Brian Picton Davies (OB 1946-1954), a former Brentwood School Governor and President of the Old Brentwoods Society, died on October 7th 2023 at Woking Hospice, aged 87. The
funeral took place at St Mary’s Church, Worplesdon on November 3rd . He had
suffered from a deteriorating heart condition for several years.
Born in Woodford in 1935, Brian spent his very early years in South Wales. The
family moved to Brentwood after World War II where his father became headmaster
of Pilgrim’s Hatch Primary School.
He attended Brentwood School with his late brother Grahame, who maintained that
his sibling did not like boarding and campaigned successfully to become a day pupil.
Brian rose through the junior soccer teams to spend three years in the 1 st XI. He played
cricket for the 2 nd XI, was a member of the tennis VI and a sergeant in the CCF. At school or
house level, he was involved in the squash and dancing clubs, the historical society and the
After school, he completed two years’ National Service in the Royal Army Service
Corps, based in Kent. An incident involving joy riding and a crashed army vehicle
was not a topic on which he cared to expand.
Next step was Emmanuel College, Cambridge where he shared rooms with David
Coull (OB 1943-1954). As the only student of Chinese history, he reckoned the tutor would
prefer a 100 per cent pass rate to a 100 per cent failure rate. He was right. He
enjoyed various sports, especially cricket and football, excelling at the latter, gaining
a Blue and playing for West Ham United Juniors.
After Cambridge, Brian and David Coull spent a year travelling around the USA and
Canada. They worked their way around, including a stint as chefs on the Rocky
Mountains railway line. Brian recalled a bear, tempted by the smell of their cooking,
climbing on board before he chased him off---with a frying pan!
He met his wife Jackie at a cricket match in Brentwood and they wed in May 1961,
beginning married life near Brighton. Over the next ten years Sarah, Matthew, Emma
and Louise arrived.
Brian joined Berger Paints as a trainee, the start of a 34-year career with the
company/group. In 1963, he was promoted to lead sales in the north, living in
Knutsford. After four years, Brian took on new responsibilities at Berger’s paint
factory in Dagenham.
In 1971, Brian was appointed to run the West African division of Berger Paints and
the family moved to Nigeria. Sarah remembers that “Lagos was hot, smelly and
chaotic. The garden featured palm trees, lizards and snakes. Dad quickly got the
hang of doing business in Nigeria. It was a great expat life: parties, swimming,
squash, tennis, golf and water skiing. Jackie was runner up to the Nigeria Ladies
squash champion, earning a hug from the President. Dad loved driving his red
speedboat which often broke down, stranding us deep in the harbour.”
From 1976 to 1981, Brian ran Selly’s Ltd, part of the Berger group, based in Sydney,
Australia. Sarah remembered that “much time was spent on Palm Beach with Dad
cooking BBQs; and in watching England usually lose to Australia at cricket on the
Riding horses at an outback farm appealed to the female side of the family but
Matthew and Brian decided to try sailing. They were confronted with a huge yacht
and a grizzled Australian skipper who did not expect to deal with novices. Matthew
recalled: “Within minutes Dad had fallen overboard, cutting his hand badly. We didn’t
go back next day.”
In 1981, Brian moved back to London as Group Board Director of Overseas
Companies at Berger HQ and the family settled in Worplesdon. From 1984 to 1987,
he was Chief Executive Officer of the whole Berger Group. In the latter year, the
Group was sold to Williams Holdings. He resigned in 1990 to set up his own
consultancy which he ran until 1994 when he retired.
Brian then stepped up his work as a school governor: Brentwood School (1991-
2004) and Goldsworth Park and Winston Churchill schools in Surrey. He took on a
trustee role for the Duke of Edinburgh Award through which he became acquainted
with Prince Philip.
He was always a keen traveller, not least within Australia when he was working
there. In his early seventies, he visited Antarctica and walked the Inca trail in Peru.
Sadly, Jackie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and died in June 2001,
aged only 61.
As a very committed family man, Brian took close interest in his nine grandchildren,
taking them to sports events and following their progress at school. He was never
happier when, fortified with wine, he would listen to them telling him why he was
wrong about Brexit, why Chelsea were rubbish at football, and pleading with him to
sing 'Sweet Caroline.' There were family holidays in Southwold, Portugal, France
and Greece. According to Sarah, “he was caring, thoughtful, generous, practical and
mischievous but his key characteristic was a great sense of fun.”
In 2006, Brian moved to Pirbright where he made friends playing bridge and at the
local church. At Worplesdon Golf Club, he played occasionally but could be found
mostly in the bar with a glass of claret, giving his views on world events and
bemoaning his grandchildren’s hairstyles.
In 2016, Brian married Gill Roberts, who had also lost her spouse, Old Brentwood
Tony, to cancer. They shared their later years in Pirbright, their winters in Portugal
and a little red wine wherever they were.
Three years ago, Brian’s health started to decline but he never complained as his
mobility reduced and his heart slowed. He had great support from Greg and his
family, his housekeeper Jackie and from the doctors and nurses who cared for him at
home and at Woking Hospice.
A friend wrote “I’ll miss his ruddy, smiling face!” “We are all missing it,” added