. Though unable to join us today due to ‘limitations of the flesh’, Laurence has e-mailed that ‘it must have made a lasting impression, as Hugo introduced me to several of his contacts over many years as the person who sold him that first bottle!’
Not a bad start. In due course, Hugo assembled an enjoyable and ever-expanding collection, writing that ‘In the ensuing few years, I drank wine at every opportunity, and even dared to serve it at home, my father (with whom he lived until his first marriage) did not approve of what he believed was an unconscionable extravagance. I remember once serving some claret which I had painstakingly kept under a running tap for an hour as we did not have a fridge, and on another occasion, proudly poaching dover sole in the red burgundy called Chambertin! But one learns by one's mistakes, as they say.’
During the three intervening decades from opening the Green’s bottle to assuming the demanding but honorary task of the Wine and Food Society’s International Chairmanship, Hugo developed strong ties with that organisation. He therefore accepted, a half century after its 1933 creation, the Society's invitation to assume its central management, a paid employment and transformative task to which Hugo devoted fifteen dynamic and forward-thinking years. Under his leadership, the Society thrived, and branches proliferated in many parts of the world. On retirement in 1998, he left the organisation in good shape, with adequate assets in the bank, good premises at the Lansdowne Club in Berkeley Square, and a small but dedicated staff.
During this time, Hugo also edited nine issues of the Society's Journal Food and Wine, became a favoured broadcaster and public speaker, and wrote prolifically about his chosen subject.
On the strength of producing 7 editions and reprints of the Wine Record Book, co-authored in the late 1960s with his friend Norman Riley, and occasional work for the 1970s’ gastronomic press, Hugo had been proposed for the Circle of Wine Writers in 1977. After his election, his Circle mentor told him, with a chuckle, that another member, as difficult as she was distinguished, objected on the grounds of his ‘youth and inexperience.’ In the Circle’s Brief History, written by his colleague Christopher Fielden in 2005, Hugo observes, with his characteristic modesty and deft sense of humour, ‘At least I have been able to overcome the former!’
In later years, the Circle made him a life member, as did the Guild of Food Writers, which he founded in 1984.
Hugo loved and collected gastronomic literature, gathering books and ephemera as he travelled the world. After André Simon’s executors sold Simon’s pre-1900 volumes, Hugo arranged for the remainder to go to the City of London reference library at Guildhall. He also presented his own collection of menus and wine catalogues, and was involved with Guildhall's acquisition of part of Elizabeth David's estate. There followed the books of the Institute of Masters of Wine and the Worshipful Company of Cooks, among contributions from other provenances, so creating a precious resource for future generations.
I started working at the IWFS on the 4th July 1994, and 20 years later, I clearly remember Hugo's energy and enthusiasm - the glint of mischief behind his ever-present monocle, his love of the Lansdowne Club, and the buzz of helping our members with both basic and strange requests.
Hugo was joyous, and the soul of old-fashioned, high-spirited courtesy. Among messages to his wife Tish from his legion of friends, vinous and otherwise, several stand out: ‘He had the enduring skill of making one feel welcome on all occasions, and that you were the one person he really wanted to talk to. His intelligence and breadth of interests were extraordinary’;
‘For a man with so much to say, he was a good listener -- and that is a gift not given to many. Always just the right little question or conversational nudge to keep the stream trickling along. He was a natural storyteller, and I hope there'll be stories aplenty at the celebration.’
And finally, from his St Thomas hospital cardiologist:
‘I remember your husband's visits to clinic vividly and fondly. It's seldom the patient that makes the Dr feel so much better!’
Listen to Address:
About 20 years ago, my father wrote me a letter. In it he seemed to be feeling his mortality, and he wondered what good works he would be remembered for when he passed away. I wrote back and responded that I hoped that he would consider me and my life as a good work that he had done, for I certainly owed so much of what I am to him.
Many of you gathered here today probably remember my father best for his life in the last few decades. I emigrated to America some 30 years ago, and since then know him mostly from correspondence and phone calls, so in many ways my memories if him are frozen as they were 30 years ago as the man who raised me, and it is that part of his life of which I will speak.
Ours was quite a large family – my mother, 3 boys and one girl. We lived comfortably in a style paid for by my father’s efforts. My father essentially had two careers – first as advertising executive and then as a writer, the change between the two came as his children came of age, and I suspect that he stayed in advertising as long as he did to provide for us.
