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In the early 1970s racing was in a precarious state with the racecourses, bookmakers and racing authorities finding it a challenge to compromise on the best solution for funding racing. Time seemed to be ebbing away with no answer in sight, and it needed a clear thinking, skilful and trusted politician to negotiate a solution. That man was Desmond Plummer.
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Arthur Desmond Herne Plummer was born in Temple Fortune, North London on 25th May 1914. He attended Hurstpierpoint College, West Sussex, before going on to the College of Estate Management, Reading in Berkshire. During World War II he served with the Royal Engineers, reaching the rank of Major, and after distinguished service he was awarded the Territorial Decoration.
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In 1941 he married Pat Holloway, who was to become the President of the Greater London Area Conservative Women's Advisory Committee from 1967 until 1971. In 1952 he was elected to St Marylebone Borough Council, becoming its Mayor in 1958. By 1964 he was elected to the Greater London Council (GLC) and won a landslide victory in 1967 to become the Leader of the GLC. He became Sir Desmond Plummer when knighted in 1971.
It was in 1974 that Sir Desmond was appointed Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, a post he held until 1984, overlapping at the same time with his Chairmanship of the National Stud from 1975-82. He had a robust style of leadership which was able to unite the different factions, combined with a willingness to listen and a spirit of adventure to experiment with new ideas. He possessed the inspirational quality to provide an immediate, short term answer to racings problems, but also the strategic vision to ensure it developed into a long term solution.
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In 1981 he was awarded a life peerage, preferring to be known as Baron Plummer of St Marylebone. He maintained his interest and love of horseracing throughout a long, illustrious career. He was also a keen cricketer, an outstanding Olympic standard swimmer, the Chairman of the London Anglers' Association and, his daughter will be keen for it to be recorded that, he adored cats. He died on 2nd October 2009 aged 95.
I am very grateful to his daughter for passing on his collection of racing badges, foreign racing badges, Jockey Club memorabilia and other racing memorabilia. Her charity work includes helping to build secondary schools at Bangari and Tsokodeka in Zimbabwe. Without these schools the children would have to walk 11 miles to their nearest school. Also, along with Joy Baker, she set up School Aid http://www.school-aid.org/  Furthermore, part of her Zimbabwean project is funded from a book Minerva Beaders (http://www.heatherworks.co.uk/epages/BT3633.sf) which was written by Sir Desmonds daughter and a group of friends.