Alan Finlay, 1933 to 2021



Alan Finlay, who died in early January aged 87, was the IPG’s treasurer for 18 years and a much loved supporter of independent publishing.

A chartered account by trade, Alan entered publishing as the head of finances at BT Batsford, and soon became attached to the industry. Until 1995, the role of treasurer had been assumed—usually reluctantly—by an IPG board member, but Alan’s appointment was a turning point in our history, and he brought much-needed professionalism and rigour to the job.

It was no coincidence that his 18 years as treasurer coincided with a rapid growth in the services of the IPG and the size and diversity of our membership. Alan was a superb supervisor of our finances, who made sure that each new initiative made sense in financial terms. His advice was valued by board members not only for its reliability but for the way it was offered, clearly and constructively. Nothing escaped his notice, and everything he did inspired confidence. His quiet smile and twinkle in his eye made you feel he was equal to any situation—which, of course, he always was.

Alan’s impeccable financial acumen benefited not just the IPG’s board but many grateful members, both new and established. He was a loyal ambassador for the IPG, a champion of independent publishing in general, and a great networker who took a genuine interest in people’s work. Publishing changed rapidly during his years in it, and while endearingly traditional in some of his ways he was always eager to stay up to date with news and views from across the industry.

As several people have noted since his death, Alan embodied the spirit of the IPG. He was a generous spirit who found time for anyone who sought his advice; a community-minded man who understood the value of camaraderie and sharing experiences; and a sociable individual who made long-lasting friendships with others in the IPG who would seek him out for a drink and a chat. He was just as friendly with people who he recognised were attending an IPG event for the first time, ensuring they felt welcome and involved.

After nearly two decades as our treasurer, Alan became an IPG Patron and continued to take an active interest in independent publishing. Until recently he was a familiar and friendly face at IPG conferences and convivial company at Patrons dinners and London Book Fair stand parties. We were all touched by his ongoing enthusiasm for our work, and by the birthday cards that he sent members of our team every year.

Beyond the IPG, Alan’s many interests included rugby: as this excellent obituary notes, he was a player, president, chairman, honorary life member and more at Sevenoaks Rugby Club, and did as much for the club’s finances and wellbeing as he did for ours.   

Alan was a warm-hearted, modest man with a fine sense of humour to go alongside the expertise in his work. We will miss his cheerful presence and his many kindnesses. He was, in the nicest possible way, a part of the IPG furniture, and it is hard to imagine not seeing him again. Thank you Alan.

With thanks for memories of Alan to Kathryn Earle, Martin Ellis, Oliver Gadsby, Andrew Johnston, Martin Sheppard, Jim Smith and Martin Woodhead.

Dick Warner adds… ‘If the IPG has a blind spot, I'm sure Alan would have permitted me to reveal that it is over not recognising the paramount importance of avoiding the Six Nations Tournament when arranging otherwise enjoyable Spring Conferences. Too dutiful to play truant, Alan and I found ways to record or—latterly, when he was not actively engaged—cut a session on a vital topic, such as the semiology of ISBNs, to attend to the important XV-a-side battles. He was extremely well versed and knowledgeable on rugby, but—Alanishly—thoughtful and judicious in his pronouncements. He was a joy to share the TV remote, and a pint, with.’