Alan Bottomley, co-founder of the Harrogate International Festival has died

27 September 2013

Alan Bottomley, one of the finest Yorkshire lawyers of his generation and the co-founder of Harrogate International Music Festival, has died. He was 81.

Alan, who was born in Ilkley, came from a Bradford legal family, where his father George and his grandfather were partners in the solicitors’ firm Gaunt, Fosters and Bottomley. He was educated at Gyhll Royd School in Ilkley and Shrewsbury, before embarking on his National Service.

Alan joined Gaunt, Fosters and Bottomley after National Service. In 1976 the firm merged with Bradford solicitors AV Hammond, which, in turn, became Hammond Suddards and then Squire Saunders. His peers believe that Alan’s vision, drive and commitment ensured that, during his career, Hammonds Suddards became one of the most respected law firms in the north of England.

In 1976, A V Hammond had one office in Bradford with 56 staff. By the time Alan retired as senior partner in 1996, Hammond Suddards had a staff of over 1500 with offices in Leeds, Manchester, London and Brussels. However numbers do not tell the whole story. There was a huge cultural change during the intervening years. The firm changed from being a well-regarded local jack-of-all trades firm to being one of the top commercial lawyers in the UK, dealing primarily with public company clients.

In the late 1970s, Alan began to focus on large Yorkshire companies who had their decision-makers in Yorkshire but who used London lawyers as a matter of habit. He managed to attract over 30 such companies and had a reputation for giving high quality commercial advice which the clients could understand. He also made big changes in the firm internally – systems to make the firm more efficient and accountable. He recruited good young lawyers. He took an interest in all sections of the practice, which was excellent for morale.

John Heller, a colleague of Alan’s at Hammond Suddards, commented:

I cannot remember a really important decision which he got wrong. He allowed his younger partners to express their views. He led from the front and we were happy to follow because nine times out of ten he was correct.

He was a good senior partner because he was a man of many interests outside of the office which made him a complete personality. It was exciting to be involved with the firm during those years.

Alan’s main interest outside the law was music. In 1962 he set up the Frederick Delius Centenary Festival in Bradford, more or less single-handed. He subsequently was a joint-founder of the Harrogate International Music Festival with Tony Kent and Clive Wilson. The Festival is now 48 years old and it has put Harrogate on the world cultural map, as well as benefitting the local economic economy by £8.2m last year alone. He was also involved in many other organisations, including the Leeds Playhouse, the Leeds International Piano competition and the Arts Council.

He was an enthusiastic member of the Territorial Army, joining the 269 Field Regiment in Bradford in 1952. He ended up as the Major in charge of the Ilkley Battery. He was also a leading member of both Bradford Law Society and the Bradford Club.

Universally liked for being modest, kind and a gentleman, Alan was married first to Sue Werner, who pre-deceased him, and then to Maureen Procter, the widow of Alan’s great friend Nicky.

When Alan was once interviewed by Yorkshire Post, and asked what he would like as an epitaph, he was quoted as saying: “Laid back, as in life”. His many friends remembered this “laid-back” man with affection, gratitude and sadness at his packed funeral service at Hampsthwaite Church, near Harrogate, earlier this month.

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