Men at the Top E Comp David Richard Ellis
E Comp David Richard Ellis OBE PJGD PAGSoj MetGInsp (Royal Arch)
In conversation with W Bro Simon Bennett LGR
Born on 26 April 1955 at the Princess Mary Maternity Hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, E Comp David only lived in the North East for a short time. Moving to Edinburgh for two years and then to Warmsworth, a small village in South Yorkshire, whilst his father served his final posting in the Royal Air Force at RAF Finningley in the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster, South Yorkshire. The station straddled the historic county boundaries of both Nottinghamshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Comp David attended Mexborough Grammar School and had considered studying dentistry but became attracted to the hugely diverse and mobile career opportunities offered by the Home Civil Service. Successful in the Civil Service Commissioners’ Open Competition, he was allocated to his department of choice – the Inland Revenue! So, on 3 March 1975, at the age of 19, he travelled to Bedford and begun his career in the Inland Revenue from which he would not emerge until just under forty years later – exciting times ahead!
It was during the early years spent as an Executive Officer in Bedford Tax Office that Comp David says he learned lessons that would stay with him for the rest of his life, notably the significance of motivating and developing people through inspirational leadership, and separately, that even in the most challenging of encounters, you should never forget that public service is always about making the best use of public money and giving the best service to those who are paying your salary – the public!
In 1984 after six years of examinations and casework/management assessments, Comp David received the commission of HM Inspector of Taxes and from that point was sanctioned by the Board of Inland Revenue to take charge of any Tax District assigned to him and to do whatever was authorised under the Taxing Statutes laid down by Parliament.
From there, Comp David went into the training and development arm of the department as a tutor on the training course for Inspectors and then into policy, finally leading to his appointment as Head of Training for London. At that time, he was also appointed the Head of International Assistance, one of the highlights being to host the President of the Russian Tax Authority on a visit to the UK, and then return with him to lead a delegation to Moscow to advise on aspects of the Russian tax compliance regime with its workforce of 200,000.
He and his delegation encountered a few issues – for instance, he was declined transport by the British Embassy from Moscow airport to their hotel only to discover on the flight many stories recounting how criminals who would fake being taxi drivers, drive passengers into the countryside and rob them before leaving them for dead. Adding to this, their Russian hosts were surprised that they were not carrying firearms whilst in Moscow, so arrangements were made at short notice for Comp David and his team to be escorted by armed guards!
Comp David spent three years after that leading a Tax Compliance District before being appointed Director of Enforcement, which was the executive office that managed all the Inland Revenue’s end-of-the-road and complex debt customers. During this time, he was responsible for creating and introducing the first cross department team between the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise to handle Voluntary Arrangements, which was opened by the Chairman in early 2000.
At the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, and whilst he was Director of Enforcement, Comp David went to lead the response of the tax authorities to the devastating impact on businesses and individuals of that outbreak.
It was during this time that Comp David became even more persuaded of the effectiveness of working closely with taxpayers to understand their perspectives and circumstances to determine what help they needed to enable them best to comply with their tax obligations.
Comp David was awarded an OBE which he received from HM The Queen in March 2001. David said, ‘that was, without doubt, one of the proudest moments of my life and an absolute honour’. He was so grateful that his wife and two daughters could be with him at Buckingham Palace on the day of the Investiture.
After three years in Birmingham at the Large Business Office where Comp David was the Lead Inspector for the Energy Sector, he moved back to London on various appointments as Finance Director to the Chairman, Chief Executive and two Directors General. Subsequently, the successful delivery of the customer stream of a major departmental programme coincided with the chosen date of Comp David’s retirement as a Senior Civil Servant and from his hugely rewarding career, which, on reflection, undoubtedly fulfilled all his career hopes and expectations when he joined in 1975 and much, much more!
Comp David still had much energy to contribute and so he got involved with organisations in the charity sector. He was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peace Hospice in Watford, which he retired from in 2018 after nine years’ service. David says that it was a challenging leadership role, and it was an honour as well as serious business to determine the strategy and work within the team of Trustees to support the Chief Executive and her staff.
