Dr Geoffrey Tapper – “Balm for both body and soul – and from a politician to boot”


My father – a trustworthy man

This morning saw the funeral of my father at Salisbury Crematorium. Here is my tribute

It isn’t hard to write about my Dad, he was a very public man , talked a lot and was much talked about. He gave his life to public service, an ethos he inherited from his father Bill.

This devotion to public service was grounded in Methodism and displayed itself in his early career as a GP and later achievements as Dorset County Council’s only Liberal leader.

As a GP working for a group of villages in North Dorset he was extraordinarily hard working. I used to go out with him on his rounds in his mini. He would regularly do 30 house calls in a day and sometimes more than 40. As John Berger has written, the importance, especially for the house-bound, of a doctor’s visit is hared to overestimate.

My father did it year in year out throughout the sixties , seventies and most of the eighties.  I am sure his devotion to medicine was driven by his values, his workload went way beyond any job description.

He considered Methodism and Liberalism peas from the same pod. My Methodist church has its altar rail as a gift from the late Lady Thatcher,

Lord Griffiths told me it was the only time that lady helped anyone off their knees, (my father would have enjoyed the joke).

My father told the Guardian that when he took office in Dorset he found the council had been underspending against its social services budget by 23%

‘The Tories had been spending the money on roads. I admit that since my time as leader, the roads in Dorset have deteriorated and I’m not ashamed of that.’

My father was not a woolly liberal, not many people have got as much done in a lifetime.

He was a thoroughly fulfilled pensioner, when he finished as leader of the Dorset Liberals, he led the councils social services, became president of the Hardy Society, Norcat and the Dorset Ramblers – “I’m the king of the Ramblers”- he used to sing.

I loved being his son, he was a bonkers Dad, he made me laugh with his mad antics and his crazy poems. He wrote limericks and when I discovered we could win a bottle of whiskey for writing one on a financial topic he sent me this gem

I suppose that I’d better be frank

I’m not at my best in a bank

I can’t cope with oddities

Stocks and commodities

If that cheque is mine- leave it blank.

With typical generosity, he published it under my name and I got a bottle of the Famous Grouse for his troubles.

He was an ace table tennis player, a county rugby player and a poor golfer;- he was masterful at bridge. He had a lusty singing voice, played the recorder and was an amateur botanist.  He collected antique maps, was a philatelist and was a world expert on  Dorset postal history.

But he wasn’t very good with computers, couldn’t answer a mobile phone and was a stranger to social media. He would have been appalled to have discovered that he has had over 100 tributes paid to him on Facebook.

He had other failings, he found it impossible to tell a lie and couldn’t suffer fools gladly (for long). He refused to conform to many of the social norms of the 21st century and consequently was in almost constant dispute with ASOS , Capita and the other agencies for whom he did incapacity assessments (well into his eighties).

He was married to Philippa for over 60 years and had four children and one grandchild. He so completely shaped my life and my value set that I feel a little bewildered to be without him.

But my sorrow is not for me but for my mother, who supported him throughout their marriage with a selflessness that is as admirable as anything my father achieved.

It’s nice that we have a few tributes to include with mine. Kate Condon’s is my favourite (though it is now 17 years old).

And now we have this kind tribute in his local paper.


This article appeared in the Gillingham and Shaftesbury News

A former leader of Dorset County Council credited with introducing party politics to North Dorset District Council has died, age 86, at Westminster Memorial Hospital in Shaftesbury after a long illness, writes Richard Thomas.

Dr Geoffrey Tapper was a Shaftesbury GP for 30 years until he turned to full-time politics on his retirement in 1988, becoming leader of the Liberal Democrats at both NDDC and DCC where he was leader of the council from 1990 to 2001.

Before his arrival, NDDC was composed of nominal independents who did not wear a party label, even though many were in fact paid-up members of the Conservative party to which he had briefly belonged.
He began his political life at Shaftesbury Town Council in the 1970s and was mayor in 1974 during the last major reorganisation of local government that saw the demise of the old Shaftesbury Borough Council.

Dr Tapper is said to have been so incensed by the changes, that saw many of the town’s assets forcibly handed over to the newly-created NDDC, that he allegedly organised the burning of many of the town’s historic deeds and documents in a ceremonial bonfire on Park Walk to prevent them going to Blandford.

