The speedy Sunderland writer whose skills took him around the world

A Wearside man whose shorthand skills saw him travel the world has died at the age of 81.

Wednesday, 9th March 2016, 1:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th March 2016, 1:26 pm
Bryan Coombs.

Bryan Coombs, a well renowned North East businessman, whose high speed writing skills saw him called to report the resignation speech of Margaret Thatcher, suffered a fall on ice in 2010, resulting in irreversible brain injury.

Born in Hendon, Bryan's work took him to high courts all over the world.

At the age of 17, Bryan, who was an exceptional student at Bede Grammar School, applied for a job as a civil servant in Rhodesia, South Africa.

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He travelled to London for the interview and got the job, which he took against the wishes of his parents, who ran a butchers in Ryhope.

Whilst there, his mother wrote regularly, with one letter in particular pointing out her son's terrible hand writing.

Bryan decided to attend night classes in order to learn how to type, little did he know, part of the course was the teaching of shorthand and this is what changed his life.

He took to the skill like a duck to water, resulting in his teacher recommending him to the Rhodesian Parliament.

Bryan then went onto meet the court's Jack Lowe who became his mentor. It was through Jack that the Wearside lad rose to such a high level that he was then able to go onto the Judges Circuit where he would travel throughout the country attending court cases as the shorthand reporter.

At one conference, Bryan became acquainted with the speaker, Lady Marian Angus, who was responsible for taking Pitman shorthand to America. She was so impressed with him that she decided to take him to Canada where he worked as a high speed court reporter.

As Bryan became one of the best in his field, it sparked the interest of Sir James Pitman, the grandson of shorthand founder Sir Isaac Pitman, who approached him to re-write the Pitman shorthand and bring it up to date

He did so and brought out Pitman shorthand 2000 in 1975, catapulting him to a new level where he was summoned from all over the globe to attend courts as the high speed court reporter, one being the resignation of Margaret Thatcher.

Bryan decided to train as a teacher and eventually returned to his North East roots and became a lecturer at Newcastle Polytechnic, now better known as Northumbria University.

He then decided to open his own college in Jesmond, City Secretarial College, and many of the top law firms in Newcastle and London, would often call Coombs personally, asking him to recommend his best students.

Bryan retired from the polytechnic at the age of 50, but continued with the secretarial college until he was 65.

He then decided to join his civil partner, George Bond, to become managing director of George Bond Interior Design. With Bryan's business acumen and George's designer flair, they built a highly successful, international interior design business.

George, 61, said: "I am privileged to have shared such an amazing life with Bryan for the last 37 years. I have been inundated with messages from former students and colleagues from around the world. Bryan was a truly remarkable man whom will be sorely missed."

Bryan Coomb's funeral is being held at St George's in Jesmond tomorrow, Thursday March 10, at 2pm and will be attended by HRH Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia and Serbia. Donations in lieu of flowers should be made to Headway, the brain injury charity.