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Tumim [née Borthwick], Winifred Letitia, Lady Tumim (1936–2009), charity administrator, was born on 3 June 1936 at Wethersfield Place, Wethersfield, Braintree, Essex, the eldest of the two daughters and two sons of Algernon Malcolm Borthwick (1907–1975), chairman of the family's international meat-importing business, and his wife, Edith Wylde, née Addison (1911–1975), daughter of James Stanley Addison. Her father's family were prominent Scottish landowners from Midlothian; her great-grandfather, Sir Thomas Borthwick, first baronet (1835–1912), was appointed to the peerage but died before the issue of the letters patent. During the Second World War, Algernon Borthwick served as a lieutenant-colonel in the Gordon Highlanders and was awarded the Military Cross. He failed in his attempt to become a Conservative MP in the general election of 1945; thirty-eight years later Winifred was likewise unsuccessful when she contested the parliamentary seat of Wantage, Oxfordshire, for the recently formed Social Democratic Party. Her parents were killed together in a road accident in January 1975.

Brought up at Wethersfield Place, her mother's family home, Winifred Borthwick studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, graduating in 1958. At Oxford she met the future prison inspector, , who was called to the Middle Temple in 1955. They were married on 1 February 1962 and moved to River House, 24 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, London. The first of their three daughters, Matilda, was born a year later, followed by Emma and Olivia in 1964 and 1968. The Tumims' second child was born profoundly deaf and their youngest daughter lost her hearing in infancy, prompting the couple to become active campaigners in this field. Between 1974 and 1979 Stephen Tumim was chairman of the National Deaf Children's Society. For sixteen years from 1974 Winifred Tumim was a governor at Mary Hare Grammar School for the Deaf, Newbury, and to 1978 a member of the Warnock inquiry on the education of handicapped children. In the following year she gained a diploma in linguistics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and between 1985 and 1992 she served as chairman of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID). For this she was appointed OBE in 1992 and she remained a vice-president of the charity until her death. It was during her time as the RNID's chairman that her husband, a circuit judge since 1979, was appointed chief inspector of prisons by the Conservative home secretary, Douglas Hurd.

At the RNID Winifred Tumim undertook a reorganization that established clear demarcations between her own role and those of her committee, and between the different responsibilities of paid and voluntary staff. These were distinctions she was concerned to find wanting in many other charitable organizations. In 1992 she was invited by the National Council for Voluntary Organizations (NCVO) and the Charity Commission to head a working party to investigate management within the wider voluntary sector. Tumim focused in particular on the attitudes and performance of trustees, and was surprised to learn that two-thirds of those interviewed had little understanding of their legal and professional responsibilities. This was also alarming given the scale of the sector—then some 160,000 registered charities with an annual turnover of £17 billion—and the increasing demands being placed on it by government. Tumim described the poor state of management as ‘mad chair disease’, a situation she sought to address in a report that emphasized the need for improved appointing and education of trustees.

In 1996 Tumim became chair of the NCVO. Her five years in this position were principally spent investigating and pressing for the reform of charity law which she, like many others in the sector, regarded as considerably outdated. The Blair government, engaged in its own review of charities' responsibilities since 2001, proved receptive to Tumim's final report in the following year. Her recommendations helped to shape the Charities Act (2006) which, among other measures, introduced a ‘public benefit’ definition of charitable organizations and new regulations for public collections. Other positions held by Tumim up to this period included chairmanships of the Forum on Children and Violence which was set up in the wake of the murder of James Bulger in 1993 to consider the causes of violence among the young. From 2000 she was also chair of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group and of the Foyer Federation (2001–4), providing resources and skills training for young people. Between 1992 and 1999 she also served as a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Having stepped down from the NCVO in 2001, Winifred Tumim was appointed CBE two years later. Since 1996 she had also been Lady Tumim following her husband's knighthood. Between 1987 and 1995 he had served as chief inspector of prisons under five Conservative home secretaries, earning a high profile not least for his successful campaign to end the practice of ‘slopping out’. His position, an appointment in which Winifred played an important part and in which she displayed her characteristic determination, fearlessness, energy, and sense of justice, also brought considerable risks. In 1990 Stephen Tumim was found to be high on an IRA hit-list and this led to the sale of the couple's Hammersmith home and their move to more secure premises in central London, as well as round-the-clock armed protection. In 1995 he was sacked by the home secretary, Michael Howard, who subsequently refused his recommendation for a knighthood. This infuriated Winifred Tumim, who began a vigorous, and successful, campaign to have her husband's work recognized. Thereafter she was known to some as ‘Lady Whirlwind’, a description that was not unwelcome.

In 1996 the Tumims moved to Oxford following Sir Stephen's appointment as the principal of St Edmund Hall. While they were popular with the students, their approach to university life alienated some of the fellowship, and Sir Stephen unhappily resigned from the college two years later following a vote of no confidence. Following her husband's sudden death in 2003 Winifred Tumim continued her public engagement as an associate member of the General Medical Council (having previously sat on its disciplinary committee) and, from 2008, as the founding chair of the National Registers of Communication Professionals Working with Deaf and Deafblind People. She died on 5 November 2009 at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, following a heart attack, and was survived by her three daughters. A memorial service was held on 24 March 2010 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, and in 2011 the NCVO established the Winifred Tumim memorial prize for best practice in charity governance.

Philip Carter


The Guardian (7 Nov 2009) · The Independent (10 Nov 2009) · The Times (16 Nov 2009) · Daily Telegraph (17 Nov 2009) · Third Sector (24 Nov 2009) · WW (2009) · b. cert. · m. cert. · d. cert.


photographs, 1978, Photoshot, London · J. Goto, group portrait, MicroPiezo print, 1999–2000 (‘The Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery’), NPG, London · obituary photographs

Wealth at death  

£3,494,175: probate, 23 April 2010, CGPLA Eng. & Wales