Robert Haslam attended Bolton School from 1934-1941. He had a full and varied career after leaving School, culminating in becoming Chairman of British Coal and receiving a knighthood in 1986. He was created a life peer on his retirement in 1990.
He accepted the invitation to succeed the Third Viscount Leverhulme as Chairman of Governors, stating that he hoped the opportunity would enable him to ‘put back a little bit of what the School has given me’. He retired from the Governing Body in 1997 and sadly died in 2002. His full obituary, published in The Telegraph can be read here.
On his retirement from the Governing Body, Alan Wright (Headmaster 1983-2002) wrote in The Boltonian:
“July 1997 marks the conclusion of Lord Haslam’s Chairmanship of the Governing Body of Bolton School. For the past seven years he has energetically led and been deeply involved in the affairs of the School, seeking throughout to encourage development and innovation while at the same time ensuring that sound principles of financial strategy and management were followed. Over the first eighteen months of Lord Haslam’s period of Chairmanship we witnessed a most successful appeal for funding for the conversion of the old swimming bath building to its present use as the Arts & Conference Centre. This was followed by a period of intense consultation over the design for the project and its subsequent oversight, rendered much more difficult than expected due to the sudden bankruptcy of the main contractor in the middle of the undertaking. This task successfully completed, he turned his attention to the provision of a nursery school for the Foundation and, for some four years, has been involved in protracted planning negotiations for this development which should now start to be built in the autumn of this year coming into use in summer 1998.
Behind the scenes Lord Haslam has been responsible for a complete change in the constitution and method of operation of the Governing Body. He has dispensed with the Divisional Committees of old and has placed many of the financial responsibilities of the Trustees firmly in the hands of a new, smaller Joint Governing Body with a revised sub-committee structure. All of this has required patient work with the Charity Commission, resulting in a new Scheme of Administration for the School giving it a modern streamlined management structure suitable and applicable for these times. Lord Haslam hands on to his successor a school in a strong and secure financial position, with well-developed plans in both development and monetary terms for the future. He has been exceptionally loyal in the execution of his responsibilities, making frequent visits from London to Bolton for both business and main School activities. His cheerful and encouraging approach has lifted flagging spirits on many occasions. We shall all miss his genial presence but hope that his interest in the School and its affairs will remain strong and that he and Lady Haslam will visit us on many occasions in the future.”
Following Lord Haslam’s death, the following tribute was written in The Boltonian by Bert Tate (1930-1937), assisted by Bert Moores (Class of 1940):
“Bob Haslam began school life at Church Road and entered Bolton School in the Shells in September 1934. He was a quiet and unassuming boy, but with a wry sense of humour, not at all pompous and completely modest, and soon made friendships which lasted a lifetime. Bob never stepped out of line, not even by venturing into the Girls’ Division, but surprise, surprise, when I confronted him about the girl from Astley Bridge he was dating, he revealed her name was Joyce, but I was to keep it a secret. He married Joyce Quinn in 1947, a very happy marriage, sadly ended by her death in 1995.
Bob soon entered into School life where he took part in cricket, football, swimming, gym and scouts. He eventually became Captain of Cricket, Football, Blackburn House and, finally, School Captain. In 1938 he gained his place in the football and cricket 1st XIs, taking 46 wickets at 16.06 with his slow bowling. In Scouts, he became an ASM and went with them to Bergen. As School Captain in the early years of the war he did fire watching duties with the Headmaster, Richard Poskitt… After School, Bob would enjoy the rough and tumble of the School baths until Sgt Somerville suggested he left some water in for the non-swimmers! Appropriately, in 1995, it was he who laid the foundation stone for the new Arts Centre, Sports Hall and Pool in the year he became President of the Old Boltonians’ Association. How the School had grown from 1936 when there were 19 of us in Form 4B, with J H Halliday as our Form Master.
From Bolton School, Bob went on to Birmingham University, where he read Mining Engineering and became President of the Guild of Undergraduates and Captain of Football. In 1944 he graduated with a First. On leaving university he joined Manchester Collieries as a junior mining engineer and three years later he received his Colliery Manager’s Certificate. In 1947 he joined ICI and for the next ten years worked as a mining engineer with ICI’s Nobel Explosives Division. In 1956 he advised the film director, David Lean, on the construction and demolition of the bridge in the film The Bridge over the River Kwai. He was Chairman of ICI’s Fibres Division in the early 1970s and, as Personnel Director; he created a model job assessment scheme for white collar workers which is still used today. In 1980 he was appointed Deputy Chairman of ICI and in 1983 he was headhunted for the top job at Tate and Lyle, a part-time appointment, and later that year he was appointed part-time Chairman of The British Steel Corporation. He later became Chairman of British Coal and was knighted in 1986. On his retirement in 1990, he was made a Life Peer.
Bob kept regular contact with School, for some years as Chairman of Governors, and with the Old Boltonians (he was a prime mover in the setting up of the Scottish Dinner in the 1950s)….Bob was a man in the right place at the right time. He is very much missed and our thoughts and sympathy go out to Elizabeth, his second wife, and his two sons.”