Bobbie Caplin, businessman and charity worker

Bobbie Caplin with Selina Scott (left) and writer Kay Mellor at the Variety Club Business Awards Leeds, in 2013
Bobbie Caplin with Selina Scott (left) and writer Kay Mellor at the Variety Club Business Awards Leeds, in 2013
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Bobbie Caplin, who has died a few days after celebrating his 85th birthday, was a renowned businessman and a tireless charity worker whose efforts on behalf of the Variety Club of Great Britain brightened the lives of countless young people.

Numbering royalty among many influential friends, he had, he said, gone through life adhering to the mantra of his late father, Hymie. “In life you have three names,” Mr Caplin senior had said. “The one you’re born with, the one you live with, and the one you die with.

“Lose any one of those three names, no matter how much money you have, and you will never be able to buy back that name.”

Bobbie was the youngest of three children born in Leeds to Hymie and his wife, Rose.

Hymie had been gassed and wounded in France, while serving in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World war, but he survived until 1972.

“He was very strict and moral in many ways and I’ve always tried to live by the principles that he instilled in me,” Bobbie had said.

He followed him into what was by then the RAF for his National Service, and described the 18 months he spent there as the greatest education he ever had. “I met people I would normally not have come into contact with, where it made no difference if you had a penny in your pocket or a pound,” he said.

Returned to civilian life, he went into the family clothing manufacturing business, though not as “the boss’s son”. As part of his apprenticeship he was sent off to Leeds Technical College for two days a week and then brought back to work in the factory on the other three.

He would go on to be the last major clothing manufacturer in the city that once dressed the nation.

It was while on holiday in the south of France that he formed a friendship with the charity worker and Variety Club chief barker, Sir Trevor Chinn.

Chinn’s father, Rosser, was president of Jewish National Fund, and Mr Caplin soon became interested in the charity. He was invited to organise a young committee in Leeds, holding as its first event a gala dinner and ball at the Queens Hotel - a tradition that continued for a decade and a half.

Chinn, by now involved with Variety Club in London, invited his friend to launch and coordinate its first provincial committee, and many in the film and entertainment industry delegated their Leeds agents to help out.

David Niven, Cary Grant and Barbara Taylor-Bradford were among the luminaries drafted in as guest speakers.

A fount of showbusiness information, he retold in a TV documentary having been with Eric Morecambe at the Batley Variety Club in 1968 on the night he suffered his heart attack, en route back to his hotel in Leeds.

A renowned ladies’ man, it was not uncommon to see him arrive at the Variety Club Business Awards in the city with the current Miss World on his arm, and even in poor health at his 85th birthday, he was surrounded by a flock of female admirers.

He was made an OBE in 2003 for services to charity, and is survived by his sister, Maryse Whyman, and brother, David.

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