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Honorary Alderman David Gemmell OBE (1940-2024) was Chairman of The Deep from its inception to the time of his sad passing at the end of last month.  We feel this loss tremendously. 

Many tributes have been made to him which recognise his long and esteemed career, and dedication to the City of Hull. 

We would like to reflect here, in our own tribute, on the influence and work of David Gemmell on The Deep.  We have been moved to hear from so many people over the recent weeks who have recalled how proud David was of The Deep and, indeed, have recognised his enormous influence on its success over the years.

David would often reflect on his earliest memories of developing the concept of The Deep whilst working on the tourism strategy for the City of Hull, as the Councillor with the portfolio for leisure services, culture, media and sport.  He and Colin Brown (the then Director of Leisure Services at Hull City Council, who became the Chief Executive of The Deep until 2017) recognised that Hull was a great city for tourists but that it lacked an iconic visitor attraction to draw people from outside the region.  .

Inspired by a visit to the Natural History Museum in London in 1995, the concept of a ‘natural history museum of the sea’ was born on the train journey home and, from there, developed The Deep. 

Over the course of the next seven years David led the project team which raised £45.5 million in funding to realise the dream of building this Millennium Project.  The Deep opened in 2002 by which time its charity was formed and David was at the helm as its Chairman.  The Deep was an immediate success and work started straight away to increase its size, with a further £6.8m of funding secured to add an extension which opened in 2005. 


David was dedicated to The Deep’s commitment to marine conservation and education.  He loved the exhibits, and seeing the impact they had on our visitors.  As many others have reflected within their own tributes, David’s main love was people.  He was always so proud and supportive of The Deep’s Crew and the positive contribution everyone in the organisation was making towards The Deep’s mission.  We will miss his counsel immensely,” said Katy Duke, CEO, “To recognise the life and work of Honorary Alderman David Gemmell OBE, The Deep will create a permanent commemoration to him.”

Almost 30 years on, The Deep has been steered by David to become a world-class aquarium and charity, employing 150 people, welcoming nearly 10 million visitors to date and worth over £18m to the local economy every year.  David’s leadership over the years realised the further development and expansion of The Deep’s original build, guided new exhibitions and played a continued role in the regeneration of Hull through championing tourism.  Indeed, so much credit for all the positive impact that The Deep has had on the area and further afield has to go to David for his unfailing commitment to our work.

David led the Board throughout this time, missing only three meetings in almost thirty years.  His fellow Trustees remember him with both admiration and fondness. 

“The Deep simply would not exist without David's vision and determination. Hull is the poorer for the loss of one of its finest.” John Parkes, CBE, Vice Chair of The Deep.

“David’s chairmanship of the Deep was a sustained masterclass in balancing the needs of the trustees, the executive officers, the crew and external stakeholders - all for the sake of the people of Hull. A wise and compassionate man ambitious for others.” Professor Graham Chesters, Trustee of The Deep.

“His leadership and foresight of the Deep resulted in delivering a true icon for the City of Hull.  It has been a great privilege to have had David not only as colleague but as a true friend.”  Trevor Boanas, Trustee of The Deep

“David loved Hull and its people. His ambition for both almost literally knew no limits.

He didn't know when things were impossible, and not knowing, he went and did them anyway. He never doubted, never hated, was never unkind. He was a friend.

Sir Christopher Wren’s epitaph in St Paul's reads, "If you seek his monument look around"

If you want to know Dave, look at The Deep.” Colin Brown, former Chief Executive of The Deep


Whilst reflecting on David’s impact on The Deep we have enjoyed some memories as we have looked back on our photo archives

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