Historical records matching Nakdimon Shabbethay (Nacky) Doniach
About Nakdimon Shabbethay (Nacky) Doniach
Nakdimon (“Naky”) Shabetai Doniach, also known as “Don”  was born in London in May 1907 to poor Russian Jewish immigrants and educated at Haberdashers’ Aske’s school . His father Aaron had previously been arrested by the Russian secret police for Zionist activities, had worked to set up Jewish schools for girls in the East End of London and was a noted Arabic scholar at Oxford and SOAS, the first person to hold an academic post in Modern Hebrew; he was scion of the ancient 11th century Don-Yahya family. His mother Rahel Chaikin was a noted intellectual, poet and playwright, and a founder of WIZO, the Womens’ International Zionist Organisation. A brilliant student of Hebrew, Arabic and numerous other oriental and ancient languages at various London University Colleges from the young age of 15 years, he then proceeded to Wadham College Oxford, winning many prizes to finance his studies. He visited his mother in Palestine (Israel) in the 1920’s and later as a private scholar and bookseller, wrote many learned papers on Jewish history.
His remarkable linguistic skills saw him head-hunted from the RAF (which he joined in 1940) to serve at Bletchley Park but very little is known of his work there . The family lived at Leighton Buzzard, within commuting distance from BP. His daughters suspect he worked in Air Intelligence and translation . The only – and very typical – BP anecdote that was related by Naky concerned a late afternoon near the lake. A colleague, Arthur Cooper, was sipping tea with Naky as they were engaged in deep conversation. Not noticing that the tables had been taken away, Cooper gracefully and slowly was lowering his cup onto an invisible table top, and reached instead the surface of the lake, his eyes still on Naky as he spoke; the cup and saucer gently and slowly floated off into the sunset.
After 11 years in the RAF he was moved to GCHQ and throughout the Cold War was in charge of teaching Russian (and overseeing the teaching of Chinese) to Foreign Office officials, servicemen and others, and creating vital technical Russian dictionaries for the Intelligence Services. After retirement he moved to Oxford as a teacher and editor of Oxford University Press Dictionaries, especially in Modern Hebrew and Arabic Usage, and was much loved by both his Israeli and Arab colleagues in various Israeli and British universities. In 1932 he married Thea, daughter of the famous Polish Jewish artists Leopold Pilichowski and Lena Pillico; Thea died in 1986. For his scholarship and Intelligence work he was awarded the OBE in 1967. He died in April 1994 .