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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Obituary: Godfrey James (Jim) Lagden

‘Unique’ is a word rarely justified, but perhaps ‘extraordinary’ might fit the bill for Jim Lagden. Four of us started the actuarial exams together in 1951 with Jim finally qualifying in 1962. In a complete reversal of normal procedure he left a plum position with Bacon & Woodrow to pursue a degree in philosophy and psychology at Keele University, and thereafter never returned to the profession in a conventional sense.

After graduating he gave full rein to his artistic leanings, combining these with his already proven business acumen. He stayed in the Potteries to set up and run the Stoke-on-Trent Festival. As well as turning out for Highgate Harriers running club, he worked on publicity for the Camden and City of London Festivals, and organised Luton’s Centenary Celebrations in 1975. For a time he was chairman of the Society of Professional Arts Administrators and was latterly fully involved with the Islington Historical Society.

Jim’s sight faded in later years. With his guide dog, Flint, he was a familiar figure in Islington and helped launch Friends of Islington Museum and Clerkenwell Festival. He devoted considerable time and effort in pursuit of a museum for Islington, which opened in May last year. Jim was recognised in 2006 when he received the Islington Mayor’s Civic Award for services to the community.

Jim’s creative energies would also benefit the profession in a lasting way. He produced (and mainly wrote) the first edition of FIASCO, the initial regular newsletter for Institute members. As this developed into The Actuary, a fully-fledged professional magazine backed by a resident staff, its first editor Eugene Smyth found his input invaluable.

In a major way, Jim was responsible for the profession’s evolution from the hierarchical gravitas of post-war years to the more outward-looking nature to which it aspires today. Jim listened to the profession’s heartbeat during this transition and, in the face of stiff competition, married Jackie Millar, who was in charge (under Haycocks) of the Actuarial Tuition Service — in those times the care home for long-suffering actuarial students.

Last summer, in a simple ceremony, Jim was given permission to have Jackie’s ashes scattered in the garden of Staple Inn, and spoke movingly of looking forward to the time when he and Jackie would be reunited. Neither Jackie nor Jim towards the end of their years together could point to any close family, and for them both, Staple Inn was their spiritual home. Jim also made clear how much being able to write the initials FIA after his name meant to him, albeit having never practised in a conventional way. Those of us privileged to have known Jim, so unassuming in all he accomplished, will understand that he repaid his debt to the profession in full.

Norman Freethy and Peter Tompkins