Peter Bishop remembers Alan Tabbush – engineer, champion of Anglo-Argentine relations, LCCI export adviser and wonderful travelling companion – who died last October
I first met Alan in 1995 when the London Chamber set up an export development programme. We needed to recruit some seasoned international traders to add their real-life experience to a theoretical framework and provide some heft to what turned out be a successful and hugely enjoyable venture.
With his GKN and British Electric background, he soon showed his value in advising hundreds of UK companies in the practicalities of finding and maintaining overseas customers. Having headed up operations in Latin America, it was no wonder that he specialised in that region but he was equally effective in helping firms develop their business in Europe, North America and elsewhere. Being fluent in French, German, Italian and, of course, Spanish was a more than a useful aid.
There are some people with whom working with is an unalloyed joy and Alan was one of those. His work ethic, experience and knowledge of such a large variety of subjects clearly played a big part but his personality – warm, caring, helpful at any cost – were at least equally important. These qualities came out most obviously to me as a travelling companion. I had the privilege of joining him in various projects in Latin America, Europe and South East Asia.
In Buenos Aires, where we attempted to persuade the Argentine Finance Minister to sign an international trade convention, he introduced me to a former Mayor, arranged for me to play tennis at the renowned Hurlingham Club, and showed me the Casa Rosada. Alan was returning to the city where he studied engineering at the university and it was one of his favourites. In Lima, on another trip, I had a serious bout of food poisoning but Alan had the answer – a healthy dose of Pisco sour. And yes, it did the trick admirably.
In Poland, together with a valued colleague, John Lyon-Maris, we visited Auschwitz after running international trade training courses in Katowice, Torun and Warsaw. Both had relatives who had been directly affected by the Holocaust and the experience was deeply affecting.
Alan was a supremely well-travelled man and took a deep interest in the countries he visited from both a cultural and linguistic point of view. Sitting beside him on the plane was like having a travel writer in tow. Yet he imparted his knowledge in a typically unassuming and modest way – it made for a true conversation, never a lecture.
Not that he didn’t have strong views and ones he was unafraid to propose, always rational though, and with a good deal of supporting evidence. British relations with Argentina was a constant source of concern. He knew how close the countries were in so many ways and their conflict pained him greatly. But he was an optimist too and believed that the great relationship would resume.
Friends and admirers
There are so many things to say about Alan and I could continue at length. However, I do want to add that one of the most impressive things about him was that after his main career had come to an end he was determined to continue to contribute in some way to Anglo-Argentine relations of course, but also to the political and economic developments in the world at large, and to maintaining his large network of friends and admirers whom he never let down.
I have no doubt that I speak for Alan’s friends and companions, John Lyon-Maris and Lottie Peacock, both such important parts of the LCCI team, in saluting him as a gentleman in business whose cultural interests and companionship made our lives richer.
A Alan Tabbush OBE 1929-2023