Jean Beryl Lilian Sainsbury, benefactor of the trust in her name died aged 81 on 10th February 2007.
Born Jean Lytle in 1925 she had a difficult childhood. Her father, an early success in the UK advertising world left when she was only 3 years old and she was brought up by her mother on very little money.
She was educated at Frances Holland School in London and after the Second World War went into public relations and then Reuters News Agency. In her spare time and almost single handedly, she also produced a magazine called Film Post which included interviews with film stars of the period.
In 1961 Jean married Cyril (Squib) Sainsbury a banker with the Bank of England and no relation to the supermarket family of the same name. They had a long and happy marriage until Squib’s death aged 95 in 2003.
Life changed dramatically for Mr and Mrs Sainsbury in 1981 when her father – from whom she had been estranged for many years – died leaving her as the main beneficiary of his substantial estate.
The inheritance transformed the lives of Mr and Mrs Sainsbury for ever and they embarked on a plan to spend it in a way which has enriched the lives of many relatives and friends and in a wider sphere children, opera and animals.
Mrs Sainsbury’s first major donation – of half a million pounds – was to The Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Wishing Well Appeal. A further million pounds was then used to establish the Jean Sainsbury Royal Opera House Fund at Covent Garden. The fund supports at least one major production at Covent Garden each year as well as subsidising various other projects.
However, by far the largest amount of money was used to establish the Jean Sainsbury Animal Welfare Trust in 1982. Mrs Sainsbury invited a small number of friends to become trustees, a trust deed was drawn up and a fund established to provide income for distribution. An administrator was appointed and the first applications for financial assistance considered. Some of the largest initial grants were made to veterinary schools – The University of Liverpool and the Royal Veterinary College, University of London in particular, to fund improvements in their hospital facilities and to subsidise treatment for owners unable to afford full veterinary fees for their pets. However, as the charity grew it moved away from supporting larger charities and started to concentrate its grants on smaller animal welfare and rescue organisations where a relatively small amount of money could make a huge difference to the lives of a large number of animals. Since its inception in 1982, the charity has donated over £7.7 million to animal and related causes and with prudent investing, the fund stood at over 8 million pounds at the date of Mrs. Sainsbury’s death.
Mrs. Sainsbury received many awards during her lifetime for services to animal welfare including Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Veterinary College and the British Veterinary Association’s animal welfare award as well as recognition from many of the hundreds of smaller charities which have received grants from the trust. However, her lasting legacy will be the continuation and expansion of her animal welfare charity. Trustees will continue to meet three times each year to discuss applications and to shape the direction of the charity.