Shirley Scott

January 29, 2018 at 15:13

CFG’s first Chief Executive, Shirley Scott, sadly passed away in December 2017. We are honoured to share the kind words of her family, remembering Shirley.

Shirley ScottToday for me is a day of mixed emotions. It is difficult to say goodbye to the one you love and lived with; yet it is both humbling and uplifting to see so many here today whose lives were touched and, hopefully, improved by their contact with Shirley.

Shirley was a giving person, always ready to help. When I first met her, I recognised a powerful intellect and someone with a strong sense of culture – music, theatre, opera and poetry. What did I bring? Well I was big (and got bigger on her cooking) and I lowered the tone by taking her to my Rugby Club, where we’ve stayed ever since.

She knew people across Esher Rugby Club, from the 1st XV players here today to the Mini and Junior parents, probably far more people than I know! She sponsored players and I know that those players were grateful to her not just for that but also the words she had for them and the welcome she gave to them.

Today there are former colleagues from the Charity Commission and the Charity Finance Directors’ Group present as well as others she worked with during a key 20-year period in the establishment of the current finance structure for charities. When she left CFDG she helped to establish Tour Aid and SKRUM, two charities that help children’s lives by introducing them to rugby before joining Richard Reeve’s Foundation. She would be delighted to see here today the two children that she helped support through their education at Christ’s Hospital.

She also continued her volunteering, becoming a Trustee of Surrey Wildlife Trust, Treasurer of the Sunbury & Shepperton Local History Society and persuading me to join her in volunteering at Birdfair, the world’s largest meeting of birders and birding enthusiasts. She never let me forget it was she they wanted in the first place and that I was the afterthought!

Years of listening to her sisters singing in and with their choirs finally had a result when she joined Guildford Choral Society in time to sing Handel’s Messiah. She was immensely proud to sing in the Royal Albert Hall where she had so often watched her father sing.

In the last month I’ve had to tell a lot of people about Shirley’s death and one group of people stands out, the shopkeepers of Shepperton. The butcher, the cobbler, the florist, the newsagent and the dry cleaner were all, it seems, her friends.

Finally, I must thank The Children’s Trust and British Dragonfly Society for being here today to support me. They knew Shirley only as my better half, but they are getting the benefit of my 21 years with Shirley – without her I would not be who I am today.

Give thanks for what you gained from Shirley and just remember that smile!

Nigel Scott


Shirley made it clear what her epitaph should be: Finished Something at Last!

None of us here wishes she had finished quite so soon but the epitaph was typical Shirley humour – and what a humour and what a love of laughter! How often did Shirley start the laughter amongst us with her distinctive belly chuckle and her quick wit never allowing us to be dull or miserable or too long?

Thomas Carlyle, the Victorian essayist, summed up the source of laughter beautifully when he wrote; ‘a laugh to be joyous, must flow from a joyous heart, for without kindness there can be no true joy.’

And that is Shirley – for surely she had a joyous and a kind heart – or should we rather say a charitable heart? For a life devoted to charity must surely have begun with her heart, a heart that was always open for others and a heart that was always open to life in all its fullness – perhaps why we should be glad that she started more than she finished – because she saw so much in living.

Although, someone with whom it was so easy to laugh, Shirley was no pushover – as some of those who worked with her testify. Her friend and IFA Clifford Gribble commented to Nigel, ‘As you know, she terrified me when we first met but as I got to know her I realized she was one of the loveliest people with the biggest of hearts and I will miss her. ‘

Shirley had a coaster for years which informed us that the name Shirley comes from the Old English ‘from the bright meadow’ – usually easy going, she will dig her heels in when she feels she is right. She knows her own mind!

Perhaps this is because she is descended from royalty. Shirley was born in Bedford, the youngest and cheekiest of three sisters, on the 30th September 1949 to Kenneth and Mary Mould (nee Holmes) who met and married in Skipton. The Mould family was a West Midlands family, one of whom was the next door neighbor to the poet John Clare – hence his poem later on. Shirley’s paternal grandmother was a Scarratt a direct descendant of William Scarrott (1765-1855) who was King of the Gypsies, then living in Wychwood Forest, Oxfordshire. It will be no surprise that she loved discovering this – appealing to that unconventional, radical side we all loved so much.

Educated at Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School, where she excelled at sport amongst many other things, her bright mind led to her appointment at the Charity Commission in 1968. In 1990 she was appointed Official Custodian of Charities, a grade 6 post, responsible for managing £1.25 billion of investments on behalf of 40,000 charities. When the service was discontinued in 1992 she was responsible for the divestment of this sum to the charities.

In 1994, Shirley joined the Charity Finance Directors’ Group as Executive Secretary, and was also a Research Fellow at South Bank University where she lectured on the MSc in Charity Finance. After 30 years in the same industry, some would think of slowing down – not Shirley. It was amazing what she packed in as she approached 50. In 1997 she became CEO of the Charity Finance Directors’ group and became a student at London South Bank achieving a Postgraduate Diploma in Charity Finance and Accounting and wrote ‘Not just for a Rainy Day’ a guide to Charity reserves on which all subsequent guidance on the subject is based. Having been closely involved with the running of several charities, I have spent a lot of time discussing reserves policies and ensuring good governance. I had no idea that Shirley had been so influential in making sure this was on the agenda!

