About the University of Leicester

His Honour David Brunning

The University has learned, with sadness, of the death of David Brunning, a former member of Council and life member of the University Court.

David Brunning was born on 10 April 1943. He was a pupil at Burton upon Trent Grammar School. He read Modern History at Worcester College, Oxford (BA 1965) followed by a Diploma in Public Administration (DPA 1966).

From childhood, David was a devotee of church music. He was an enthusiastic and highly accomplished bell ringer. David had the skill and power of concentration to conduct a full peel, lasting three hours and requiring 500 changes to the order in which the bells are rung.

By a marvellous quirk of fate, on the same day that David received the offer of a place at Oxford University, there was a school dance at which he first met Deirdre (Dee) Shotton. David and Dee were married in 1967. They set up home in Leicestershire. David qualified as a barrister. He was a member of King Street Chambers, Leicester – a renowned centre of excellence.

David was appointed as a Circuit Judge in 1988. In 1994 he became the Designated Civil Judge and Designated Family Judge at Nottingham County Court. He was in charge of both family and civil cases at a busy court centre. David’s workload and responsibility were huge. His room at Nottingham had a large table, permanently piled high with shifting files for court hearings and behind-the-scenes directions. He stuck to it with skill, very hard work and more coffee than was good for him. In 2004 David returned to his professional roots as Designated Family Judge at Leicester. He kept this position until retirement in 2008. David had the greatest admiration for his judicial colleagues and for the court staff. The respect and appreciation were mutual.

Progress as a barrister and a judge allowed David to contribute elsewhere, which he did steadfastly over many years, with the minimum of fanfare. He was Chair of the Management Committee of Kirk Lodge Probation Hostel, London Road. Also, Chair of the Management Committee of the Anchor Centre, Dover Street, which helps those suffering with addiction and homelessness. Adoption cases formed an important part of David’s work as a judge. In addition to his public role, David was a Trustee of the Catholic Children’s Society in Nottingham. In retirement, David chaired the adoption management committee of SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity. 

David was a member of the University Council from 2003-2011. He advised on a number of complex, sensitive matters. David was highly valued by his colleagues on Council as a wise, thoughtful confidant and advisor. After eight years on Council, David was appointed a life member of the University Court. 

A war baby, David had a life-long interest in military history and love of good fellowship. Home in Leicestershire was the scene for many gatherings of family and friends. Having fed his guests, David would sit, listen, ask questions and enjoy the contentment of those around him. Larry King, the renowned broadcaster and interviewer, said: “I never learned anything while I was talking”. That was always David’s style. David’s greatest interest was other people. He listened far more than he spoke. He always looked for the best in others and usually found it. There are many people, in various walks of life, who are the grateful beneficiaries of David’s encouragement and support. 

David and Dee loved Sark in the Channel Islands. The accompanying photograph was taken there on David’s 60th birthday. Sark was much more than a holiday destination. When there, it was there home. It was a place for David and Dee to welcome family and friends. For their three sons, Matthew, Simon and James, it was a treasured formative part of their childhood. Then, in turn, for their own children. David, true to form, participated in other ways in the life of Sark. He was a Lay Reader there, as well as at the Church of St James the Greater, Leicester. He was on the Board which appointed the Seneshal, the on-island judge. Quietly, under the radar, David devoted a lot of time and patience to helping individuals in need, particularly in family disputes were there was an imbalance of power.

David Brunning led a busy, varied and fulfilling life. He was generous, tolerant and kind.  A constant example of the innate goodness of people and the capacity of individuals to make a difference. He brought out the best in others and relished their achievements. 

David’s love of choral music continued throughout his life, including the Choir of St James the Greater and the Leicestershire Chorale, which David and Dee long admired and supported. Those many people who attended the service of Celebration and Thanksgiving on 25 November 2023 were treated to magnificent, inspirational music. David would have loved it.

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