Obituary: George da Costa

Born Ramsgate, February 1, 1923. Died Broadstairs, October 14, 2008, aged 85.


Chairman of the trustees of the Montefiore Endowment from its formation in 1989, George Gomes da Costa, known more familiarly as George da Costa, devoted himself to maintaining the continuity of its service and monuments .

He lived in Ramsgate, the country seat of Victorian magnate and philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore, and then neigbouring Broadstairs for the rest of his life.

He only left the area twice: once when his school was evacuated to Shropshire during the Second World War, and again, after leaving school, during his wartime service as a captain in the 17th Air Formation Signals.

After the war, he started in business as an importer and wholesaler of toys, and at first supplemented his income by joining the Territorial Army. Eventually his business grew to such an extent that he became chairman of the Toy Wholesaler Association and of the local Small Business Bureau.

With a strong sense of obligation to the local community, he also joined the special constabulary and finished his service as its commandant before retiring in 1983 after 25 years of service.

He devoted much of his time to looking after the affairs of the Montefiore Synagogue and College at Ramsgate, and continued his efforts without interruption after the college moved to London in the 1960s.

Undeterred by the synagogue’s rapidly dwindling attendance after the war, he went on caring for it and eventually acted single-handedly as warden, reader, minister and shamash.

The preservation of Sir Moses Montefiore’s heritage at Ramsgate owes much to his tireless efforts.

He was held in great affection at the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue at Lauderdale Road, London, where his rendering of the Prayer for Dew was, for many years, a much-loved feature of the Passover service.

His last 15 years were marred by health problems, severely affecting his mobility, and by the death in 2000 of his wife, Joan née Bueno de Mesquita, whom he married during the war.

But he endured these trials and increasing pain with stoicism and even some optimism, and gained great pleasure from his family’s frequent visits to Broadstairs.

He continued to make new friends, win bridge tournaments and enjoy cruises almost to the end of his life. Above all, he loved his religion.

He is survived by two sons, a daughter, and nine grandchildren.

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