Denis Clift

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From the Victoria College Foundation newsletter

Old Victorian Denis Clift died in March 2012, at the age of 91. Pilot, linguist, businessman, golfer and pianist: these are just some of the many talents he possessed, as remembered by his nephew, Haydn Taylor.

Denis Clift was born in Argentina in July 1921, the son of Vernon and Doris Clift. Vernon Clift was a director of the Jersey Overseas Trading Corporation and the family spent a great deal of time travelling to South America.


Eventually Denis settled in Jersey, where he attended Victoria College and quickly established himself as a fine athlete, excelling at football and being appointed captain of the first eleven. Among his contemporaries was the actor Kenneth More.

After the death of his father in 1938, Denis joined J Lyons and Co in London as a chemist. When war broke out with Germany, Denis signed up for the RAF and having earned his wings, was transferred to Canada where he trained pilots for the British and Canadian Air Forces.

He later returned to England, where he continued to train new pilots before being posted on active duty in Italy, Palestine, Libya and Egypt, flying Wellington bombers. With the war over, he returned to Jersey, where an old school friend, John Huelin, arranged for him to meet his father, who owned the timber and builders merchants.

His first position was to supervise the manufacture of boxboards in Portugal for the Channel Islands tomato industry. He set about teaching himself Portuguese and quickly mastered the language. In the late 1940s he returned to the Channel Islands with his new wife, Greta, and took up a role with Huelin’s in Guernsey as sales manager.

Over the next 40 years he built an exceptional career in the timber trade that spanned the globe, from Edinburgh to Gabon in Africa, eventually owning his own company based in Yatton Keynell, near Chippenham in Wiltshire. Having retired in 1988 he continued to play an active role in the life of the village where he and his wife lived for 38 years. He became a governor of the Claremont Residential Home and of Yatton Keynell School.


In his leisure time he played golf at the Chippenham Golf Club and played a lead role in establishing the North Wiltshire Indoor Bowls Centre, becoming chairman in 1996. He also continued his lifelong interest in languages and in his retirement taught himself German and French. He used these skills to help others, teaching at the local school and at Chippenham College.

Music played an important part in his life. He was a gifted pianist, able to play a wide range of music and in particular mainstream traditional jazz.

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