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Sir Donald Barron

St Peter's 13-18

Sir Donald Barron

Governor of St Peter's 1966-1978, Vice Chairman from 1978-1981.

Died 30 December 2015

Sir Donald Barron













Sir Donald Barron, who died recently aged 94, served as Governor of St Peter’s School from 1966-1978 and Vice Chairman from 1978-1981.  He was awarded a Fellowship of the School in 1991 and went onto become a Foundation Trustee from 2000 to 2002. 

Donald James Barron was born in Gorebridge, Midlothian; his father Albert was an actuary and his mother, Elizabeth, a teacher. He attended George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh.

During the Second World War, Sir Donald was commissioned into the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.  On promotion to Captain, he was adjutant of 5th Battalion KOSB during a long period of hard-fought action across Holland and Germany during the winter of 1944-45, until shrapnel necessitated a stay of several months in hospital. 

On his return to Edinburgh he completed a bachelor of commerce degree and qualified as a chartered accountant with the firm of Dewar & Robertson.

Although he started as a Scottish accountant he was, according to one colleague, “a marketing man by conviction”.  As a leader and manager his approach echoed that of the Quaker founders of Rowntree Mackintosh, and he showed great “sympathy for people as individuals”.

Sir Donald Barron joined Rowntree & Co in 1952, becoming chief accountant in 1956, a director in 1956 and chairman in 1966. Under his careful management, the company successfully navigated the launch of new products, the takeover of Mackintosh, and unwanted attention from Philip Morris and General Foods, although, despite his dearest hopes that Rowntree & Co would remain British, the company was eventually taken over by Nestlé in 1988.

In 1972 Sir Donald also joined the board of Midland Bank, and in 1982 he took on the challenge of its chairmanship. His success in a challenging role was marked by his appointment to the Board of Banking Supervision by the Bank of England, and on which he served until 1989. 

From 1957 to 1962 Barron was a leading member of the York Academic Trust, formed to work towards the creation of a university in the city.  He later served as treasurer of the University and as a pro-chancellor from 1982 to 1995.  His contribution is commemorated in the Donald Barron Court, a residential block at the university named after him to mark his outstanding support for the university.

Retirement from Rowntree Mackintosh did not dim his passion for helping others, and from 1981 to 1996 he was Chairman of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the charity which funds research into housing and poverty issues.

He was also a director of 3i, the private equity firm, and of Canada Life Assurance; a member of the University Grants Committee and the council of the CBI; a governor of the London Business School; and a past governor of York’s Company of Merchant Adventurers. He was knighted in 1972, and was a deputy lieutenant of North Yorkshire.

Sir Donald Barron received Honorary Doctorates from Loughborough University in 1982, Herriot-Watt in 1983, CNAA in 1983, Edinburgh in 1984, Nottingham in 1985 and York in 1986.

In 1991, Sir Donald Barron was one of the first Fellows appointed by St Peter’s School in recognition for his exceptional service to the School.  One of his colleagues on the Board of Governors said that: “He was a very committed and great servant of the School.  He came into my ken as a new sort of governor – one that, instead of being remote and seldom setting foot in the school except for Governors’ meetings, took an active part in the running of the School in the ‘70s when inflation seemed perilous for the school.  This was a steady cautious hand on the tiller as well as the enterprising guru of the Finance Committee in difficult times.  The sheer time he was prepared to spend in the School was phenomenal.  He was frank, but always good tempered and reasonable”.

Always a man of great vigour and determination, Sir Donald kept fit into old age with tennis and golf. He married Gillian Saville in 1956; she survives him together with their three sons, Alastair (Queen's 1971-76), David (Queen's 1972-77) and Roderick (Queen's 1974-79), and their two daughters, Julia and Felicity.

Sir Donald Barron, born March 17 1921, died December 30 2015