WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-02 > 1171799137
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] BOYNTON: John Keyworth 15/1/2007
Date: Sun, 18 Feb 2007 03:45:37 -0800
Sir John Boynton
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 14/02/2007
Sir John Boynton, who has died aged 88, was a distinguished local government
official who took on the formidable challenge of overseeing the elections in
Rhodesia in 1980 from which Robert Mugabe emerged the victor; he was also
the author of a damning report into the running of the Rampton special
Long experience as a returning officer qualified Boynton for the role
officially titled "Election Commissioner, Southern Rhodesia" shortly after
he retired as chief executive of Cheshire County Council in 1979. But the
situation in Rhodesia bore little resemblance to a general election in the
English shires. In April 1979 the moderate Bishop Abel Muzorewa had been
elected prime minister in the country's first black majority government,
ending the regime of Ian Smith; but the two rival Patriotic Front guerrilla
groups led by Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo had taken no part.
At the Lancaster House conference in November a cease-fire was agreed which
paved the way for fresh elections in February 1980, under the governorship
of Lord Soames and the supervision of Boynton, with a team of British
officials and policemen which included some of his old colleagues from
The election team went calmly about its preparatory duties, but intimidation
of voters and candidates became widespread and blatant - particularly, but
by no means exclusively, by Mugabe's supporters. By early February some
British officials were calling for Mugabe to be excluded from the election;
but Soames and the foreign secretary, Lord Carrington, took the view that
exclusion would jeopardise fragile international support for the settlement.
Mugabe later accused Britain of condoning intimidation of his own people by
Muzorewa's forces, but when the votes were counted it turned out that
Mugabe's following among the majority Shona tribe had carried his ZANU-PF
party to victory with 57 out of 80 seats.
Carrington, with characteristic understatement, was to observe that these
results were "not exactly what we had anticipated", nor did they bring
"undiluted pleasure" to Downing Street. Boynton, however, declared the
outcome "a reflection of the wishes of the people" and later defended its
validity against those who argued that Mugabe had stolen power. Rhodesia
became independent Zimbabwe a few weeks after the election.
Later in 1980 Boynton was called upon for another highly sensitive task: to
conduct an inquiry into alleged abuse of patients at Rampton special
psychiatric hospital in Nottinghamshire. The inquiry was prompted by an
investigative documentary on Yorkshire Television, and eventually resulted
in the referral of a very large number of cases to the Director of Public
Boynton's team found serious problems relating to the geographical and
professional isolation of the hospital, its lack of leadership and
difficulty in recruitment, and its focus on containment rather than therapy.
The report was also highly critical of an internal complaints procedure
under which not one of 178 complaints over a four-year period had been
upheld. Its recommendations led to the formation, in 1983, of the Mental
Health Act Commission, to oversee conditions under which mental patients are
John Keyworth Boynton was born at Carlisle on Valentine's Day 1918 and was
educated at Dulwich College before taking a degree in Law from London
University and solicitor's articles with the town clerk of Lambeth. He
qualified in 1939.
He joined the Army in 1940 and served with the 15th Scottish Reconnaissance
Regiment in the advance across France and the Low Countries. In February
1945 he and his patrol reconnoitred what remained of the heavily-bombed
medieval town of Kleve, between the Dutch border and the Rhine, and
subsequently led an Allied tank column through the ruins, under enemy fire
throughout; he was awarded a Military Cross for his part in the action, and
was also mentioned in dispatches.
After the end of his active service in 1946 Boynton served for a time as a
military magistrate in Germany. He returned to become senior assistant
solicitor of Derbyshire county council, and in 1951 became deputy clerk of
the peace in Berkshire. In 1964 he moved to Cheshire as clerk to the county
council and clerk of the peace. During the Heath administration's local
government reorganisation Boynton emerged as a champion of his county,
ensuring that Ellesmere Port and the southern part of the Wirral remained in
Cheshire rather than becoming part of the new Merseyside authority. At the
end of the process in 1974 he became the first chief executive of the
newly-constituted Cheshire county council.
A strong administrator who was well respected by elected councillors,
Boynton built better relations between the county and its district councils
and with the local business community, and pioneered the creation of a
"research and intelligence unit" to monitor demographic and social trends.
Boynton was founder-president of the Society of Local Authority Chief
Executives, which brought together chief officers from every layer of local
government for the first time.
He was president of the Royal Town Planning Institute and a member of the
Economic Planning Council for the north-west; he was also active in the
Royal Institute of Public Affairs, the Law Society and the Industrial
Boynton was co-author of the authoritative Boynton's Guide to Compulsory
Purchase and Compensation (1964), which ran to many editions, and published
a memoir of his years in Cheshire, Job at the Top (1986).
He was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Cheshire in 1975 and knighted in
John Boynton died on January 15. He married first, in 1947, Gabrielle
Stanglmaier, whom he met during his time in Germany and with whom he had two
daughters. Gabrielle died in 1978 and he married secondly, in 1979, Edith
Laane, who came from The Hague.
|[W-OBITS] BOYNTON: John Keyworth 15/1/2007 by "Peter McCrae" <>|