As to everyday living with my father, I can divide my life with him into 3 periods. When I was young we were close – I was delighted to greet him when he returned home from work and play with him. I always waited impatiently on weekends when he would lock himself in his office to catch up with the Archers for an hour. I also remember vividly that our family holidays to the south of France and numerous other locations were highlights.
My father was always a man of faith (something that certainly did not waiver throughout his life). He worked to instil that faith into his children with church every Sunday, religious education and catholic schooling. Although in my case the religion itself did not take, that does not mean that his effort were in vain – religion is more than theology, it is a way of seeing your place and role in the world, and he was successful in imparting his values to me values that have stayed with me and guided me through my life.
Sad to say in my early teens I became rebellious and largely cut myself off from him. Nevertheless, though I may have given up on him, he never gave up on me. He struggled to keep me on the path to success, no matter how little interest I might have shown. This is perhaps the best measure of love – not how you work for those who appreciate it, but your efforts for those who do not.
Eventually, about the time my parents separated, I came out of this phase. My father now lived in London and I went to college there, so I would visit him frequently, and re-established our bond. He was involved in writing illustrated articles on cookery and I would love to be invited over to sample the dishes that had been prepared for photography. It was at this time that I met Tish. I shall be eternally grateful for the love and care that she gave Hugo for the rest of his life.
One character trait that I always appreciated in my father was his tendency to attempt things that most other would not (sometimes because they were impractical). I remember clearly that one year he came back home and announced that he had acquired an airplane (it was a bargain at only 10 shillings - who could resist)! Admittedly, it was a prop from a closing movie studio, lacking wings and engines, and was wildly difficult to deliver to the house, but we children thoroughly enjoyed playing pilot and it formed the centrepiece for one of the outstanding birthday parties that my parents held.
Another such case pertains to his time in the royal navy. Tish has asked me to speak on that time, so I will divert for a moment onto that subject.
My father came of age during the Second World War. Being too young for conscription, he volunteered for a navy training program at 16 in hopes of gaining a commission when he was old enough. The commission never materialized, but he became proficient in radio operation and coding. Finally, in 1945 he was posted to the minesweeper HMS Wave where he was the youngest crew member. It was a potentially perilous posting, as 1 in 4 min sweepers were sunk in the war, and He wrote vividly of the experience of a mine detonating 100 yards from his vessel. The Wave sailed for Singapore, but before it arrived, the war with Japan ended. The last time I saw him, 3 months before he passed he reminisced about the experience of observing the surrender of the Japanese forces. With the ending of the war, he was no longer needed as a coder, but as one of the last into the service he was retained till 1947 in Hong Kong.
Years later when the ship was decommissioned he asked the navy for a memento of the ship, expecting an insignificant item. But, to his surprise, he was given the ships bell (normally the legacy of the captain) This then turns out to be another example of his tendency attempt things other people did not – he was simply the only person top make a request. And for this reason I asked for the bell as a memento of him when he passed.
Now three decades have passed since I moved away and the wheel has turned. I married, and now have my own son in College. And if, when I look back on my life and wonder what good I have done, I my son can answer the same way that I have, then I will be well satisfied.
Margaret Rand read John 2: 1-10
2 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
Charlotte Leslé read John 14: 1-6
14 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Elizabeth Ann Kivlan read 'Wine and Happiness' adapted from Hugo's 2005 Saintsbury Oration
As many of you have experienced, Hugo was a charismatic and sought-after public speaker!
The following is an adaptation of his Oration to fellow members of The Saintsbury Club at their 147th meeting in October 2005. To paraphrase Hugo’s friend and colleague Michael Broadbent, who is here today, the Club is an invitation-only, twice-yearly gathering of ‘literary and vinous minds’, founded in 1931 by André Simon and friends as a tribute to the Victorian writer, academic, and wine connoisseur George Saintsbury. Saintsbury’s scholarly achievements were apparently eclipsed, even before his death in 1933, by the modest fame of his Notes on a Cellar Book, published thirteen years earlier.
Hugo had joined the Club during the early 1980s, and his theme on that October night was ‘Wine and Happiness’.
He begins: “Mr Chairman, Gentlemen: The invitation to deliver a Saintsbury Oration is both attractive and daunting to this youngster - [Hugo being aged 79 at the time!] who has neither spent his life in the Trade nor earned the qualification of Master of Wine -- not least because each speaker is left to choose his title rather than have one thrust upon him. My own collection of previous Orations has shown me that our Club is not averse to occasional personal relevances. Which licenses me to begin with a little self-indulgence.”
