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Ivan Poulton (1925-2017)

Poulton experienced God showing him that he had been wrong and needed forgiveness.

My friend Ivan Poulton, who has died aged 92, was the international transport manager for the Initiatives of Change movement, previously known as Moral Re-Armament (MRA). Ivan was born in Ealing, London, son of Edward Poulton, a commercial artist, and his wife, Mildred, and went to Latymer Upper school, Hammersmith. The family lived near the Piccadilly tube line, and as a boy Ivan used to lie in bed listening for the train to arrive at the station one stop before his. He knew he then had eight minutes to get up, get dressed and run to his tube stop in time to catch that train to school.

His parents had encountered MRA in the 1930s, and Ivan became interested in it while still at school. He served in the army between 1943 and 1946, after which he began working full-time with MRA.

In 1984, Ivan wrote to colleagues in Belfast (of whom I was one) about an experience that radically altered his life and beliefs. Many years earlier, as transport manager, he had bumped a Northern Irish Protestant man off a busy flight without consulting him, and put someone he thought was more important on to the plane. Ivan had a profound experience of God showing him that he had been wrong and that he needed forgiveness. This prompted him to explore his nation’s character and its relationship with Ireland. Ivan’s letter came to us in the middle of the Troubles. It gave us great hope, at a time when there was little to be hopeful about.

His subsequent letters to me – more than 50 of them – showed an amazing Christian journey as he sought to understand the attitudes of Irish Catholics and of Protestants like myself. His visits to Ireland included a retreat for Irish and English people at a monastery in County Tipperary in May 1998, at the time of the referendum that approved the Good Friday Agreement.

Ivan’s role with MRA included booking charter flights for participants attending MRA’s international conferences in Caux, Switzerland. In 2005, Ivan and I went to Caux, where we spoke on the same platform, he about his change of attitude as an Englishman, and I about mine as a Northern Irish Protestant.

Ivan married Maisie James, a fellow MRA worker, in 1969. She survives him.

This obituary by Alec McRitchie first appeared on The Guardian website on 30 March 2017

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The Guardian