Herbert Edward Dunhill

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Born in 1882, brother of Alfred Dunhill. Herbert Edward Dunhill (known as "Uncle Bertie") joined his brother in the business in 1912. He successfully managed the company's affairs from homes in Merano and Monte Carlo from 1928 until his death in 1950.

Aspas-copy.pngHerbert, Father’s next brother and his junior by twelve years, who was later to play an all-important part in the tobacco business. Both later attended superior schools and colleges, my father contending that Grandfather Henry spent all his spare money on the education of his younger sons.Aspas.png Mary Dunhill.


After Alfred, tired of family life, (supposedly) ran off with a fisherman's daughter, his brother, Herbert Edward Dunhill, better known to his family as Uncle Bertie, led the empire. Mary reports on her book, a bit of her uncle's personality and how he was invited to join the business by his father:

Herbert in 1904 - aged twenty-two.

"One of the visitors who occasionally came to Woodlands was Uncle Herbert or Bertie, as we called him, Father’s youngest brother and his junior by twelve years, who was soon to take an important part in the business. He had been a territorial member of the Artists Rifles but, on account of the tubercular condition that was to afflict him for most of his life, he had been declared unfit for active service.

Uncle Bertie, then about thirty years old, was tall, outstandingly handsome and clean-shaven though he was later to grow a full Imperial beard, reddish in colour. He was so much more extrovert and forthcoming than Father that their blood relationship would have surprised you. On leaving King’s School, Canterbury, Uncle Bertie had lodged with my parents and, on account of the somewhat foppish ways he affected in his youth, from his wide-brimmed hats to his vegetarian diet, and partly because of the sackfuls of postage stamps he kept under his bed, Mother regarded him as a crank. But Uncle Bertie, as he was soon to show, was astonishingly astute, especially in financial matters. Some members of the business were soon to be daunted by the stern glance his pale eyes could give you from behind their gilt-framed spectacles, though I always felt affection for Uncle Bertie. I also looked forward to his visits because they usually meant that I could spend some time with Lilian, his daughter and my cousin, a pretty fair-haired girl, just about as lively as I was. We were almost exactly the same age and the greatest friends.

Before I was born Uncle Bertie had tried his hand with some sort of a shop in New York, returning with Aunt Violet, the fussy little woman he had married, in time to join Father in his early days at Duke Street an arrangement that the problems with creditors had brought to a rapid close. Uncle Bertie had then opened his own tobacconist’s shop in Harrow where he was now living in a semidetached house in Butlers Avenue and where Aunt Violet ran a hat shop.

The visit I refer to took place on a shimmering day in summer, about the middle of the war, just after Alfred Henry had returned to his regiment for the battle of the Somme. I remember the joy of taking Lilian off to see the sticklebacks in the pond and then of lying on our backs, hidden by long grass, chattering away like magpies through the drowsy afternoon.

We were all in the dining-room that evening when Father looked up from his plate and said with characteristic suddenness, ‘By the way, I’ve just bought another house in London. It’s in Notting Hill Gate. I really can’t go on with these unreliable trains. And the house, incidentally, is complete with a staff.

‘A staff?’ exclaimed Mother. Though she obviously knew about the plan, this point seemed to take her by surprise, never having had more than a local woman to give occasional help. ‘And you had better come and have a look at the new factory, Bertie,’ Father said. ‘Why not sell that shop of yours and join me again? We badly need some office administration.’ ‘Are we leaving here?’ I asked in sudden anguish. ‘Oh no. We’ll keep this place on,’ Father assured us. We’ll need it at weekends and when the boys come home.’

As soon as we were allowed to leave the table Lilian and I ran back into the garden. We had plenty to talk about. It was dusk when Mother called us in. Father and Uncle Bertie were still in the dining-room, bent over papers and plans." Dunhill, Mary, Our Family Business (The Bodley Head - Great Britain, 1979).

Herbert and his wife, Violet Dunhill, in 1908.
Herbert - about fifty (?).

Balfour reported that Herbert was involved in the motoring accessories business along with his brother Alfred, but it's not clear when this involvement started but ceased in 1905 after they resigned from the company (Alfred still a prominent shareholder until December 1908, over a year after he had started trading as a tobacconist). For the latter half of 1908, the rates were payable by ‘Dunhill Bros Ltd’, Alfred’s youngest brother Herbert having decided to join him in the business. But the partnership dissolved almost immediately and the company never traded After that. Herbert starts his own business, in north London - were two modest tobacconists’ shops. From the end of 1908 up to 1911, Herbert negotiated tobaccos, but we couldn't find detailed information about this activity and if it had any relation to Alfred's business. He was considered by his family members as an experienced businessman. He takes over the management of Alfred's company in 1912, leaving him to take the creative processes. After Alfred's retirement, he assumes a central role in the administration - position that he occupies until 1950.