As well as being a devout Methodist, Dr Geoffrey Tapper was the driving force behind the creation of The Cedars and Castle Hill House as two of Shaftesbury’s main care homes through the setting up of the Shaftesbury Community Health Association in the 1980s. He became life president in 2016.

Chair of trustees Sara Jacson said: ‘Geoffrey was a visionary with determination. He loved the elderly of Shaftesbury and considered that a discrete service for them was vital. Working with others from the Christian Council, he established The Cedars and Castle Hill House for the care of frail and elderly local people.’

Dr Tapper, who is survived by his wife Philippa and their four sons, Henry, Rupert, Gregory and Albert, is to be remembered at a special memorial service on 9 April at Bell Street United Church, Shaftesbury, where he was a lay preacher for 40 years.

Writing five years ago, his eldest son Henry records:

My father was born in 1931 in London to an Irish mother married to a Methodist minister some 20 years her senior.

He qualified as a GP in the late 1950s, during which time he played rugby for Middlesex, before joining a medical practice in Shaftesbury, near where his father’s family had been North Dorset farmers, and where he lived for the rest of his life.

He married Phillipa and between them they had four boys educated first at Port Regis and then at Bryanston schools.

He retired from general practice on health grounds in 1988 and two years later became leader of Dorset County Council, a position he held until 2001.

After retiring from politics, his main hobby was writing poems for competitions in The Oldie and The Spectator magazines and soliciting readership for his translation of the Acts of the Apostles into blank verse. He was also a devotee of ‘The Archers’ on BBC Radio 4.

Hugo Mieville, former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for North Dorset:
‘Geoffrey Tapper was a great servant of our party, and of the people of North Dorset. He will be very much missed.’

Councillor Derek Beer, Dorset County Councillor for Shaftesbury:

‘Geoffrey Tapper served the people of North Dorset for most of his life, as a local GP, town councillor and former mayor, district councillor, county councillor and Liberal parliamentary candidate for North Dorset.
‘He was highly respected by all those who knew him, always calm, and polite, but thoroughly persuasive in debate.
‘Totally immersed in local life, he was a key person in the development of Castle Hill House and The Cedars projects in Shaftesbury, in church life, Nordcat, and many other charities and organisations which benefited the frail and elderly.
‘He was such an influence on my life that it will feel to me, I am sure, that he is still with us for many years to come.
‘The quality of life has been improved for so many local people by the hard work and determination of Geoffrey, and his legacy will remain with us for decades ahead. We all have so much to thank him for.



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in pensions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Dr Geoffrey Tapper – “Balm for both body and soul – and from a politician to boot”

  1. Adrian Furnell says:

    Henry, my condolences. Most parents have such an influence on ones life but it is not until they are gone that ones realises just how much and by then it is too late. I lost both of mine at 67 which was nothing in age terms but I still feel the loss some 25 years later so nice to see your father survived and flourished and still gave his wisdom to all who listened (and some who didn’t!).

  2. John Hutton-Attenborough says:

    Henry, I had a great Dad too. I think they would have got on very well together! John

  3. Robert says:

    Henry, my sincere condolences to you and your family. May the soul of your father rest in peace.

  4. Steve Mills says:

    Really sorry to hear your news, Henry. Your father sounds like a great guy to have known. I recognise within your tribute so many characteristics that were handed down from father to son: your father’s legacy is very much still with us.

  5. Mark Scantlebury says:

    I had a great dad too. Lovely to hear you talk about yours like this. Good people live on.

  6. Helen Dean says:

    Henry I am so sorry to hear about the sad loss of your father, he was obviously a great man. I also had a wonderful Dad, he died a few years ago and I miss him every day but I also feel incredibly lucky and thankful that he was my father. Your Dad clearly lives on in your heart.
    Best wishes Helen

  7. Paul sturgess says:

    Very sad news Henry but a wonderful set of tributes, yours especially. Your father was clearly a very impressive man with an equally impressive set of principles . A great loss indeed.

  8. Ashley Charles Pragnell says:

    Lovely tribute Henry ! It was a great pleasure to have known your dear Dad for over fifty years! I wrote a tribute to Geoffrey on Old Shastonians a week ago! All he did was grounded in a his steadfast faith in Jesus ! A great man is a man who acts with grace and humility ! Your Dad was a “Great man”. I am fly down for your Dads memorial service.

Leave a Reply