Peter Cabrelli was one of the founding directors of the National Theatre of Scotland and an influential and imposing figure on many artistic and cultural boards and events in Scotland over many years – notably Creative Scotland. Cabrelli combined this activity with a distinguished career in human resources – notably at the Bank of Scotland.
Richard Findlay, the founding chairman of the National Theatre of Scotland, told The Scotsman yesterday: “I appointed Peter to the board – he was an obvious choice. He had a great love of the theatre and his enthusiasm was totally contagious. No project or undertaking was ever too much for Peter to tackle. He was an immense support to me and other board members, and, most importantly, to the entire National Theatre of Scotland.”
Peter Primo Cabrelli, the eldest of four brothers, came from a second generation Italian family. His father had played football for Dundee United, whose archives show that he was a “nippy wee inside left” and had played for the first team.
Latterly, Peter, senior ran a restaurant in Dundee. Cabrelli attended Lawside Secondary School, where he showed a strong academic ability and got a place to read political science and economics at St Andrews University. He continued his studies at the London School of Economics.
Cabrelli attended a management training scheme with Standard Telephone and Cables in 1971 and decided to concentrate his career on personnel management, gaining further experience in the Middle and Far East. After nine years with ITT in Brussels, Cabrelli returned to the UK and was appointed to a senior post in the HR department of Excess Insurance – a large subsidiary of ITT.
In 1986 he was appointed director of HR at Standard and Chartered Bank in Hong Kong and then returned to join the board of subsidiaries of the Pearson Group – publishers of the Financial Times and Economist. In 2000 he returned to Scotland as group HR director at the Bank of Scotland.
His years back in Scotland with the bank proved challenging. Within a year of his joining, it was facing financial problems and, as a senior executive, Cabrelli was caught up in the worsening situation. In 2002 the bank faced the controversial take over by the Halifax Building Society.
Cabrelli retired from the bank in 2003 and became actively involved in promoting and furthering the arts throughout Scotland.
An organisation with which Cabrelli was particularly associated was Creative Scotland. It funds and develops the arts in Scotland and works in partnership with organisations of all sizes. Cabrelli’s contribution to Creative Scotland’s development was recognised yesterday when the management commented: “Peter’s contribution to Creative Scotland was significant and highly valued. He will be missed both as a colleague and friend.”
For many years he had preserved a close interest in events at Dundee United and had acted as an associate director. For more than ten years Cabrelli had been the Scottish chairman of Fields in Trust (formerly the National Playing Fields Association). The organisation’s manager, Colin Rennie, spoke of Cabrelli’s “unassuming style” and added: “Peter was passionate and determined about preserving outdoor spaces for sport recreation and play.”
Cabrelli was a most active member of the court at St Andrews University and chairman of the trustees of the university’s pension plan.
In his retirement Cabrelli and his wife became keen travellers both to unknown cities and to many countries with which he had been connected during his business career. They kept an atlas on which they stuck pins after each tour abroad.
Cabrelli, apart from family, business and football, had two other great interests: films and the theatre. He was a regular movie goer throughout the year and he and his wife keenly attended many events at the Edinburgh Film Festival.
Cabrelli often spent evenings in the theatre visiting the large and established companies as well as the smaller theatre groups in Scotland. He responded to all aspects of the stage – both plays and musicals – and was always keen to encourage young and experimental talent.
As Richard Findlay recalled: “Peter was a wonderful colleague to have on the board. His advice was always balanced and considerate. “As an individual he was very happy and very content. He always gave the maximum to anything he was involved in.
“Peter was a most loveable character and will be much missed throughout Scottish life.”
Cabrelli, who died peacefully at home, is survived by his wife and their two children.