After five years Alfred Dunhill was joined by his younger brother, Herbert, who had a powerful business acumen. He looked after the financial side of the business and left Alfred to initiate and develop products. It was a perfect committee of two! The increasing success of the business was achieved more by word of mouth and recommendation than from advertising; virtually none of that was undertaken. Alfred Dunhill retired in 1928 (he lived on until 1959) and the business was run by Herbert until his death in 1950. For many years Herbert lived in Monte Carlo and controlled the day-to-day running by letter, telegram and regular visitors from the London office. Richard Dunhill - Forewords of Balfour, Michael. Alfred Dunhill, One Hundred Years and More (Weidenfield and Nicolson, London, 1992).

Two male members of the staff took turns to travel to Merano, their bags stuffed with reports, accounts, proposed salary increases and requests that required his signature before they could be implemented. Every week he sent back bags of memorandums and instructions, no detail being too trivial for his critical eye, even the way stamps should be stuck onto office envelopes and the space that should be left between them if they happened not to be of the same colour. If this reluctance to delegate authority seems petty in a man whose health had now banished him from the country - and we naturally found it extremely frustrating - Uncle Bertie’s methods, as we shall see, ensured that the family continued to exercise a tight control over the London business throughout his lifetime. Dunhill, Mary, Our Family Business (The Bodley Head - Great Britain, 1979).

Mr Richard Dunhill also relate this: "as an example of Herbert’s passionate attention to detail, I reproduce the following memorandum, dated 16 September 1945, from Herbert Dunhill to the chairman, Alfred H. Dunhill. It goes without saying that Herbert was a philatelist par excellence:"

Aspas-copy.pngRe: Stamping of Letters Since I last wrote about the stamping of our overseas letters, the carelessness in stamping has not however lessened. It has become worse and more consistently bad. My rules in past years were that stamps must be level and at least a quarter-inch from the edge, the same distance top and sides. If the stamps were of different colours they should have a slight space between them; if the same they should be placed so that they appear to be from one sheet, even if really not. Care should be taken, if several stamps are used, to choose stamps of colours that look pleasant when placed together. Please have my methods carried out in the future.Aspas.png Herbert E. Dunhill.

It is known that the Dunhill brothers were especially susceptible to female charms and had difficulties to control these inclinations, getting involved with extramarital relationships throughout their lives, which resulted in the divorce of both. As we can see in mary's relates and In an article called "Weird and wonderful" for The Telegraph, published by David Burgess-Wise on 16 Aug 2003.

H. Dunhill in the Toronto Evening Telegram in July 1940.
Herbert enjoying a rest in the Italian Tyrol.
Birtie in the 'thirties.

Uncle Bertie was about fifty at this time and had grown a full Imperial beard that seemed to have banished the affectations of his youth and to make the relaxed, confident manner of the mature man even more impressive. After what must have been as many love affairs as Father had had, though Uncle Bertie conducted his with rather more discretion, he had separated from his wife, Violet, and was now living with a charming, dark-haired woman called Isobel. She was a fellow sufferer from tuberculosis whom he had met at the Mundesley hospital and brought to Merano and whom, in the few years they lived together and before her death in this very Villa, he obviously adored, bringing her presents and nosegays every time he left her for more than a few minutes. Uncle Bertie had taken a keen interest in my own love affairs and was particularly anxious to meet Geoffrey. To my delight, they took to one another at once. Dunhill, Mary, Our Family Business (The Bodley Head - Great Britain, 1979) p-90.

If Dunhill's had become the "ultimate lifestyle brand", Alfred's bushy-bearded brother Bertie believed in living the ultimate lifestyle, directing the company's by now international empire from his villas in the Italian alps and at Monte Carlo, where he dallied with a succession of exotic mistresses, one of whom – the lovely Frederika Agnes Stodolowksy – was the wife of a Dunhill employee who had conveniently been given a one-way ticket to Australia. Alfred, too, fell under the spell of the high life and ran off one day with a fisherman's daughter in his Rolls-Royce... David Burgess-Wise - Telegraph.

Mary on one of her business visits tells us a little about these meetings and about her uncle's last days.

