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Dr Alan Marshall dies aged 73
Watford’s first Humanist Chaplain, Dr Alan Marshall, has passed away at the age of 73.
Dr Marshall, died in his sleep on January 15, at his Watford home.
He leaves behind his daughters Suzanne and Ilse and grandson Alex.
Born in 1938, he grew up in Carpender’s Park, attending Watford Field School and later Watford Boys Grammar School, where he discovered his love of music.
He was widely recognised as having a formidable intellect, which served him well throughout his academic and working life.
Following his particular talent for languages, Dr Marshall studied at Birmingham University in the 1950s, and unusually for his generation, had the opportunity to live and study in Germany, just a decade after the end of the Second World War.
It was while at university that he met his wife Barbara, whom he married in 1961.
He began his working career lecturing German, but following several moves around the UK returned to his home town in his early 30s and started working for the civil service.
During this long and successful career, Dr Marshall was never happier than when holding a senior post in the Home Office Radio Communications division, bringing together his scientific interest and administrative skills.
Representing the UK on international committees, his command of languages made him the natural hub during complex overseas negotiations.
Fluent in German, French and Dutch - self-taught simply by listening to Dutch radio, he could additionally converse in Italian and Russian.
Dr Marshall was also an avid supporter of Watford Football Club, having followed the team since he was a child. This passion he shared with his own children and he enjoyed taking them to matches - especially during the Graham Taylor years.
When he retired in 1993, he was able to pursue his many interests to the full.
He was a founding member of the Watford Humanist Group [Society] and a pioneer of non-religious funerals in the region, taking over 500 funerals during his time as a celebrant.
He played a major role in the development of the British Humanist Association from the early 1990s, setting up the management structure for celebrants and developing the formal training programme nationwide.
Dr Marshall was also honoured to be chosen as Watford’s first Humanist Chaplain by Dorothy Thornhill MBE, Elected Mayor of Watford.
Paying tribute to Dr Marshall, she said: “He was always on hand or the end of a phone for advice; especially as being the Mayor of a town of many faiths and none.
“He attended my multi-faith meetings and listened and added wise words and views.
“He was a man of principle and tolerance and lived by example. I will miss seeing his face and having the benefit of his time."
For many years Alan was secretary of the Havergal Brian Society, an organisation dedicated to the great English composer, and enjoyed the challenging work of transcribing scores.
He also assisted his late wife in her numerous interests including helping to computerise the Watford Philharmonic Society’s complex administration for the first time.
He was a regular attendee of concerts put on by the Watford Phil, Elstree singers and the Amici Chamber choir.
Despite recent disabilities, he held a positive outlook and his mind remained sharp to the very last.
Dr Marshall’s non-religious funeral ceremony will be held on Friday, February 3 at 11:20am, West Herts Crematorium.
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