Graham Facks-Martin MBE (1934 – 2015)

September 14, 2015 9:56 am

We were sorry to hear that Graham Facks-Martin, Chairman of Cornwall Rural Housing Association (CRHA), passed away on Friday, 11th September 2015.

CRHA held its Annual General Meeting and Review on 14th September 2014 and a minutes silence was held before the start of both the morning and also the afternoon sessions to remember and honour Graham.

CRHA’s Chief Executive, Peter Moore, opened the meeting with the following tribute to Graham.

“Graham had fought a long and courageous battle against ill-health. At times it seemed that illness had chosen the wrong person to pick a fight with, as Graham saw off each new challenge with a fortitude and strength – and without an ounce of self pity – that would put younger and healthier people to shame.

As part of today’s proceedings, we had planned to pay tribute to Graham in recognition of his long service to CRHA and the fact that he was about to retire from the Board. There is a very brief summary of his record in the CRHA Annual Report. But that does not tell the full story – his work with the Guernsey Cattle Association, his love of fast cars and even faster driving, his involvement in credit unions, his work as a trustee of the Charles Causley Trust, or as Launceston Town Councillor – which continued right up until last week.

Although long a part of Cornish life, Graham in fact moved here in 1945 when his father sold up his garage business in Guildford and moved the family down to run a farm.

Graham attended Kelly College from 1946 to 1950, and then Seale Hayne Agricultural College from 1951 to 1953, where he won the Everard Hosking medal awarded to the best student.

He ran (with his sister) the 185-acre dairy and beef farm at Trethevy close to South Petherwin from 1967 until 2003.   He described himself as farmer by profession, with his Pedigree Guernsey herd in top 10 highest yielding Guernsey herds for years.

He was an active member of the English Guernsey Cattle Society and served on its Council and as its Treasurer.

His wife died in 1997 and he carried on farming until he retired in 2003. He said that milking cows for 50 years was long enough!

However, even while still working the farm he found the time to enrol as what he described as an “over mature” student – he was 64 at the time – at the London School of Economics between 1999-2001 where he gained an M.Sc. in Housing (with Merit).

Graham described himself as a political animal. He had a long career in local government spanning over 40 years. He served two terms as Chair of North Cornwall District Council (NCDC), and was particularly proud of being the only member who served on NCDC its entire life.

He spent over 25 years in London representing Cornish Districts on the Association of District Councils and the Local Government Association, and was Chair of the ADC Housing Committee from 1989 to 1993.

He spent over 25 years as a Board member of every variety of housing association – small, medium and large.

Graham was awarded an MBE for Public Service in North Cornwall 2006.

Graham described his interests as history, economics, politics, art, anthropology, housing (especially social housing), sport – especially Motor Racing (observer only!), natural history, the European movement. He also described himself as an “old fashioned One-Nation Tory at heart”.

He had a reputation for plain speaking that was well deserved. However, he was always willing to debate issues and, if proved wrong, would be willing to acknowledge the validity of another’s point of view.

Graham was never shy about saying that he wished to be in a position to influence things and to help get things done, but his efforts were directed not for personal gain but for the causes in which he believed.

He was involved in a wide variety of institutions, causes and events, but although proud of each and every one of them he would often only talk to you about them on a “need to know” basis. Despite his sometimes bluff outward appearance, and his willingness to get involved and put himself forward he was essentially a modest man, which is not to say that he was always pleased to receive recognition. And he was delighted with his MBE in recognition of his contribution to public services.

His willingness to be blunt and forthright and not sugarcoat his opinions probably did not help his political ambitions. Although a loyal Conservative – he was out working for Scott Mann MP at the last election – he did not let his party loyalties get in the way of being clear eyed and candid in his opinion of various government ministers and policies. However, he was always equally quick to praise people and policies where he felt it due.

As robust as he was in debate, as a Chairman he sought consensus and was always careful to let people have their say. He was always keen to engage in discussion – particularly about politics or sport, and as a prodigious reader he was always open to new ideas and influences.

I know that he was proud to have been a member of North Cornwall District Council from its formation up until its abolition – something that he argued strongly against. However, it is a mark of the man that once that argument was lost he threw himself into trying to make sure that the new Cornwall Council worked as well as it could for the people of Cornwall.

I also know that he was proud of his long association with Cornwall Rural Housing Association and of his work with the many other housing organisations with which he was involved over the years.

He was a passionate believer in the right of everyone to be able to access decent housing on terms affordable to their means, and that CRHA should continue to do what we could to provide more housing, even the funding available meant that it may not be as affordable as he (and we) would have liked.   Graham was always keen to make sure that what was built was to a decent standard – particularly in terms of space standards – and he was never shy of pointing out when he felt organisations – or governments or local authorities – were failing in that.

Graham was due to stand down from the Board of Cornwall Rural Housing Association at the 2015 Annual General Meeting having served the maximum 9 years since CRHA introduced maximum terms of service.

In fact, Graham was a founder member of CRHA in 1985 and had been an ever-present on the Board in the intervening 30 years – a fact he delighted in standing up in public forums and telling the audience whenever maximums terms of service were discussed!

Graham remained active as the Chairman of CRHA until the very last. His health had deteriorated again in July and when I went to pick him to give him a lift to a Board meeting he was quite unsteady on his feet. I spent about 10 minutes arguing with him that he should not come but his determination – as ever – won through and he chaired his final meeting of the Board on 20th July 2015.

I visited Graham in hospital the week before he died. He told me that he was looking forward to getting out of hospital so that we would no longer be under doctor’s orders which would mean that he would be able to make his own decisions about getting out and about. He told me that he fully intended to see if he could make it to the Annual General Meeting, and his absence is keenly felt.

I can imagine Graham chuckling to himself that he never did get around to retiring from the Board of CRHA and that in a sense he died with his CRHA boots on.

He will be much missed.”

Peter Moore
Chief Executive