John Barnes, Historian

Leslie Ruthven Pym

Despite a relatively late entry into the House of Commons at the Monmouth by-election in July 1939, Pym made rapid progress in his political career. Appointed PPS to the Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Food in the year after he was elected to the Commons, he joined the whips’ office in March 1942 and on 28 May 1945 was appointed Comptroller of the Royal Household in Churchill’s caretaker government. He held his seat in the 1945 General Election, but twelve days after polling and before the result was declared, he died. On 26 July 1945 he was declared elected posthumously. By an extraordinary coincidence Sir Edward Campbell, who had been re-elected for Bromley, died also on 17 July and like Pym was elected to the House of Commons posthumously. Pym was noted for his sweetness of character: a cheerful and amusing companion, he was respected for his integrity and admired for his unselfishness by colleagues in the House of Commons. He made an admirable whip.

Leslie Ruthven Pym was the son of the Right Reverend Walter Ruthven Pym, Bishop of Bombay, and of Lucy Ann Threlfall, his wife. He was a descendant of the 17th century Parliamentarian, John Pym, and in December 1943 was present at St Margaret’s Westminster to celebrate the tercentenary of his death. His younger sister, Lucy Barbara (1895-1979) married the Conservative MP Sir Edward Ruggles-Brise in March 1939.

Pym was born on 24 May 1884 and educated at Bedford and at Magdalene College, Cambridge. A Land Agent by profession, on leaving Cambridge he served his articles with Cecil Argles, land agent to Lord Lucas at Wrest Park, Bedfordshire. Subsequently he became assistant to Francis Walker, Commissioner for the Duke of Northumberland. In 1914 he was appointed agent for the Llanover Trust estates in South wales and in 1926 he added Lord Treowen’s estates in Llanarth and other parts of Monmouthshire to his responsibilities. He served as a magistrate, was Vice Chairman of the South Wales Mineral Owners Association and a member of the Welsh Consultative Committee of the Forestry Commission. He also owned his own estate in Bedfordshire and served on the Council of the Central Landowners Association. In 1936 he was elected President of the Land Agents Society When the Conservative Member for Monmouth was appointed Governor of Bengal in 1939, Pym was adopted as the Conservative candidate in July. He won the by-election at Monmouth by 5,818 votes. In 1940 he became PPS to Gwilym Lloyd George, Lord Woolton’s Under Secretary at the ministry of Food; and on 13 March 1942 was appointed a Junior Lord of the Treasury, remaining in the Whip’s Office for the remainder of the Wartime Coalition. When Churchill formed his caretaker administration, Pym was promoted within the Whips’ Office to the post of Comptroller of the Royal Household.

On New Years Day 1914 he had married Iris, the daughter of Charles Orde of Hopton House, Great St Margret’s Hopton. They had one son, Francis, later a Conservative MP himself and a Cabinet minister, and three daughters.

A devout Christian, he was barely 61 when he died in his sleep at his Welsh home, Penpergwym Lodge at Abergavenny on 17 July 1945. He had just completed a successful campaign to retain his parliamentary seat, but the result had to await the counting of the service vote, and it was not clear until the result was declared on 26 July that he had been posthumously re-elected by 1,652 votes. Pym was buried at Sandy, near his Bedfordshire property, Hasells Hall, on 21 July 1945 and a memorial service was held at St Margaret’s Westminster on 2 August 1945.

A brief obituary appeared in The Times on 19 July 1945.