It’s with deep regret that we bring you the sad news that Peter Watson passed away on Thursday 13th December, after suffering a heart attack.
Peter was FIBA’s first president and was part of a small team that worked extremely hard to create FIBA. As such, Peter was one of our founding members and was a great driving force to help FIBA become what it is today. Peter’s dedication to Franco-British relations, friendly approach and good sense of humour were an essential part of FIBA’s building blocks. We are so very grateful to him and shall miss him greatly.
This is the eulogy for Peter given by Tim Hughes at his funeral.
Peter initially qualified as a chartered accountant in the UK in 1963. He always had an adventurer’s spirit and subsequently moved to France with Coopers & Lybrand. One of Peter’s great friendships in France was with Nigel Gore, another British accountant who was living in France and the story goes that the pair of them met at a high-level meeting in Paris with politicians about British investment in France. Also present was Raymond Barre, who would go on to become France’s Prime Minister and Mayor of Lyon.
Peter’s career saw him leave accountancy and become involved in the operational side of business. He built up an amazing wealth of experience around France and several other countries and was then appointed to open the RAC’s first operation in France, based in Lyon.
Peter settled in the Lyon area and became a talisman of Franco-British relations in the region. His good friend Nigel Gore came to Lyon with PWC and the two of them worked tirelessly for the good of improving relations between our two countries. Peter firmly believed that there was so much to be gained for both countries by close cooperation. This went far beyond economic ties only as Peter believed in the promotion of intercultural and social links that would enrichen all concerned in the broadest possible sense.
This commitment and Peter’s sense of leadership led him to become the President of the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the Rhône-Alpes region. As such, he stood as a beacon for assisting Britons doing in business in France.
As a result of some internal wrangling involving tensions between the FBCCI in Paris and the regions, the organisation closed in Lyon, but Peter was not prepared to stand by and let this vital network that had been built up go to waste. It was at this time, around 2005, that he acted as the driving force behind the creation of FIBA – the Franco-British and International Business Association. Others involved in that hard work to launch FIBA included Nigel Gore and his son, James, with Simon Wesley and David Allard. Peter was the face of FIBA when it launched and was the association’s first President. After serving a highly successful mandate as FIBA’s number one President, he became the first Honorary President! The honour was, of course, all ours, as Peter remained totally dedicated to the association growing into a great, dynamic, focus point for networking, striving to develop a sense of community for the mutual benefit and pleasure of all those involved.
Peter was passionate about sharing his ideas, knowledge and contacts with everyone, particularly the young or those who were looking for a new challenge in their lives. He was, for example, directly involved in my own move to France as he knew someone my parents-in-law knew and introduced me to Simon and Nigel. This passion for sharing his knowledge and helping those younger than him on their way up was also shown by his great enthusiasm for teaching. He taught in many prestigious institutions around France, including ESDES in Lyon.
After Peter’s great friend Nigel Gore passed away last year, Peter spoke in Nigel’s memory with real eloquence and tenderness at last year’s FIBA Christmas lunch, held in the presence of Gillian, Nigel’s wife who is, naturally, here today.
Many of us present this afternoon were at this year’s FIBA Christmas lunch last Friday and we were all expecting to see Peter there with his usual fun-loving and communicative outlook. It was with tremendous shock that we learned from Colette of Peter’s passing. He has left us at a time of year he was particularly fond of. I like to think that the joy and hope of Christmas matched perfectly Peter’s positivity and openness.
All of us in the Franco-British community in France, particularly around Lyon, owe a great deal to Peter. It is a testament to his energy and vision that the association he played such a key part in creating is today a vibrant, vigorous and expanding network.
On occasions like today, it’s worth thinking what we believe Peter would have wished to communicate to us. I have no doubt at all that Peter would have wanted us to enjoy each other’s company, despite the very sad circumstances, and to remember him fondly whilst renewing our commitment to follow his example of building understanding and always being ready to help, to guide and, if necessary, to lead.
Peter was a solid, reliable and warm Yorkshireman. We will remember the twitch of his smile and the glint in his eye. Peter’s influence went far beyond his home town of Bradford and those of us in the Franco-British community in this region wish to express our collective thanks to him today and to affirm to Colette and Peter’s sons our real sense of determination to honour his wonderful legacy.