David Darsey departs

The exodus from the National Federation of Demolition Contractors continues with the shock announcement that former president David Darsey has resigned.

Darsey, an honorary life vice president of the NFDC, follows David Keane, Holly Price and Paul Johnson through the NFDC exit. But his resignation is perhaps the most significant and far-reaching of the recent departures.

David Darsey was the NFDC president from 2009 to 2011 and his presidency was the culmination of a 10-year plan during which he served on regional and national councils.

During his ascendency through the Federation ranks, he had built a team around him at his company – Erith Group – to allow him to focus on NFDC matters. That foresight allowed him to avoid the fate of some previous presidents who had seen their companies falter while they were tending to Federation matters. Indeed, Erith Group prospered both during and after Darsey’s presidency.

Darsey had the great misfortune of inheriting the NFDC chains of office just as the UK was plunged into the longest and the deepest recession in living memory. Despite this, his presidency shone as one of the most influential in the modern era.

NFDC history books – assuming they’re still written in the future – will show that Darsey was the man who made the accredited site audit scheme a pre-requisite of membership of the NFDC; and that Darsey was in the NFDC hot seat with the Federation moved into the then new Resurgam house in Hemel Hempstead. He was also the man that put the NFDC on the firm commercial and financial footing upon which it still stands today.

But there was far more to David Darsey‘s presidency than that.

His fellow officers at the NFDC will remember Darsey as single-minded yet diplomatic; willing to listen yet decisive.

NFDC members will remember Darsey for his inclusivity; his ability to work a room and to make everyone feel welcome and valued.

In true “cometh the hour, cometh the man” style, David Darsey was a firm hand on the tiller at the NFDC while the industry navigated the choppy waters of recession.

I remember one NFDC AGM during the very depths of that recession. Darsey was ill. He had lost his voice, was sweating profusely and yet shivering at the same time. But against the advice of others, he pressed ahead to deliver a rousing and supportive speech. It was precisely what the NFDC membership needed at that most challenging time.

David Darsey was one of three and a bit presidents under whom I served as the NFDC‘s press officer. In my view, he was the best. When I wrote the history of the NFDC, Darsey’s name appeared – rightly – alongside some of the true legends of the Federation: Sidney Hunt Snr, Claude Brown.

But my personal recollections of David Darsey extend far beyond his role as president or honorary life vice president.

I remember him fighting back tears when he explained why he was backing the Lily Foundation charity during his presidency; his tough exterior momentarily giving way to an unexpected show of humanity.

But perhaps my fondest memory of David Darsey came during a management meeting that I had been inexplicably invited to attend. There was talk around the table of levying fines against NFDC members that failed to attend the required number of meetings during a year.

Darsey sat quietly at the very end of the table, seemingly lost in his own thoughts. When everyone had finished speaking, Darsey cleared his throat and said: “We are in the midst of a recession. We should not be penalising our fellow members. We should be putting our arm around their shoulders.”

It was for that reason and for many other reasons besides that I believe that David Darsey was the finest NFDC president of the modern era.

Even though his presidency coincided with the longest and deepest recession in living memory, Darsey’s reign was – in many ways – a golden age for the NFDC. He delivered a new home for the NFDC and the National Demolition Training Group; and the accredited site audit scheme designed to set NFDC members aside from non-members. And he instilled a feeling of genuine unity.

After his presidency was over, he remained the NFDC’s single most influential figure. In fact, there were times when it appeared that Darsey was the fulcrum; the linchpin holding the NFDC together.

Speaking exclusively to DemolitionNews, Darsey said that he had thought long and hard before tendering his resignation. But he said the time was right to “remove himself from the pantomime “.

Even setting aside the fact that Darsey‘s departure follows hot on the heels of the resignation of David Keane, Holly Price and – most recently – Paul Johnson – his leaving feels like the end of an era.

He spent a quarter of a century at the very heart of the Federation’s management council. I can think of no-one that commands quite the same respect that David Darsey enjoyed during his time at the NFDC.

It is impossible to overstate the impact that his resignation will have. Even though he has more than earned a break, the NFDC will be greatly diminished by his departure.