Sir Timothy Daunt (1935–2023)

A sad farewell

By Cornucopia | September 4, 2023

On August 8 friends learnt with great sadness of the loss of Sir Timothy Daunt. Sir Timothy was British Ambassador to Turkey from 1986 to 1992 and together with his wife, Patricia, created a bond of friends and friendships rare in modern British-Turkish relations. Their love and understanding of Turkey date back to Timothy's first posting in Ankara in 1960–63, when he met and married Patricia, also working in the embassy. After serving as ambassador Timothy went on to become Deputy Undersecretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and, following his retirement, from 1995 until September 2000, Lieutentant Governor of the Isle of Man.

Timothy and Patricia made the embassy in Ankara and the Consulate General in Istanbul the most hospitable of homes, and the gardens of both flourished as never before (as did Patricia's beehives). The early 1960s had been fascinating times: Jimmy Mellaart still had the dust of Çatalhöyük on his knees, Dame Ninette de Valois' ballet company, 'Madam's Turks', was going from strength to strength – and the Daunts were able to build on friendships begun years before. Timothy's humour and soft-spoken courtesy had immense appeal to Turkish friends. And who will forget their splendid moonlit dinners in the garden at Tarabya. Its woods are a great blessing for a Bosphorus continuously under threat, but trees, stables and a buried boathouse for the embassy caique are all that survive of the original summer embassy, perhaps fortunately. Reviewing GR Berridge's British Dipolomacy in Turkey: 1583 to the Present, Timothy commented with gentle understatement, 'All ambassadors since at least 1945 must have heaved sighs of relief that the Therapia summer residence, of which the book has a handsome photo, burnt down in 1911. One palace is enough.'

The welcome so many received in Turkey – the embassy and consulate doors were open to historians, botanists, archaeologists and many others who had yet to make their mark – continued in Ripplevale Grove with its ample Georgian windows looking out onto slender pyramids of lovingly tended roses. Tea was Timothy's responsibiltiy, and no tea leaf in Islington was more deliciously fragrant. The Daunts continued to travel tirelessly and enthusiastically in Turkey in search of native forests from the Black Sea to the Taurus, splendid country mansions and ancient ruins, many of which would be described in evocative detail in Cornucopia. 'At certain seasons,' Patricia wrote of Köyceğiz after one of their expeditions, 'often preceding an earth tremor and coinciding with a decided sniff of sulphur in the air, there is a distinctive change in the colour of the lake waters. The eastern half turns emerald green, while the western half takes on an opaque, slaty, blue-grey hue… I was told by an astute local observer, a professional man not easily given to flights of fancy, that within an hour of the Adana earthquake a few years ago, a pall of steam smelling strongly of sulphur was followed by the sight of the lake changing colour as if a giant was whisking soda crystals in the waters.' One can almost hear Timothy's gently chiding chuckle.

The Friends of Aphrodisias have also continued in their support of the great excavation in Turkey's most pastoral of ancient cities, and the appetite for news from Turkey never lessened. Writers and travellers still come to Ripplevale Grove for advice, and many a future ambassador would call before departing for Çankaya hill. Perspective is all in diplomacy, and the wise listened closely. May Timothy, a great ambassodor and true friend of Turkey, rest in peace.

Timothy Lewis Achilles Daunt, born October 11, 1935, died aged 87, London August 5, 2023. He is survived by his wife, Patricia, and children James, Eleanor and Alice. The funeral takes place at 2.30pm on September 4 at St Mary's Church on Upper Street, London N1 2TX. The family has requested that rather than flowers, a donation be made either to St Mary's Church (St Mary Islington PCC, CAF Bank, Sort code: 405240, Account number: 00030819), or to the Friends of Aphrodisias Trust (Registered Charity Number 293148), of which Patricia remains chairman. Sir Timothy, too, was a lifelong supporter. Every year the charity pays for a substantial amount of the research and conservation at Aphrodisias. In particular it supports the British members of the Aphrodisias Team, which is headed by Professor R.R.R. Smith, Lincoln Professor of Art and Archaeology at Oxford University. In recent years it has financed much of the conservation work carried out under the direction of the late Trevor Proudfoot, Director of Cliveden Conservation Workshop Ltd. (Bank details: C Hoare and Co, sort code 15-99-00, account no 0213010, swift: HOABGB2LXXX.)

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