The Peace Hospice is so fortunate to have the most gracious, dedicated and committed Royal President, HRH The Princess Michael of Kent, who would attend hospice events twice a year on average, including the annual flagship fundraising dinner at the House of Lords
David and HRH The Princess Michael of Kent looking at a book gifted to her
In 2018 Comp David became the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of South Bucks Hospice and continues to serve that hospice charity.
The Royal Masonic School for Girls was one of Comp David’s other significant commitments. He served as Secretary then Chairman of a supporting charity for some nine years while his daughters attended the School, and then as a Governor and Chairman of HR, then Finance until he retired as a Governor after 12 years in 2019. David said he was delighted to have been able to have served and to have contributed to the Board of Governors as well as across the school community.
David and his wife, Debbie, married in 1987.
They were blessed with two daughters, now aged 31 and 32 and with one granddaughter who is just over one year old – these are now the three apples of his eye! Very sadly, David’s wife died in 2011 of Mesothelioma, which is an aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The great hole left in his and his daughters’ lives that continue to be felt is greater because Debbie and David tended to work as a close team in all their charitable endeavours, and the absence of his teammate is a feeling of significant sadness forever present. In easing his feelings of sorrow and loss, Comp David said that Freemasonry had been a real saviour, and the brethren around him are unlikely to ever know the significance of the positive impact on him their support has had.
In 2017 Comp David became the founding Chairman of the London Asbestos Support Awareness Group, which is a registered charity dedicated to supporting those who are diagnosed with Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. The number of victims across the UK who die annually is a staggering 2,500 on average, with roughly 40% in London and the South East.
Comp David was introduced to Freemasonry by his late wife’s uncle, who was a senior Freemason in Lancashire. What attracted David was the history, the personal challenge, the concept of brotherhood and the strong commitment by Freemasons to support charity. The Secretary of Tudor Lodge (Hertfordshire Province) got in touch with him as, at that time, his family lived in Watford. After an initial home visit and the formal interview with the Lodge Committee, David was then Initiated into Tudor Lodge No 7280 on 16 February 1994 and later Installed as Worshipful Master in 1999.
Comp David was Exalted into the Royal Arch in the Earl of Clarendon Chapter No 1984, again in Hertfordshire. His Inland Revenue postings were increasingly based in London, and so he joined the Chequered Cloth Lodge No 5569 in 1997. This Lodge has enjoyed a good percentage of members who were employed or had been employed by the Inland Revenue. A very close friend and professional colleague who was a member of Chequered Cloth Lodge went on to introduce him to Semper Fidelis Chapter No 4393, which he joined in the following year. By that time, London was increasingly becoming his ‘home’ in terms of his masonic activity. David served as Worshipful Master of Chequered Cloth Lodge in 2001 and as the First Principal of Semper Fidelis Chapter in the same year. Since then, he has progressed through the Chair of Chequered Cloth a second time and is currently the Treasurer of Semper Fidelis Chapter.
For a few years, E. Comp David’s masonic activities were curtailed somewhat because of the demands of his professional life – true to our principles, it was agreed and understood that Freemasonry would have to take a backseat until business pressures eased.
In 2012 he was appointed to the active office of Metropolitan Grand Standard Bearer within the Royal Arch, and in 2013 he was appointed as a Visiting Officer also in the Royal Arch. He found his duties as an Escorting Officer and Visiting Officer have been amongst the most rewarding and enjoyable times he has experienced – ‘you learn so much,’ he said.
In 2014, his brother Andrew was transferred from Northumberland to Milton Keynes. Although initiated around the same time as David, neither of them knew of each other’s involvement in Freemasonry until some considerable time later. As a result of that transfer, Andrew decided he wanted to join a lodge in the South even though he intended to maintain his membership of Vanbrugh Lodge No 8412 in Northumberland. They both joined Semper Fidelis Lodge No 4393 in early 2013. Andrew was installed straight away as the Master of Semper Fidelis Lodge in 2013, and David was appointed as Secretary. In 2013 Comp David also joined his brother’s Northumberland lodge. They both became Freemen of the City of London in 2014 and drove sheep over London Bridge at the Sheep Drive ceremony later that year.