Shirley remained CEO of CFDG until 31st December 2005 growing the membership from 280 to over 1200 and increasing the staff from 1 to 10. She did this alongside Chairing the Guardian Charities Investment Conference from 2000-2005 and supported the Charity Commission by providing guidance on the implementation of new  Accounting Standards in 1995, 2000 and 2005. No wonder Les Jones (former Vice Chair of CFDG) commented that ‘She literally was CFDG and a legend in the sector’ – a King’s descendants should be legends!

Before she eventually ‘retired’ – not really a word you associate with Shirley – well she was certainly never ‘shy and retiring’ – between 2008 and 2014 she was Clerk to the Governors at Richard Reeve’s Foundation managing the distribution of grants for educational purposes to residents of the City of London and the London Borough of Camden. She became a Donation Governor to Christ’s Hospital supporting Joseph and Lucas funded by the Richard Reeve’s Foundation.

It is testimony to Shirley’s modesty that so many of us in the family never knew the detail of these remarkable achievements; and it even more special for us that in 1999 at this busiest of times she became Great Auntie Shirley.  And she and Great Uncle Nigel (GAS and GUN as they were known) made sure they were as committed to this growing role as all the others – for Shirley was someone who brought other people together and for whom family and friends were so important.

As I said at the beginning, Shirley saw so much in living and this was so evident in Shirley the birder. As a birder I can say this, but to most people birding is weird – why spend so much time watching and getting so energised by  small feathered creatures that you are prepared to travel the country and the world (Australia, Peru, Extremadura (three times), Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica) in pursuit of that bird you have never seen? Simple – it’s all about loving the intricacies of life and exercising awe and wonder. Sure there is a selfish side to ticking the box, but the act of watching and respecting takes you outside of your self – which is why it is so important to preserve and conserve nature. So others can share in it. Shirley got that. Her love of living and charity came together.

The love of birding led her to volunteer with Nigel for the annual Birdfair in Rutland Water and since 2000 she and Nigel were part of the team which manages the 500 seat marquee in which the celebrities entertain and cajole and amaze the public – birds really can be entertaining! In August 2017 she got a resounding round of thankful applause when Stephen Moss announced, much against her wishes, that this would be her last Birdfair. . Secretary of the RSPB North West Surrey Group and on the board of the Surrey Wildlife Trust, Shirley understood that conservation relies on active volunteers who will get their hands dirty and not just enthusiastic observers of nature.

She loved life so much that no surprise that Shirley was a joyous follower of the greatest team game on the planet – rugby – again like birds all about energy and intricacies of form and movement. But for Shirley, I am sure it was also about the joy of the male form – especially if they were young, black and ripped! Why did Shirley choose to sponsor the young winger rather than the stumpy hooker, I wonder?  – to be fair she did sponsor both –  and why when Nigel mentioned her man was in a towel wondering around the Esher changing room did Shirley struggle so hard to remain seated politely drinking her beer – and we laughed again. Having said that, even a good pair of legs would not persuade anyone who did not know the game to be often the sole supporter of the Esher Development team when Nigel was coaching; or to volunteer for pre-match lunches, organize summer balls, act as membership officer or in the ticket office unless she really knew the game. Her comments on one piece of back-row play were complimented by the father of the player concerned, one Marcus Ripley, son of the legendary international and Superstar champion Andy Ripley.

Shirley loved all things cultural, whether touring National Trust properties with her great friend Dora Cuthill, or making special visits to support her sisters, Linda and Elaine and their families in their many concerts. More latterly, she  realised she had her own untapped musical talents, joined Guildford Choral Society and sang with them for four years, one of the greatest highlights being an appearance at the Royal Albert Hall where she had seen her father sing many years earlier as a member of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s famous Royal Choral Society. Shirley really was a polymath.

But I finish at the beginning. For all her amazing achievements in so many areas, we will remember her character, her laughter and her friendship. I spoke two weeks ago to the family about how she cared for us and was committed to bringing us together.  For 40 years, she was part of a group known by her as Rent-A-Crowd, which played such a large part in many holidays to the Lake District, Towpath walks and she and Nigel hosting an annual Burns Supper, based solely on a liking for malt whisky and their surname Scott.

We so wish that she had not left us so soon and to a cruel disease but we all  share the sentiments of her friend Charles Mesquita who said of her: ‘The spirit and humour with which she battled cancer is a true testament to her personality and character.’

If I were in a rugby club with a pint – I would be raising it to Shirley man of the match. She would have been scrum half – the link player. I probably would have called her ‘Auntie Shirley’ as a joke, knowing she would have scowled, called me ‘Nephew Martin’, laughed and enjoyed her drink.  Shirley, we miss you so much but what a game you played!

Martin, Shirley’s nephew