Colin Brown

Tribute to Colin Brown who passed away recently at the age of 87.

Colin Brown worked with Sandra Horley, CBE and Chief Executive of Refuge over a period of forty years. In the early days Colin was Sandra’s boss when she was Director of the Haven Project in Wolverhampton from 1978 to 1983. Sandra says: “I will really miss Colin but his spirit lives on – he did more for the cause and Refuge than anyone will ever know. He was a remarkable man and I will always be grateful to him for giving me so much support and encouragement over four decades. I would not have been able to take Refuge as far as I have without his support. Colin was a huge part of Refuge’s history and success.”

Tracy Blackwell, who worked with Colin for 10 years at Refuge, says: “it was Colin who secured funding to develop Refuge’s buildings, working closely with Sandra to develop Refuge from a single house in Chiswick in London to the national service it is today. Colin’s expertise in housing has been fundamental to securing funding and working with landlords to develop refuges. When I first started working for Refuge, I travelled with Colin all over the country visiting services and soon got to know what an amazing man he was.”

Tracy says she learned everything she knows about supported housing from Colin. “He was such a patient and generous person. I would go to him with incredibly complex questions, he always had the answer and if I didn’t get it first time he would patiently explain again and again until I really got it. We would talk for hours thinking up ways to stop refuge services from closing. He was also incredibly committed. Even when he was unwell and supposed to be taking things gently he would phone me to offer advice and support.”

Colin was one of those rare men of his generation who really understood the impact of inequality. It was Colin who inspired Tracy and Refuge to develop services for female offenders. Colin shared a copy of his dissertation written some 50 years ago about women’s experience in the criminal justice system. It was so ahead of its time and exactly the conversations we are all having today. Similarly, Colin was a great advocate for children and they were always front and centre of his mind when developing services.

Aside from his professional life Colin was so proud of his family. He would glow with pride when talking about their achievements and was so supportive of them. They are fortunate to have had such an inspiration in their lives. Similar feelings of gratitude and admiration have been shared by many colleagues who knew and worked with Colin at Refuge.

Colin was active and working right through to the end of a long life well lived. He will be sorely missed.