Ian MacWhannell RIP
Date: 17-02-2022 00:00
It is with sadness that we share the passing of Ian MacWhannell. A funeral service for Ian will be held on Wednesday 9th March 2022.
Born in 1942, Ian had an international childhood living in the UK, before moving to Durban, South Africa. On return to the UK he attended St. Edwards Oxford School, along with his brother James. At school he excelled at athletics and rugby representing the 1st XV. The MacWhannell brothers were well known as ‘Major’ and ‘Minor’. Ian went on to have a successful career as a Company Director for an independent textile agency, serving some of the largest mills globally.
Ian’s rugby career spanned a number of clubs, starting at Moseley before moving down to London, where he represented Ealing and Rosslyn Park, before joining London Scottish. His competitive rugby career was cut short by an Achilles injury, but on return to playing he was one of the earlier members of the Picts team. However, to say this was not competitive rugby would be an injustice. Under the leadership of Malcom Gillespie, the Picts would regularly field extremely strong sides. Either fielding 1st XV players like Dave Millard returning from injury, or the likes of former Club Captains like Mac Wylie. A highlight of his Picts career was playing in the first Golden Oldies tournament in the 1980s. After the opening ceremony at Twickenham, London Scottish Picts played Rosslyn Park, with British Lions like Andy Ripley and Alastair Biggar on the field for either side, and the MacWhannell brothers in the engine room!
After injury put a stop to Ian’s playing days, he joined up with Mac Wylie to help coach the London Scottish Minis section. One of those Minis players ended up being his son Piers, who went on to represent the 1st XV. A constant and very vocal supporter of the club. Ian will be much missed by family and friends.
Ian (closely followed by his younger brother James) began school at Teddies in 1955, after a spell at Highbury Prep School in Hillcrest near Durban, South Africa. As a very mature and athletic 13-year-old, standing at 6ft 1, he very quickly found his niche: sport. A vital member of the school rugby teams, it was not long before he was picked for the 1st XV; he represented the school at athletics and became captain of boxing. From all accounts he was much admired by the boys in the years below, not only for his sporting prowess but also for being a fair and decent senior. It was therefore not a surprise that Ian was also elected a House prefect.
Ian always talked fondly of his school days. He maintained lifelong friendships with many from Teddies, and even made new ones later in life. Supposedly when he was introduced, the comment would be ‘is that MacWhannell Major??’
After leaving school he played competitively, representing Moseley, Ludlow, Ealing, and Rosslyn Park, before ending up at London Scottish. Unfortunately, after tearing his Achilles, his competitive playing days were over. However, that didn’t stop him turning out for the vets team (although the camaraderie and the lure of the clubhouse after the match was probably the main draw). Once he was unable to play, he gave his time to coach the London Scottish Minis section.
On the work front, after stints in Birmingham and Ludlow, he started at Nathan and Co. in London working as a textile agent; eventually becoming a partner, before leaving to start his own business, MacWhannell agencies. Work did involve a lot of travel to countries like Italy, Hong Kong, America and Turkey, and some of his trips were far from mundane. He often talked of driving a 1930s 4 litre convertible Bentley, which was apparently a company car, over the Alps. The trip was supposedly a mix of terror navigating the narrow roads with sheer drops at their side, to excitement as the roads opened up. Ian cultivated many friendships through work, be they colleagues or clients. The enduring memory for those that knew Ian, was his amicable nature and sense of humour.
In 1971, he married Judith and they had four children Camilla, Piers, Kate and Sophie in quick succession. None of us were destined to follow in his footsteps and go to Teddies, but he did get to watch my school lose to Teddies in the Oxford 7s. I do remember seeing his wry smile at the end, with a ‘I told you so’ look on his face.
In 2000, he married Suzie Arthur. And he gained two-step children, Joanne and Robert. This was a time of 21st parties, graduations and then weddings. Ian was always up for a party, and these were happy times. In later life he enjoyed a retirement we can all aspire to, travelling with Suzie to exotic locations such as India, New Zealand, and Turkey, where a couple of great holidays were spent playing golf.
It was certainly sad to see such a big and strong man reduced by cancer, but he never lost his sense of humour, and no doubt endured pain and discomfort, with great humility. He died just after his 80th birthday, having been able to celebrate with family, with a glass or two of Champagne. A larger-than-life character, an avid reader of historical novels, a lover of long walks in the park and long Sunday lunches!! He will be sorely missed.
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