Former Shropshire coroner Michael Gwynne dies aged 83

Michael Gwynne, who has died at the age of 83, was the East Shropshire coroner for 35 years and part of a well known Shropshire legal dynasty.

Michael Gwynne
Michael Gwynne

He succeeded his father Norman Gwynne as coroner in 1974 and conducted countless inquests, including several which rose to the national spotlight.

As coroner he was also able to raise concerns about various issues, for instance calling for action after a superbug at Shropshire hospitals led to a wave of deaths.

In 2007 he became a Deputy Lieutenant of Shropshire, supporting the Lord Lieutenant, the Queen's representative in the county.

Born in Wellington in September 1938, Michael Gwynne went to Hurst Court prep school, which had evacuated to Shropshire during the war, and followed the school back to Hastings in 1946. Raised a Catholic, at the age of 13 he went to Downside School in Somerset where he was head of school in his final year and captain of the 1st XV rugby.

His son Mark said: "He told me that his biggest challenge as head boy was trying to keep Auberon Waugh (son of novelist Evelyn Waugh), who was in the year below, out of mischief."

Michael Gwynne did National Service as a Second Lieutenant with the 1st Battalion of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry, serving in Kenya and Aden, and was later a Captain commanding 'A' Company of the 4th Battalion of the KSLI, at Shrewsbury, a Territorial Army role which ran in parallel with his legal career until he retired from the TA in 1972 with the rank of Major.

"The KSLI was one of the associations of which he was most proud, and he still was to be found on battlefield tours with the KSLI Officers’ Association in later years," said Mark.

Michael Gwynne was proud of his associations with the King's Shropshire Light Infantry.

Turning down the offer of a place at Jesus College, Cambridge, Mr Gwynne followed in the family footsteps going in to law. He joined the family firm, R Gwynne and Sons in Wellington, qualifying as a solicitor in 1964 and becoming junior partner, working with his father and two uncles, Leslie and Dennis. The firm had been founded by his grandfather Robert Gwynne.

According to a biography of the firm “The firm of Gwynne & Sons represents a wonderful example of a family firm of solicitors in the 20th century. Father, three sons (Mark says actually there were four) and a grandson – all partners from the firm's foundation for a century.”

Mr Gwynne became senior partner on the death of his father in early 1974 and the same year, after being deputy coroner for two years, was appointed to succeed him as East Shropshire coroner, his patch embracing Telford, The Wrekin, and part of the Shifnal and North Shropshire districts.

His role saw him investigating unnatural deaths ranging from murder and suicide to tragic accidents and medical negligence, and some in contentious and controversial circumstances, while dealing with bereaved families with sensitivity and professionalism.

Among the inquests over which he presided which hit national headlines were that of 20-year-old Jason McGowan, a Telford man who was found hanged and who family members said had been a victim of racist thugs, and Ian Gordon, a young black Telford man who was shot dead by police in Wellington.

As coroner he was able to raise issues that arose and call for action, such as improved road safety measures, and in 2004 he raised the alarm about an outbreak of new hospital superbug ESBL which at that time was implicated in the deaths of 28 people in Shropshire, and called for better hospital procedures.

He retired from full time practice in 2003, and retired as Telford & Wrekin coroner, as the role had become, in 2009. He remained a legal consultant until 2021 and was still acting as a trustee and advisor for clients until days before his death.

A keen sportsman, he had played rugby for England Schoolboys and the Combined Services, and was a founder member of Wellington Hornets Rugby Club – later to become Telford Hornets – and played rugby for the county, and was a member of Wroxeter Cricket Club and Shropshire Gents.

He was also connected with an appeal in the mid-1960s which unsuccessfully aimed to save the original wartime Wrekin Beacon.

In 1965 he married Margie Walsh, a graduate of Bristol University who was a qualified a vet working for the Blue Cross Animal Hospital in London, and a Staffordshire county squash player.

Mr Gwynne is survived by wife Margie, sons Mark and Simon, and grandchildren Magnus, Monty, Ranulph, Milo, Max and Minerva.

Mark added: "If I had to summarise the things about him most often mentioned in the many letters we have received it would be the twinkle in his eye and his wicked sense of humour, his wisdom and sage advice to many over a very long period of time, and his unfailing interest in people – especially young people. They loved him and he was energised by them."

Mr Gwynne died on July 2 and a private funeral was held on July 14.

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