February 2018

A Death

George Barlee

George Barlee
1927 - 2018

We are sad to announce the death of George Barlee on the 10th of February 2018.

George was born in Hull in 1927, the second of three children of Ronald and Magda. George grew up in Hull with his two sisters, Daphne and Justine, and there are many stories of their wild escapades which must have driven their parents to despair. Aged 11, George was sent to live in Edinburgh with his aunt and uncle in 1938, primarily to introduce him to the family leather tanning business. He went to school at the Edinburgh Academy and in 1939 the school was evacuated to Hartree House in Biggar for two years where he learnt many life skills that helped in later life.

George left school in 1944 without sitting his school leaving certificate and joined the Royal Navy. After a year's training he was posted onto a sloop, HMS Peacock. They were initially going to the Pacific to help with convoys from Sydney to Honolulu, however the war ended when they were still in the Mediterranean. After spending some time on the Palestine patrol the ship, which had had a double crew for convoy duty, dropped off the excess sailors, including George, on Malta. Shortly after this a job was advertised for a driver and George, who had only ever driven his Mother's car (under age) on holidays, got the position of driver to the Captain of the Fleet. George had many happy memories of his time in Malta where he managed to drive 23,000 miles in a year. When the Captain of the Fleet was posted back to Britain he got George a posting on the flagship, HMS Mauritius where a young lieutenant suggested that he volunteer for everything as he would have a much more interesting time. As a result he ended up with jobs such as a buoy jumper and being in charge of the painting crew when in port.

On returning to Britain in 1948 George decided to try out working for the family business J. Hewit & Sons Ltd. and, after a few months in Edinburgh, went to the National Leathersellers College in London for 2 years. The tannery at that time was almost Victorian in its work practices as his two uncles had never modernised since they joined 50 years before. Luckily for George, David Tuck (one of the lecturers) had briefly worked at Hewits before the war and knew what George was letting himself in for. He was therefore able to advise him on how to go about bringing the Company into the 20th century, and the two became great friends.

Back at Hewits George put his efforts into bringing the tannery into the 20th Century. Modernisation (by Hewit standards) then commenced and is still the basis of the processing used today. George was so proud when the Company was awarded a Royal Warrant in 1975 and he was a warrant holder until his retirement in 1992. In 1994 he was appointed as the president of the Society of Bookbinders, a position he held for four years.

Away from work George was a very keen rugby player, playing as a prop, and in his time in London joined the Wasps playing for their second XV. On his return to Edinburgh he joined the Edinburgh Academicals playing for the XV that included the great Douglas Elliot, finally retiring from rugby playing in 1956 following a major fire at the tannery because he did not have the time for training.

George married Mary McLean in 1961 after a short courtship and had two children Roger and Rosemary. He was a dedicated family man and there were many memorable caravanning holidays over the years. He was a keen gardener and also loved his animals with cats and dogs ever present in the family home. Weekend walks over the Pentland hills with the dogs was a favourite activity. On his retirement they moved to West Linton and immersed themselves in village life, running a senior citizens lunch club. George also helped as a Red Cross Driver and as a church officer. Mary died 5 years ago and since then George's health had deteriorated. Last April however he was able to celebrate his 90th birthday in style with all the family including his three grandchildren, Kenneth, Rachael and Andrew and his great grandson Eirik.