Words on former Director-General Sir Jack Boles


Sir Jack Boles was Director-General between 1975-1983

Sir Jack Boles was National Trust Director-General between 1975-1983

Sir Jack Boles, who has died aged 88, served as Director-General of the National Trust between 1975 and 1983.  Below, former Historic Properties Director at the National Trust, Merlin Waterson, reflects on the time that Sir Jack spent at the helm of the Trust:

“Under the guiding hand of Jack Boles – as Secretary and then as Director General – the National Trust re-established its confidence. Shortly after he joined the Trust in 1965 there was a bruising but ultimately beneficial row with a section of the membership concerned that the charity had lost its way. During the 1970s and 1980s Jack played a crucial role in carrying through reforms in all its areas of activity. Membership increased at a rate that delighted some and alarmed others; a commercial arm was set up that rapidly became profitable; and great estates and miles of unspoilt coastline were given to the Trust. The Trust’s dedicated but often sceptical staff was encouraged to accept changes which brought much greater professionalism to what had been a largely amateur organisation. He achieved this with a mixture of conviction, integrity, administrative efficiency and exceptional human warmth. His generous-minded and unpretentious nature enabled him to empathise with those on whom the Trust depended, from the donors of country houses, members and visitors, to the wardens, tenants and gardeners responsible for the day-to-day care of its properties. To work for the Trust when he was Director General was to join a band of like-minded enthusiasts. Jack knew them all; and they regarded him as an utterly reliable source of wise counsel, encouragement and support.”

Peter Nixon, the current Director of Conservation of the National Trust, added: “When I joined the Trust in the 1980s Jack’s legacy as Director-General was very clear – a great man who had brought about real and positive change in the organisation whilst maintaining its spirit. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him”


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