Hugo then invokes some of the startling life-changes which had crowded in on him nearly thirty years before, leaving him, in the late 1970s, to count his “blessings -- both of them: I still possessed a well-stocked cellar, ... and I had my health.” In due course, Hugo, characteristically strong in adversity, had turned his life around, and, as he continues to the assembled, “not for the first time, I count myself a happy man, with the good fortune tonight to be surrounded by all of you, my friends and fellow wine-lovers.
“I have been thinking about George Saintsbury and happiness. After a lifetime of academic distinction, he was able, in his retirement, to tackle a subject -- dear to his heart -- which he had never had the leisure or encouragement to undertake. This became Notes on a Cellar Book.
The Notes are, in their way, autobiographical, and my impression of George Saintsbury, from his writing and what I have learned about his life, suggests that his was a happy temperament, with an appreciation of convivial mixed company, the pleasures of the intellect and the table -- and, perhaps a little surprisingly, the art of ballroom dancing!
“This has set me thinking about wine and happiness in a wider sense. I said a moment ago that I deem myself a happy man, and I’ve been considering how the fermented juice of the grape has contributed to that state since I first ‘discovered’ wine some sixty years ago. I suppose wines have been my ultimate all-purpose condiment, interacting not just with food but with many of my joys: the stages of courtship and a subsequent happy marriage, the births of my children, the company of friends and family. They have been a stimulus to my appreciation of the arts, a companion to solitary reading, an extra dimension to the thrill of adventure and travel -- of which I’ve had my fair share and then some. Most of the satisfactions of my long life have been increased by wines great or little, young or mature, familiar or freshly discovered.
“But what about the notion of ‘happiness’? It’s not ‘wine’ which has yet to be put under the microscope, but that universally yearned-for state in which wine can play a part. When I looked for the definition of ‘happiness’, the Concise Oxford offered ‘the feeling or showing of pleasure or contentment’ -- and alternatively produced ‘slightly drunk’, but I’ll let that pass!
“I discussed the subject, and the physiological aspects of drinking, with two doctors, the first a long-time friend with a celebrated cellar, and my second ‘consultant’ the young, buoyant, and very attractive female practitioner who looks after my wife and me.”
Hugo describes how Doctor One invoked alcohol’s activation of brain processes “which lead to a feeling of well-being, elevated mood, reduced stress, enhanced sociability and social participation,” while Doctor Two emphasised the opposite, wine “as a mood depressant, whose initially benign effects can, without moderation, turn sour”.
Hugo details their lively debate about “moderation”, the “swing” from benevolent effects to the antisocial. He questions, “If individual scope for happiness varies, from person to person, for reasons of genetics and life’s experience, how does wine-drinking link with this? Are the beneficial effects increased by intellectual satisfaction -- by which I mean that of the knowledgeable wine-lover?
“I am sure,” Hugo continues, “that the pleasures of wine drinking engendered in the technically proficient propriétaire are different from those of the knowledgeable critic or the connoisseur gastronome -- and again, from the satisfactions of the label snob or the total philistine. But is the capacity for happiness greater for any one of these than another’s? I wonder.
“I feel that the answer, if there be one, must lie in the ability of each to know what he wants the wine to mean to him, and directly relates to his realisation of the extent to which this has succeeded. By that standard, the discriminating diner must emerge on top! Which returns me to the company here tonight, and the impossibility of concluding much about wine and happiness beyond the agreeable process of potentially endless speculation -- and the thoughts of the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau:
Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it,
the more it will elude you, but if you turn your
attention to other things, it will come and sit softly
on your shoulder.
The choir & organist of St Bride's performed the following anthems and songs:-
In Paradisum - Gabriel Fauré
Sanctus - Gabriel Fauré
Ave Maria - Franz Schubert
Gloria, K317 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Trumpet Shall Sound from Messiah - George Frideric Handel
Chaconne in G Minor - Louis Couperin
Introduction et Menuet gothique, from Suite gothique - Léon Boëllmann
Majesté du Christ demandant sa Gloire à son Père, from l'Ascension - Olivier Messiaen
Carillon de Longpont - Louis Vierne
Praise To The Holiest In The Height
Thine Be The Glory
Eternal Father, Strong To Save
OBITUARIES & COMMENT