Born at Stanmore, Middlesex, in 1896. He spent a sheltered childhood there. His father, uncles and their families lived under the patriarchal umbrella of his grandfather, Henry Grinling. A fond recollection was of his grandfather fetching his father in horse and carriage to take the train from Stanmore and thence to the Pantheon in Oxford Street . London and singing out on departure “Off to business, things are beginning to humm”.
Happy school days at Harrow where he won the Yeates Thompson Art Prize. His only ordeal was to sing, as a new boy, “Five hundred faces and all so strange”. He was commissioned into the Herts. Regt. (T.A.) on leaving Harrow, instead of going up to Trinity College , Cambridge , for the first World War. He was gassed in the March offensive 1918, and owing to heavy casualties found himself briefly in command of the regiment after which he was awarded the
He was surprisingly recalled to rejoin his Regiment on September 3 rd 1939. Frequent bronchial attacks made him such a liability on active service the Commanding Officer decided he should sleep with his wife to keep warm at night – much to the envy and amusement of the Mess. When the regiment went overseas he was given a staff job of County Quartering Commandant, which meant that he could protect several precious homes from being taken over by troops. It also meant another four years away from art and business. He was invalided out as Category E in May 1944.
During six months convalescence in Sicily he worked with an Italian sculptor, and decided that it was too late to become an art student, or go up to University, so he joined his father in the family firm of W & A Gilbey wine merchants.
His art had to be concentrated mainly on sculpture workable after office hours. His love of trees made him prefer wood carving to other mediums, although he modelled a lot in clay as well. Well seasoned wood was to him a living thing which gives his carvings life and movement.
He had many varied commissions from the 1920's to 60's and exhibited at leading London art galleries, and the Royal Academy. The proceeds from his sales he always spent on buying contemporary paintings. Renewed loss of sight in 1963, from the effects of mustard gas, and a subsequent corneal graft operation prevented further sculpture, but he enjoyed landscape painting in watercolours after his retirement in1965.
His maxim as a director of Gilbey's was that business should never stand still. He enlarged the home trade, bought up retail shops, and developed distilleries in Commonwealth countries. He considered ‘man management' a most important factor. Frustrated by elderly directors, with rugs over their knees vetoeing progressive ideas, proposed a compulsory retirement at the age of 65 from which he was the first to suffer.
He was a man of deeds not words, except those of praise and appreciation. Loving and giving was his greatest pleasure which made him help promotion for the young in business, advancement in the army, and encouragement and patronage in arts.
He enjoyed an ‘open' house and was beloved as a charming host. But his consideration for others, their feelings, comfort, and immediate needs made him most relaxed when alone thinking and working on his sculpture.
He was essentially a family man who enjoyed the company of children.
He believed in orderliness and discipline of himself expecting a good example to be followed by others.
Edwardian by birth, traditional in behaviour though 'trendy' in cars and clothes he showed "a remarkable adaptation in keeping pace with the changing world, its ideals, ideas and morals" as expressed by his youngest daughter.
In his own words, written shortly before his stroke in 1977, "I need to have a purpose in life. I hope I am fairly adaptable. I try to be aware, flexible and unbiased in my thinking. Life is hazard and full of beauties which I try to catch as they pass."
His last years were strengthened and comforted by his profound belief in life after death.