In 2016 Comp David was appointed to Craft active office as Metropolitan Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies and became a Visiting Officer. He was later appointed as a Senior Visiting Officer in the Craft in 2017. In 2018 Comp David was both delighted and proud to be made an Honorary Member of Canonbury Lodge No 657, which he had served during his time as a Visiting Officer.
Comp David has always been interested in the relationship between the Craft and the Royal Arch and is ever so keen to promote it. He was honoured, therefore, in 2018 to be appointed to head up the team of 20 RA Coordinators, who in turn are responsible for leading and supporting the teams of RA Representatives in their respective inspectorates.
Comp David is still very much connected to this key Metropolitan Initiative, and as we emerge from the pandemic, David wants to see the RA Representatives and RA Coordinators continue to spearhead the initiative by way of positive engagement across the Lodges informing, inspiring and encouraging brethren to think carefully about the significant and positive benefits of belonging to the Royal Arch and the best time for them to join or re-join the Order. Attracting new members and supporting them as newly Exalted companions is a key priority for all of us.
In 2021 Comp David was highly honoured to be appointed as a Metropolitan Grand Inspector and to be given particular responsibilities in the Royal Arch. In the same year, David was further humbled by being appointed Past Junior Grand Deacon in the Craft and Past Assistant Grand Sojourner in the Royal Arch.
Comp David is actively and enthusiastically getting to grips with his new role as the Chapters are beginning to meet again following the relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions and the break over the summer. He emphasises the need for him to support his team of VOs and SVOs in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities as well as in discharging his responsibilities towards the Inspectorate’s Chapters and their members.
Comp David is most grateful for the support he has received from the Chapters and his Visiting Team, which has helped him hit the ground running! He is excited by the impressive companions he has met so far, especially by their views expressed on how best to support a strong return post-pandemic, ideas for future change as well as how best to drive it forward and the work that is taking place to attract, mentor and develop newer (and not so new) companions.
His team will continue to develop high levels of effective engagement with each Chapter about current issues and forward plans to support the Chapters to grow in strength and to develop their members for the fulfilment and enjoyment of all.
L7280 Tudor (Herts) Initiate 16/02/1994
L5569 Chequered Cloth London Joiner 27/03/1997
L4090 Hertfordshire Masters Herts. Joiner 28/04/2000
L4393 Semper Fidelis London Joiner 23/02/2013
23/02/2013 L8412 Vanbrugh (Northum) Joiner 10/05/2013
10/05/2013 L890 Hornsey London Joiner 22/03/2017
22/03/2017 L657 Canonbury London Honorary 19/04/2018
C1984 Earl of Clarendon Herts. Exaltee 20/03/1996
C4393 Semper Fidelis London Joiner 27/03/1998
C3525 Guild of Freemen London Joiner 10/10/2014
C9628 Clerkenwell Chapter of First Principals London Joiner 15/06/2016
C6583 Bissei Herts. Joiner 14/02/2017
C2712 London First Principals Joiner 28/05/2021
Craft Past Junior Grand Deacon (PJGD) 28/04/2021
Royal Arch Past Assistant Grand Sojourner (PAGSoj) 29/04/2021
Craft Ranks Metropolitan
Metropolitan Grand Inspector (MetGInsp, London) 03/03/2021
Senior London Grand Rank (SLGR, London) 02/11/2017
Senior Visiting Officer (SVO, London) 01/09/2017
Visiting Officer (VO, London) 16/03/2016
Metropolitan Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies (MetAGDC, London) 03/03/2016
London Grand Rank (LGR, London) 03/03/2016
Royal Arch Ranks Metropolitan
Metropolitan Grand Inspector (MetGInsp, London) 14/04/2021
Senior London Grand Chapter Rank (SLGCR, London) 06/04/2017
Visiting Officer (VO, London) 01/05/2013
Metropolitan Grand Standard Bearer (MetGStB, London) 29/03/2012
London Grand Chapter Rank (LGCR, London) 29/03/2012
Five things you didn’t know…
Stood in for Darcey Bussell
Got hijacked in a London Cab
Sang on stage with Wilma Reading
Is a synchronised swimming coach
Former budgerigar breeder/fancier
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 46 October 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 46.