LLG regret to announce the death of its oldest honourary member Harry Sales

Publish date: 23/03/2017

John Emms recounts the remarkable life and career of Harry Sales, charting back to the 1940's. A great character, an early pioneer, long-time supporter and an irreplaceable link with the past.

Photo by John Atherton - the Alpine Club

Following the recent loss of Alan Mundy, I am very sad to report the death of our oldest Honorary Member.

Harry Sales, who has died aged 98, was one of the first members of the Local Government Legal Society and became its fourth Chairman in 1950.

At the time the LGLS came into being he was Acting Deputy Town Clerk of Guildford, where he was taking part in planning and implementing the redevelopment required following war damage. He had moved there in 1940 after qualifying as a solicitor following articles with his father in Manchester. However the majority of his local government career was in the role of Town Clerk of Aldershot, where he stayed until what was, for many people in positions of that type, the disastrous reorganisation of 1974. The abolition of so many of the old borough councils left clerks and deputy clerks vying for a variety of lesser jobs in larger district councils. Harry effectively said 'stuff this for a game of soldiers', qualified as a barrister and embarked on a very successful career as a local government and planning specialist at the bar. He played a role in a number of high profile cases, including Bromley LBC v Greater London Council in 1981 in which he successfully represented Bromley, despite privately disagreeing with their stance against Ken Livingstone's 'Fare's Fair' policy of subsidising transport fares.

However, I remember him more as one of a number of counsel who in the 1970s and 1980s provided free opinions on cases submitted through a quarterly magazine, the details of which now escape me. The opinions were then published in bound form and were a valuable source of guidance on the shelves of many a local authority law library.

Of course, when he left local government he also had to leave the LGLS, but over the earlier years he contributed much of value to its work, in particular, substantial participation in discussions and negotiations alongside the Law Society and NALGO (now UNISON) over salaries for assistant and senior assistant solicitors - one of the main early priorities. And he still maintained an interest in his later career, being, for instance a member of the Board overseeing the Local Government Diploma which was a major achievement of the society in its Local Government Group phase.

However, his professional life was only a comparatively small part of Harry's activities. He was an enthusiastic and skilful climber, taking part in an expedition to make the first ascents of nine mountains in Greenland in the 1970s. He also undertook a trek in the foothills of Everest in his 70s and was still rock-climbing in Cornwall, where he lived latterly, in his early 80s. Even after giving up the climbing, he still spent time walking the cliffs despite increasing problems with his sight. One honorary member remembers his love for and intimate knowledge of the Lake District.

He was also a very able painter and sculptor, pianist and, more recently, a daffodil enthusiast, competing in shows and developing new varieties. He also took up bell-ringing in Cornwall.

So, if there are any of you who are wondering how on earth to fill your time when you retire...

Harry was once quoted as saying he would like to be remembered as a man with a sense of humour. Well, I can say, from a number of telephone conversations I had with him in recent years, that that is certainly one of the memories I shall have. He once told me, when I was researching the LGLS history, of an event which I couldn't resist including:

' Harry Sales recalls the Law Society annual dinner which he attended as Chairman in 1950 when he was "very young and innocent". He assumed that "evening dress" meant dinner jacket, so that is what he wore; but he was one of very few to be so under-dressed, the rest being in the full Fred Astaire kit of white tie and tails. Still, as the evening went on it seemed to him to matter rather less. There was wine with every course and eight or nine courses, so by the end of the evening he had, as he puts it, "got a bit lost".'

With Harry's death LLG has lost one of its great characters, an early pioneer, long-time supporter and an irreplaceable link with the past.