A Tribute to Chris Pownall RIP

This page is dedicated to Chris Pownall (Joe's 1954-1962). These are the tributes paid by those who knew him.

Mary Pownall and family
On 1st June 2022, we said our final farewells to our beloved Chris, comforted in the knowledge that he had had a life well-lived and one blessed in his family and his home.

Chris had an extraordinary ability to draw people to him. He had a great sense of humour and a hugely inquisitive approach to life which helped him make conversation with just about anyone, always able to find common ground. His grandchildren adored him, and he was the central, steady point in all their lives.

Chris started life at St Joseph’s as a boarder in 1955, demonstrating an early confidence and independence of spirit having to leave his family behind in Macclesfield. His parents, Arthur and Kathleen, were very eager for Chris and his three siblings to gain a good education and to make full use of all the opportunities it may provide them. Chris always spoke very fondly of his school years and he deeply valued the friendships made in adolescence and sustained into adulthood. Always so gregarious and sociable, he particularly enjoyed the Old Boys’ reunions and the chance to catch up with old friends.

His years at St Joseph’s instilled a great love of learning in Chris. Even with the advent of Google we called him the Family Encyclopaedia. If you tried to catch him out by double checking some nugget of information he’d confidently shared, he was invariably always right. He had a vast breadth and depth of history. You wouldn’t really want to be on the wrong side of a debate with him, although many tried! We shall so miss his shrewd advice, his wisdom and his incredible warmth.

His curiosity and sense of adventure inspired his many interests – foremost of these was his passion for rock climbing, formed in the Roaches and the Lake District with friends from Macclesfield and Manchester University, and later the French Alps. He introduced first myself and subsequently his three daughters and grandchildren, to fell walking. We will always think of him in the hills.

In retirement he enthusiastically took up bee keeping – even giving talks to local gardening clubs and the W.I. He spent hours reading up on the subject – one which provided the perfect combination of two great interests - science and nature.

It feels, in many ways, like Chris would last forever! He was such a vital person and his death seems almost impossible, unthinkable. But he has also left us with so very many happy memories, and a blueprint for his children and grandchildren to continue in his footsteps – to live a full life, with family at its heart, and with a fair number of unscaled Wainwrights to conquer. He will always be with us.

Stephen Pownall, July 4 2022
Chris was my big brother. He was also a devoted husband to Mary, loving father to Sarah, Eleanor and Catherine and Grandad to eight aged from 14 to just turned 1. Chris was blessed with a fulfilled and happy life.

He was very comfortable in his own skin. He had the confidence and conviction, which made him ‘firmly planted’ - in his faith, his family and his home. He had that rare ability to speak to anyone and everyone on equal terms. Perhaps this was a skill he started to learn when aged 2, he would climb into the window of Mum’s fish and chip shop, a few streets from here. With a twinkle in his blue eyes, he would call out to passing American GIs “Would you come and buy some of my Mummy’s chips?”

The first of four children, Chris had a happy childhood and a loving family. He was born here in Macclesfield and we lived just round the corner. Following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, he started his education at St Albans Primary School which in those days was just opposite this church. As a boy Chris was always very creative. He held magic shows and game shows in our backyard charging the local children a penny entrance fee. This wasn’t always a commercial success, as they often demanded their money back.
He would invent board games, which he made and painted, and we would play them for hours, sometimes days on end. I always lost!

At the age of 11 he started at a boarding school run by the Christian Brothers in Blackpool. He thoroughly enjoyed his time there and made some lifelong friends. There were also a number of scrapes that the boarders got up to. Stories involving custard in the grand piano are best left for another time. There he fell in love with cricket and keenly followed the Test Matches throughout his life.

He went on from there to Manchester University, taking a degree in Chemistry. Here, he would stay up into the small hours with a close group of friends, debating, and putting the world to rights. He followed his degree with a PHD, dealing with the physical chemistry of flames - or as he used to say “How to blow things up”.

