Robert Dennis Birch

Members of the Society will have learned with sadness of the death of Dennis Birch, a former Chairman of the Society and a Vice-President. Dennis, as everyone called him, was born in 1913 in London and was educated at Clifton College near Bristol. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1938. He joined the Army at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 and ultimately attained the rank of Major. After the war he joined the Lichfield law firm of Hinckley, Birch and Crarer [later Hinckley, Birch and Exham, now Hinckley, Birch and Brown], in which his cousin, the late Mr. George Birch, was then a partner and of which Dennis himself, having become the sole principle in 1960, was the Senior Partner from 1962 until 1984 and continued as a consultant until 1988.

Despite Dennis's substantial professional commitment, which involved him being Clerk to the Tax Commissioners for Offlow North and Steward of St John's Hospital and an impressive number of other charities, he was very active voluntarily in many other bodies, notably St Mary's Church, where he was a Churchwarden for many years, S.S.A.F.A. [the Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Friendly Association] and the National Trust, as well as the Lichfield Civic Society, which he joined when it was constituted.

The extent of Dennis's interests and activities is almost incredible. At one time he sat on more than 50 different committees concerned with a great variety of objects. Necessarily, he had tremendous energy and possessed a quick and penetrating intellect, which may have been disguised by the unfailing urbanity of his manner and the tolerance and benevolence of his general outlook.

At an earlier period Dennis was a keen tennis player and was successively Secretary, Chairman and President of the Lichfield Lawn Tennis Club. He was also greatly interested in theatricals and was an active and effective supporter - especially behind the scenes - of the David Garrick Repertory Theatre during the short, but tempestuous, period of its existence in Lichfield. Another big interest of his was railways, of which his detailed knowledge was truly remarkable; rail, whenever practicable, was his preferred mode of travelling.

As an effective Chairman of the Civic Society, Dennis held office at a crucial period; a period of necessary consolidation and substantial progress, following the vigorous inaugural period of office of the late Mr. Millar Yardley. Dennis's manner of presiding at meetings of the Society was always unostentatious, but both dignified and business-like. Those of us who sat on the committee when Dennis was in the chair often had reason to admire his skill at easing business forward and in permitting, always, just sufficient discussion before bringing it to a firm decision. Dennis was married to Verity, who sadly predeceased him. There are no children.

S[tanley] T[aylor]
October 2002