Malcolm Grove, dependable travel lover who took ‘gardening leave' literally

'He seemed to know everything. We used to call him ‘Wikipedia’'

Thursday, 19th May — By Harry Taylor


Malcolm Grove

MALCOLM Grove, who died at the beginning of May aged 76, was somebody you would want to be stuck on a desert island with, according to his wife Linda.

Resourceful, practical and caring, she said that he would have been as dependable on a far-flung outcrop in the middle of the ocean, as he was during their 51 years of marriage.

“He would have cooked you a meal, he would have built you a shelter and helped you get found,” she said. “He was very hands on with everything he did.”

Malcolm spent a career working in the chemicals industry for Shell, travelling around the world as he was sent to China, Brazil and Korea. It satisfied his natural curiosity and inquisitiveness.

Although born in Shropshire, he grew up in Hong Kong.

For years, his and Linda’s parents tried to introduce them, but they resisted until Linda was 20, with Malcolm two years her senior. Malcolm’s mother invited Linda and her mother Kathy to stay with them in Oxford, where he was a student.

“I think I walked him to his room at Christchurch College, and then turned my back on him,” said Linda. “I had avoided him until then, because that’s what you do when you’re that age and your parents want to introduce you to someone.

“But then later he offered to carry my camera case when we were walking down the towpath. I remember thinking he was very nice, but I mustn’t be too keen.”

Three weeks later she invited herself on his road trip to Greece and Italy.

After a marriage proposal, in a tent in a snowy Llangollen three years later, they wed in Sussex in 1970.

Once married, they bought a house in Peckham, which they renovated together.

Linda recalls Malcolm using his natural sense of application to learn how to build, plumb and plaster from others. “He even made our curtains,” she said.

Their daughters, Rachel and Jessica, were born, and they also adopted another daughter, Olivia.

“We were both very hands on with the children, we were both only-children, but that meant we played with them a lot, and Malcolm would always get involved with their school projects, or even when they were at university to help tutor them through it,” said Linda. “Malcolm was always so interested in everything: history, geography – he just had that kind of open mind.

“He was always reading, and he seemed to know everything. We used to call him ‘Wikipedia’, we used to ask him everything. I think that’s part of why he loved China – not just because it was similar to where he grew up, but he loved the culture and sense of humour.”

Malcolm was also a linguist, speaking Mandarin, Portuguese, German and some Dutch.

After he retired aged 54, they moved back to Belsize Lane, where they lived ever since.

Linda said: “They said when they laid off everyone at Shell, that they went on gardening leave. Well that’s literally what Malcolm did.”

He volunteered with the British Library, and later became involved with the project to set up Abacus Belsize primary school.

“In many ways we were complete opposites,” said Linda. “I remember coming up with ideas and he would just say, ‘Oh Linda’, but we would defer to each other because we would know each other’s talents.” Malcolm died at the Royal Free Hospital on May 3 after being diagnosed with dementia.

His funeral took place yesterday (Wednesday) at St Peter’s Church, Belsize Square.

Linda and the family are raising money to install benches around Belsize and Hampstead, including near the Royal Free Charity’s Pears building.

To donate, visit funding/malcolmgrovebenches

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