But much more importantly the University was where he met Mary and was welcomed into her loving family. Chris and Mary married in 1967. By 1979 they had three young daughters and Chris had established his career with ICI, eventually becoming Sales and Export Manager for Latin America with Astra Zeneca. Chris really loved his job. It gave him the opportunity to meet new and interesting people, explore landscapes and to become fluent in Spanish. He would regale his daughters with tales - meeting Fidel Castro in Cuba, riding pillion in a pick-up across the Sierra looking out for banditos, flying over the Amazon rainforest in a biplane and camping out with an indigenous tribe.

But he always came back to Kingsley, their home for nearly 40 years, ready to get stuck into a new project in the house or garden. He was a very practical person. His mother-in-law, Sadie, once said to Mary “He can turn his hand to anything, your Chris.”

Mountaineering was also a hugely significant part of his life. A passion discovered with rock climbing on the Roaches nearby. But after he saw the Lakes, he never looked back. He knew every summit and could visually map every landscape. He climbed, as he lived, steadily, taking in the view, feet planted firmly on granite or grass. Mary told me how he was a stickler for tightly fastened boots and would lovingly lace her boots and then, in turn, each of his three daughters’, creaking the leather into submission.

Chris was a hugely hands-on Dad and Grandad, with a fantastic sense of fun and adventure. The games he played with his girls, he repeated with his grandchildren. Kingsley has always been the centre of family life – for tractor rides, games of cricket, or bows and arrows. And he absolutely loved a treasure hunt! To this day there are stashes of copper coins buried in little mounds all over the summits of the Lake District, waiting to be uncovered by following one of Chris’ intricately drawn maps. Indeed he never lost his sense of fun. Even in very recent years, when the snow fell, he’d telephone the girls at first light to bring the grandchildren sledging on the field. “Come quickly!” he’d say, “it mightn’t last long and I’ve already gone down twice!”

Chris was so incredibly proud of his daughters and devoted to his grandchildren. He particularly loved watching them develop their own individuality and always had so much time for them.
He read very widely. The bookshelves in Kingsley groan and bend with the weight of his interests. He always had a book on the go.

After he retired he had time to devote to his hobbies of tracing the family history, stamp collecting and gardening. The Family History we did together researching online and spending hours at the Chester Record Office. Always followed by a visit to the nearest pub for a pint of beer. He enjoyed sampling Real Ales!

He always astonished me by his extensive general knowledge. The last trip we made together was in October when we went around the Oxford Colleges and he enthusiastically talked about the history behind the buildings and plaques.

Chris was a much-loved son, husband, father, grandad, uncle, friend and my brother. He will leave, as one of his sisters said, “a huge, Christopher shaped hole in all our lives” and will be so very much missed.”

Tom McNally (Joe's 1955/1962)
Thanks mainly to the SJOB I never lost contact with Chris Pownall when we had gone our separate ways after sixth form. At school I had always associated him with a kind of basic decency and dry humour which he retained throughout his life. We resumed closer contact some twenty years ago when I was asked to chair an international certification board dealing with oils and gas construction safety. I recruited Chris to the Board partly because he had a scientific and international business background I did not have; but I also needed someone on my Board with wider qualities. I was not to be disappointed.

The basic decency of his youth was now accompanied by an authority and integrity essential when issuing safety certificates on which the lives of individuals and whole communities might depend. I never chaired a meeting where Chris had not mastered the detail and was ready with the forensic questions which ensured the quality of the exercise being undertaken. He retained the dry humour of his youth, now underpinned by a fund of stories about his work for ICI in Latin America, including listening in the hot sun to a three-hour speech from Fidel Castro in his pomp. I also had the opportunity to meet Mary and understand what a foundation a long and happy marriage and his family had provided for a life well lived. Chris Pownall never lost his love and appreciation for his old school. He built on and developed the values it taught him to become not only a thoroughly decent human being, but a loving husband, a proud parent and a very good and reliable friend. RIP Chris.


If you would like to add your tribute, please email me at jvward2003@yahoo.com


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