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08 January, 2013

My friend Don Loughman, who has died in Long Itchington, Warwickshire, aged 92, and his wife Jill were my neighbours for over 30 years when we lived in flats above the erstwhile Westminster Theatre. He was the theatre’s Production Manager from 1961 and Theatre Manager from 1967, becoming a member of the Society of West End Theatres. From 1987 he was a Board Member of Westminster Productions Ltd. I was the Secretary to the Westminster Memorial Trust which owned the theatre as the principle centre of Christian drama in London.

Don Loughman was in charge of the logistics of a theatre tour of the Indian subcontinent with 200 people in the early 1950s
Don Loughman was in charge of the logistics of a theatre tour of the Indian subcontinent with 200 people in the early 1950s
Our daughters grew up together, seeing the children's pantomime Give a Dog a Bone, which ran for 11 Christmas seasons, C S Lewis’s Narnia stories and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Don had been commissioned into the Royal Signals serving in the Indian army during World War II, during which time he encountered the Moral Re-Armament (MRA) movement. Servicemen gave their post-war gratuities towards the purchase of the Westminster Theatre as a memorial to those in MRA who had died in the war.

In 1952 MRA’s founder, Frank Buchman, was invited to bring a travelling group to the Indian subcontinent. Buchman took 200 people who presented four stage plays. Don and two others were responsible for the logistics, starting in Sri Lanka and travelling to nine Indian cities by rail as well as to Kashmir and Pakistan. They went by special train to Delhi, stopping in Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Don, in charge of accommodation, planned to distribute the details of their stay in Delhi to their carriages, which he had been assured had corridors, only to find they didn’t. Grabbing a car he raced the train to Delhi: a hair-raising experience on the Indian roads and foiled at the last level crossing as the train shot past. He arrived later to find 200 people patiently sitting on their suitcases. Never was anyone better at coping with a crisis.

Don became an actor himself, playing the part of Sam Trumper in Peter Howard's play The Man with the Key, which toured South Africa, Rhodesia, Kenya and Uganda from 1954 to 1956.

Don and Jill were a great support to me when my wife Ann died of cancer. Jill died two years later, leaving Don and me with a shared sadness, and gratitude for our wives, a bond which kept us together ever since.

Stanley Kiaer

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This obituary was first pubished in The Guardian, 4 January 2013.

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