Thakeham-born inventor of world’s first portable powered bath lift dies aged 96

Thakeham-born David Edmund Talbot Garman OBE, who invented the world's first portable powered bath lift, passed away peacefully this month aged 96 SUS-190130-140154001
Thakeham-born David Edmund Talbot Garman OBE, who invented the world's first portable powered bath lift, passed away peacefully this month aged 96 SUS-190130-140154001

A Thakeham-born man who invented the world’s first portable powered bath lift has died peacefully at his home in mid-Wales on January 4, aged 96.

David Edmund Talbot Garman OBE, who was born on May 9, 1922, invented, designed and manufactured various products throughout his life through a company he founded with his wife Francesca back in 1981.

Together they ran Mangar International Ltd, based in Presteigne, until David was well into his 90s before it was sold in January 2014.

However, even in his very late ‘retirement’ he continued inventing right up until his final months.

The resulting product development is currently being carried out through David E. T. Garman Concepts Ltd, which was founded by David´s family in September 2013.

In 2007, aged 85, David was awarded the British Healthcare Trades Association (“BHTA”) Lifetime Service Award for his contribution and dedication to the rehabilitation industry.

In the Queen’s New Years Honours 2015, he was awarded an OBE for services to healthcare in appreciation of his invention of that bath lift and other patient lifting and handling equipment now used internationally in private homes, day centres, hospitals and care homes, as well as by ambulance services.

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At the age of 17, during the Second World War, he was called up and joined the Royal Air Force, serving for three years, until he was honourably discharged, in the ground crew for No. 75 Squadron in Cambridgeshire.

After the war ended, he spent a brief period as a teacher at All Hallows School at Chagford in Devon before training to become an accountant and working for a number of car-related engineering companies in Hampshire, which is where he developed an interest in product design and materials.

During this period, as a carer for a number of his elderly relatives, he became aware of the difficulties in bathing experienced by older people, which inspired his first invention, for which he won the HTV Design Award in 1981, the portable powered elevating bath lift.

He successfully visualised and commercialised this product, which would result in a safe and dignified bathing experience for both older and disabled people.

His later inventions, which also ingeniously utilise low air-pressure, all assist elderly or disabled people to manage more independently at home or in a more dignified manner in hospitals or residential homes or assist the emergency services, such as ambulance crews, to lift and manoeuvre sick, elderly or injured people, whatever their size and weight.

These inventions include different types of Emergency Lifting Cushion, such as ‘the Elk’ and ‘the Camel’, which are still widely used around the world by paramedics and nurses.

When he wasn’t inventing, David was a passionate conservationist and naturalist and served for decades as the Vice-President of the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust.

He invested heavily in the preservation of flora and fauna in mid-Wales, where he planted one of the largest broadleaved woodlands of more than ten thousand trees near Llandrindod Wells.

Walking on his Welsh hillside every day, he would recognise the bird varieties from their songs and could even recount the exact dates that each migratory species would arrive and depart each year.

David was the eldest son of the Hon. Cecily Talbot (of the Rhode Hill, Lyme Regis in Dorset branch of the Talbot de Malahide family) and Captain Edmund Garman.

He had three siblings - Elizabeth, Joseph and Joan.

He was initially educated by nuns at St John´s Convent school at Alton Towers, Staffordshire, and thereafter educated by Dominican monks, first at St Louis school at Spode House, Hawkesyard in Staffordshire and later at Laxton Hall in Rutland, Northamptonshire.

He remained a devout Catholic throughout his life.

David married Francesca Jackson in 1972 and they moved from Oxford to Radnorshire in Powys, where they lived happily together for almost 50 years.

He is survived by Francesca and their four sons, Rupert, Jocelyn, Benedict and Dominic, as well as eight grandchildren.

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