Richard Kingsbury

It is with much sadness that I write this Obituary, following the recent death of our colleague Richard Kingsbury.

I have known him since I settled in England in the mid-1970's. I know little of his early life, except that he was mostly brought up in Portugal (Cintra) where his father was employed, though his schooling and higher education took place in England.  He travelled a lot (he always enjoyed visiting places worth seeing near where he was working or travelling) and I believe that, still young , he saw a lot of Latin America.  He loved using his holidays to travel, sometimes alone, often with his wife or friends. We took a memorable cruise with his wife and him around the Arabian Peninsula. He did the Trans-Siberian, the Silk Route, went to Tibet, just to name a few of his trips.

We often worked together, either in the same booth, or in the same team of interpreters. The first thing that struck me was his exceptional command of languages. When we first met, he had  (using the AIIC classification) an English A, Portuguese and Spanish B's, and C's in German, French and Italian. But in addition to this, I was surprised to find out that he had taught himself Hebrew, and was able to read Ben Gurion's memoirs in the original. Shortly after, he started learning Arabic, which became a real passion. Though he never added it as a passive language, or use it professionally, he was able to read newspapers in Arabic quite easily, and listen to Arabic radio and television. At some point he told me that he had been learning Russian and went to Russia quite often to improve his knowledge of the language, before adding it as a C language.

When I first knew him, he was a staff interpreter at the International Coffee Organization (ICO), but was occasionally free to work at all sorts of international conferences or meetings. He would tell me how much he enjoyed working for ICO, but disliked commuting so frequently to London. I suggested he ask ICO for some kind of part-time contract, which would enable him to work more regularly elsewhere. He thus became a very sought-after free-lancer, while keeping his connection to ICO where he was so highly appreciated by all: colleagues, staff and delegates.

With his many languages, he worked for all sorts of organisations: ILO in Geneva, the EU in Brussels, FAO in Rome, Chemical Weapons in The Hague, and many others. He also worked for CNN and Al-Jazeera (English) in London, interpreting live into English from all sorts of celebrities  (Angela Merkel, or Lula Da Silva, just to mention a couple who come to mind).

As a colleague, he was always sociable, friendly and helpful. His delivery was practically always faultless, spoken with his fine, well educated  English in a well-poised clear tone of voice.

Always interesting to chat with, but also to discuss serious topics, one was never bored in his company. He also enjoyed a good laugh.

He had a lovely family, and was greatly loved by his wife Heather and their two sons, Nicholas and Benjamin. My wife and I often had lunch with them and it was a pleasure to see them all together, helping each other to keep their beautiful house and grounds in good order.

His background, knowledge, experience of the world, personal human qualities, all contributed to make him what he was.

His final days were - I think - as he would have wished them to be: at work, abroad, in Ethiopia, for an important meeting of the ICO ; he was his usual self: working brilliantly, chatting in his usual friendly manner with his colleagues, attending receptions organised by our local hosts, where we saw handicrafts, dancing, singing and various local ways of preparing and serving coffee; enjoying everything up to  the Thursday, his last day of work and a final  spectacular reception. ... But the team of interpreters worked without him on Friday, as he was found on the floor near his bed, in a coma, and died a few days later, with his wife and one of his sons at his bedside. He will be sorely missed.

Jacques Mawas

Recommended citation format:
AIIC. "Obituary". April 6, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2020. <>.