In the evenings we played roulette for as long as Uncle Bertie’s strictly limited stake-money would last, not to mention our own. The afternoon was reserved for going through our business papers, discussing every development and staff appointment I had on my list, with Uncle Bertie cross-examining me until he had every detail. Sometimes he would talk about the will he had been working on with his lawyers but, being fond of him and reluctant to think seriously about his death, I paid little attention to this subject. Once, when I complained of our financial frustrations more vigorously than usual, he quietly said, "Never mind, my dear. You’ll soon have it all your own way."

His generosity as a host was usually boundless yet, in contrast, there were sudden moments of stinginess, possibly to impress Zee with the notions of thrift that he and Father had had dinned into them in their youth. There were occasions when he persuaded the children to drink citronade rather than pay an extra franc for the orange juice they preferred. Once he expressed shocked amazement because, still in the days of sweet rationing, I had paid £2 for chocolates to take home as presents. Nor have I any doubt that his health rapidly deteriorated in 1950 after he had waited in the rain for a ’bus rather than pay a taxi fare.
Dunhill, Mary, Our Family Business (The Bodley Head - Great Britain, 1979) p-107.

Balfour reported that Herbert died suddenly on 8 November 1950 not from the tuberculosis which had plagued him for so long, but from a brain haemorrhage. But according to Mary's, it wasn't that sudden - he passed away one year after the cerebral haemorrhage. A month later his company’s balance-sheet total passed the £1 million mark for the first time.

We then had to persuade a Dr Boland, the Dean of Guy’s hospital and a friend of Geoffrey’s, to visit him after a haemorrhage when, after lying prone and apparently waiting for his end, Uncle Bertie had been persuaded to sit up and drink a glass of whisky. Yet within a year he was dead. He died in Milan in 1951 after a visit to Turnerschlossel which he still owned and where he was buried. Dunhill, Mary, Our Family Business (The Bodley Head - Great Britain, 1979) p-107.

Richard Dunhill reported that he became more and more out of touch with modern commercial practice in England, and when he died, the directors, particularly his uncle Alfred Henry Dunhill and his Aunt Mary, were soon able to make changes to improve the running of the company. Forewords of Balfour, Michael. Alfred Dunhill, One Hundred Years and More (Weidenfield and Nicolson, London, 1992).

An indication of the total involvement of Herbert Dunhill in the affairs of the group is seen in the main appointments made at the board meeting on 17 November 1950, following his death nine days earlier. Alfred Henry Dunhill was appointed president-director general of Société Anonyme Française Alfred Dunhill (SAFAD) and president of Alfred Dunhill of London Ltd (Toronto). Mary Dunhill was elected a director of both companies. Balfour, Michael, Alfred Dunhill, One Hundred Years and More (Weidenfield and Nicolson, London, 1992).

After his death, a fund was created for medical research on tuberculosis. The resource was managed by Mary until her death in 1988. Balfour tells us in his book a little about the management of Herbert's capital after he passing away.

Herbert Dunhill left two wills dated 31 March 1948. One concerned only his property in Monte Carlo; the other intimately concerned the future of Alfred Dunhill Limited. In the second will, he named three trustees: his nephew, Alfred Henry Dunhill (Alfred Dunhill’s son), his niece Mary Dunhill (Alfred Dunhill’s only daughter), and Samuel Ernest Cash (his solicitor, business adviser and founder-director of The Parker Pipe Co. Ltd). They were charged with a long list of responsibilities; chief among these was the administration of one half of his estate (amounting to about £250,000, all in Dunhill shares), which was to become the Herbert E. Dunhill Medical Trust. This Trust was to become a very substantial shareholder in Alfred Dunhill Limited. Balfour, Michael, Alfred Dunhill, One Hundred Years and More (Weidenfield and Nicolson, London, 1992).

On the Dunhill Medical Trust page in "Our History", we have a small description of the creation and management of the fund. Again, we have a divergent story of the date and reason for Herbert's death.

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Aspas-copy.pngHerbert E Dunhill died in November 1950 leaving £250,000 from his personal estate in Charitable Trust for medical research into tuberculosis, the cause of his death. His niece, Mary Dunhill Lane, was appointed one of the original Trustees and it was largely her vision that drove the Charity until her death in 1988. Her daughter, Kay Glendinning, continued her work and was Executive Director from 1988 until April 2005 when she joined the Board in a non-executive capacity. In 2019, she stepped down as a Trustee and became the Trust’s first Patron.Aspas.png Our History - The Dunhill Medical Trust
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  • Note: The quotes following British grammar rules, therefore, some words have different spellings from American grammar.



Yang (talk) 13:35, 31 December 2019 (CST)