(Fredrick Hyde-Chambers OBE, 12th May 1944 – 31st October 2021)
Within hours of learning the sad news of the passing of their dear friend, Mr Fredrick Hyde-Chambers OBE – popularly known as “Riki”, the Tibetan Community in Britain started praying for the deceased soul.
Tibetan children, teachers and parents recited Buddhist prayers for “Riki” during the morning school assembly on Sunday, 31st October at the London School of Tibetan Language & Culture (LSTLC) in east London. Tibetan teacher Ms Kunsang Chodon said that Tibetans had lost a good friend today. They recited Buddhist mantras “Om Mani Padme Hung”.
After the news unfolded, the Council of Tibetan Community in Britain held an urgent meeting earlier in the day. A Community Circular was then released to the Tibetan members and supporters, which reads: “It is with great sadness that we share with you the news of the sudden demise of our long time friend and supporter Riki Hyde-Chambers this morning. Riki was a well known and long time supporter of Tibet who spent much of his time working on the Tibetan freedom struggle. We, on behalf of the Tibetan community, extend our sincerest condolences to Riki’s family at this difficult time.
“Please join us this evening at 6:00 pm via Zoom to remember Riki’s life and pray for his quick rebirth. The prayer will be led by His Eminence Lelung Rinpoche of the Lelung Dharma Centre. We really appreciate your presence for this important prayer session.”
Nearly 40 households attended the virtual prayer meeting, which started shortly after 6pm. His Eminence Lelung Rinpoche, Spiritual Director of the Lelung Dharma Centre, led the Buddhist prayers.
Rt. Hon Norman Baker, a former British Minister and former President of the Tibet Society, also a close friend, spoke highly of Riki. He also highlighted Riki’s contributions to Tibet and the Tibetan cause through the Tibet Society including, helping with organising the first visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the UK in 1973.
Acknowledging the contributions made by Riki, Ms Tsering Tsomo, Secretary at The Office of Tibet, London expressed condolences to his family on behalf of the Tibetan people on this very sad loss. The Tibetan Community and the Office of Tibet are planning more community gatherings to honour Riki’s contributions. They have also extended their support to his family.
Throughout the day, I got in touch with some former colleagues and friends of Riki. Everyone was shocked and saddened by this untimely demise.
John Billington, a former Chairman of the Tibet Society and Tibet Relief Fund of the UK, said, “Riki was a key-stone in the Tibet Society and the support for Tibet. His long contact with Buddhism and with influential figures in London when there were still people around who knew Tibet and India from service in the Colonial Office (before 1947) gave him authority when speaking on Tibet issues. And his work for the Parliamentary Trust brought him into contact with MPs and overseas visitors so that he had a wide circle of influential friends and the valuable skill of negotiating compromises. At a time when the Tibet issue is on the rise again Riki’s measured advice will be much missed.”
Zara Fleming, a former Chairman of Tibet Society & Tibet Relief Fund of the UK, said, “…thinking about his passing this morning, I was remembering when we first met. I joined the Society in 1974 and became a volunteer working in the office (nr Victoria) with Rosemary Squires, and it was Riki who filled me in on so much – particularly the political situation by introducing me to the newsletters from the Czech refugee Josten. Then in 1976, he asked me to be on the Council – so for me he has always been the lynchpin of the society, the glue that held things together and he did an enormous amount for Tibet particularly through his parliamentary and Buddhist connections. He had some rough patches in his life, but always managed to rise above them with tolerance and acceptance and with a smile; he was a true gentleman full of kindness and compassion and will be much missed. May he rest in peace…”
It is well known within the small Tibetan Community in UK that their Spiritual Leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama had shown his fondness of Riki and often referred to him as an “old friend of Tibet”.
“The passing away of Riki Hyde-Chambers, OBE, during the early hours of 31st October, is a great loss for Tibet and the Tibetan people. As someone who has known and worked closely with Riki during my time at the Office of Tibet, London, and later at the Tibet Society, I know that he was not only a very staunch supporter of the just cause of Tibet and but also was extremely helpful especially in reaching out to parliamentarians and maneuvering the complex and historic British parliament building. He will be greatly missed. I wish him peace and my heart goes out to his family and close friends,” Tsering Tashi, a former Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at The Office of Tibet, London said.
Throughout the day, social media was flooded with tributes for Riki.
India-based Tibetan parliamentarian, Migyur Dorjee, who was a former Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at The Office of Tibet, London, wrote on his Facebook page, “I am saddened to learn untimely demise of my very dear friend Riki Hyde-Chambers. He was all weather a true friend of Tibet for decades and visited Dharamsala on many occasions with high level UK Parliamentary delegations. He was always first person to receive any Tibetan delegations from India to U K. I have no hesitation to say that he was instrumental in taking up many of Tibet related issues both in the UK and European Parliament when I was posted in London and Brussels. My heartfelt condolence to his family members. I will conduct a special Buddhist prayer service for his soul and urge every Tibetan to remember him in their prayers.”
Phuntsog Wangyal, founder of now-closed Tibet Foundation, who was also a former Tibetan MP and the first Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama based at The Office of Tibet in London, wrote, “Riki Hyde-Chamber was such a kind person, a real gentleman and special person who has done so much for so many people. He was a great supporter of Tibet and was the longest serving member of the Tibet Society of the UK.
“Riga and I have known Riki since 1973. We became good friends. Riki became a committed member of the Tibet Foundation. He has participated in many of Foundation events including recent Tibet Foundation documentary, “Getza -Helping Others”. He will be missed by all of us. We pray for him and send our condolences to his relatives and friends.”
During the afternoon, prayers were also recited at the Nepalese Buddhist Community Centre in Aldershot, where Riki served as an adviser.
Khenpo Tsewang Samdup, Spiritual Leader of the Buddhist Community Centre UK, wrote, “Riki Hyde-Chambers was such a kind person, a real gentleman and special person who has done so much for so many people. I have known Riki since 2007, We became good friends. He will be missed by all of us. We pray for him and send our condolences to his relatives and friends.”
Fredrick Hyde-Chambers OBE died on 31st October 2021, aged 77, at St. Thomas Hospital in London.
(Tsering Passang has worked with Riki Hyde-Chambers at Tibet Relief Fund and Tibet Society from 2007 to 2018).