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CLIFFORD WEBB (1898-1985)

hen in 1973 Clifford retired - for the second time - from the office of Treasurer, I described it as the end of a Questors era and continued "in addition to his many years on the Plays and Productions Committee he has been a member of the COM without a break for sixteen years - years during which the new theatre was planned and built and paid for. During that period he has been Treasurer from 1956 to 1958, Chairman from 1958 to 1962, Vice-Chairman from 1965 to 1969 and Treasurer again since 1968. His contribution to the theatre, both artistically and financially, has been substantial, but never more than when, in 1968, on the sudden death of Laurence Nixon he unquestioningly re-assumed the Treasureship and injected a sorely needed element of continuity into our financial control."

Happily at that stage he did not leave the COM, where his unique combination of wit and wisdom, his genius for compromise, and his ability to look as though he was fast asleep while in fact being very wide awake, made him the ideal elder statesman. I wrote then that I hoped to continue to benef it from his judgement and experience for some time to come, and I was indeed fortunate for he continued for a further five years both as Assistant Treasurer and as a member of the COM.

When he eventually decided to call it a day in 1978 I was privileged to pay tribute to him at the AGM and to his record of unbroken service over twenty-one years. That was a record of service to our theatre which has rarely been equalled. He was quite literally irreplaceable and his counsel was sorely missed. Thereafter he was only seen rarely at the theatre, and in recent years a severe stroke prevented any further visits to Mattock Lane. Fortunately, well before then, we had been able to, honour him in person at the famous "150th Birthday Party" when he was persuaded to buy a ticket for Arthur Boyd Taylor's 70th birthday party, and Arthur was persuaded to buy a ticket for Clifford's 80th, and they were both elected Honorary Life Members of the theatre.

Clifford Webb was a man of absolute integrity and great humour. He was a man for whom I had an absolute respect and great affection. "He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.".

Martin Bowley

THE WEBBS (not Beatrice & Sydney) (from Questopics December 1967)

One of our most industrious and distinguished members has been connected with another dramatic society for forty-five years. With them he has been actor, producer, chairman and president. All the offices, if one swops the presidency for treasurer, he has performed with us. On the side as it were, he was also chairman of the Richmond Shakespeare Society. CLIFFORD WEBB alone can tell us how he managed to become so successfully a kind of theatrical supermarket, complete with suburban branches.

Clifford retired nine years ago from his job as a combined electrical engineer and physicist at the National Physical Laboratory. It was there he did and is still doing his forty-five year marathon with their dramatic society. He joined Questors in 1950 and quickly became treasurer, leaving this office to fill, as he says, a vacuum as chairman. With characteristic self-deprecation he suggested that we should be exchanging a moderately good treasurer for a very poor chairman. I remember, however, that he, with the greatest good humour and a Latin quotation, could always silence myself and other snapping ignorati who were always noisily proving nothing at meetings.

Subsequent to his chairmanship he became, and still is, Appeals Officer. In addition, he served for about 10 years on the Plays Selection Committee, (think of the reading this entails), and he says, with a wistful twinkle in his eye, that the Committee are now choosing more of the plays he thinks we should do than they did when he was on it.

You might now think, 'fair enough, but why when he was so interested in the slog of administration of the theatre did he not show some interest in its artistic side?' He did! 'Some interest' consisted of acting in Hamlet, The Philanderer and The Cherry Orchard, to name but a few. For good measure he also produced for us Family Reunion, SS Tenacity and Rules of the Game.

Physically, Clifford resembles me in two respects: we are both rather small for our age and could use a little more hair. He is the very opposite of Swift's Struldbrugs— immortals who became dottier, groggier, and more despised with increasing age. He simply, and rather satisfyingly to others, exudes energy, lucidity, and enjoyment of life. This must be in large part due to his marriage to Janet who writes under the name of Janet Dunbar, author of Prospect of Richmond, and many other delights.
Clifford and Janet met on the amateur stage some forty-odd years ago. Janet, who quickly found out that she couldn't act, also found that she could produce, and did a great deal of production with women's institute and other groups in her early years.

In contrast with Clifford's obsession with the theatre she has her own—writing. After a spell in Fleet Street she became free-lance. In her own words she "sent up a talk to the BBC at Savoy Hill; they took it and that started me on something really exciting". Janet had several programmes of her own by the Forties, adapting and dramatising books and short stories for radio, and editing a weekly magazine
programme for India which ran four years. Later, she began to write social history and biography, including a life of Mrs GBS.

She wrote her first TV documentary in 1953, and has written—and appeared in several since then. (She was elated to find that one of her five grandchildren recognised her spotted blouse). One of her regular assignments, travel-writing for one of the glossies, takes her and Clifford abroad a good deal.

For Questors, Janet has an admiration-dislike relationship. She says we have a superb theatre, and some superb productions, but she is an unrepentant square where the quality of new plays is concerned. "They are too often put on because they're new, not because they're good: they can be bloody awful". Still, she is very proud of her connection with the theatre (via Clifford), and finds that many people abroad know about it. Needless to say, she then warmly defends everything about it, policies and all!

If only for her statement about some of our new plays I would admire Janet, but there are many others stemming from the pleasure she has given me in reading her books.

We all wish both Clifford and Janet long futures with their respective obsessions.



1951 The Philanderer
1952 The Merchant of Venice
1953 Tartuffe
1954 A Bold Stroke for a Wife
1955 Hamlet
1958 Maria Marten or The Murder in The Red Barn
1960 The Ticket of Leave Man
1965 The Cherry Orchard
1969 Man and Superman
1969 Peer Gynt
1954 The Family Reunion
1956 SS Tenacity
1961 The Rules of The game