Pim, Sir Richard Pike (1900–87), inspector-general of RUC, was born 10 July 1900 in Dunmurry, outside Belfast, second son of Cecil Pim (1870–1942), managing director of the Greenmount Spinning Co., and his wife, Marie Pike of Keady, Co. Armagh. Both parents came from renowned quaker families which had settled in Ireland in the seventeenth century. Richard was sent as a boarder to Castle Park school, Dalkey, Dublin (1909). His father was originally from Dublin and an uncle, Jonathan Pim (qv), was attorney general of Ireland in 1914–15. From 1911 Richard's education was in England, first at Bilton Grange School, Dunchurch, Warwickshire (1911–14), and then at Lancing College, Sussex. He spent holidays on his uncle's estate in Newport, Co. Mayo. In 1916 his parents sold up and moved to Dublin, since his father felt the linen industry was dead. They lived the rest of their lives in Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire).
His brother's death in August 1918 left Richard an only child. After school he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) and worked for a year as a midshipman, before proceeding to TCD in October 1919. He spent only eighteen months in college, leaving to join the RIC, which was badly in need of new recruits due to recent casualties (he later returned to take his degree and graduated BA in 1927). On 25 June 1921, two weeks short of his twenty-first birthday, Pim became the RIC's youngest district inspector, and was appointed to Limavady, Co. Londonderry in the closing stages of the Anglo–Irish war. The July truce was disturbed in this area when the IRA captured fifteen men from the village of Feeny on 19 December and marched them to the Sperrin mountains. Pim, with the help of Col. McClintock, Tyrone commandant of the Specials, secured their release.
On 11 March 1922, just before the RIC's disbandment, Pim joined the Northern Ireland administration and was appointed to the ministry of home affairs. After helping set up the RUC, he was made private secretary in 1925 to the minister, Sir R. Dawson Bates (qv). Two years later he had charge of the home office branch dealing with petty sessions courts and licensing laws. In November 1935 he accompanied the coffin of Edward Carson (qv) from Kent to Belfast, and the following month was made assistant secretary for home affairs. He was temporarily transferred in 1939 to the cabinet secretariat in London to assist the prime minister, before being mobilised for naval service after the outbreak of war. Churchill, then first lord of the admiralty, was so impressed by Pim's intelligence, efficiency, and discretion that he immediately appointed him head of the ‘map room’ at Admiralty House, and had him promoted to captain (4 May 1940). Six days later Churchill became prime minister and moved Pim and the map room to Downing St, where they remained for the duration of the war, with a brief respite when Pim took part in the evacuation from Dunkirk.
This was the most exciting period of Pim's life – he devotes a third of his unpublished memoirs to the war years. The ‘map room’ was an extraordinary makeshift room designed to plot the course of the war and fitted out with maps of the war zones and with naval, air, and civil-defence statistics. It – and Pim – accompanied Churchill to conferences at Quebec, Casablanca, Cairo, and Yalta. Roosevelt was so impressed that he enlisted Pim's help in having a similar installation designed for the White House. Thanks to Pim the Northern Irish contingent in the room was strong; he personally appointed the young Jack Sayers (qv), future editor of the Belfast Telegraph. Soon after the war ended Pim was knighted (24 August 1945).
He was appointed inspector-general of the RUC on 31 July 1945. He took over at a time of change for the RUC, when women were being recruited and when crime and traffic accidents would begin to soar in the postwar period. Using his wartime experience, he set up two map rooms, one to plot patterns in accidents and identify black spots, and the other for crime. He brought in cars equipped with radio-telephones, and encouraged the public to use the new ‘999’ emergency number. In the early 1950s the RUC had to mount recruiting campaigns for the first time since numbers had fallen below 3,000, of which fewer than 400 were catholics. Although Pim complained that catholics were intimidated by extremists from taking up posts, he was aware of their problems with the RUC, and argued against legislation – such as the 1954 flags and emblems act – which alienated them from the state.
The biggest challenge of Pim's tenure was the IRA border campaign, launched 11 December 1956. The RUC was well prepared; after negotiating a bigger budget, Pim had set up the reserve force – a 150-strong force, deployed along the border area, organised into five platoons, and heavily armed. In addition 200 Specials were mobilised for full-time duty, and several border roads were cratered. Pim also sought and obtained (11 August 1957) a curfew from 11.00 p.m. to 5.30 a.m. in Newry and parts of Armagh. Internment was brought in on both sides of the border. On 4 May 1957 Pim defused a bomb on his boat while sailing on Strangford Lough with his wife; he had discovered a burning fuse connected to gelignite. Severing the fuse, he headed for shore, without alarming his wife. The IRA was blamed but the RUC investigative team was aware that the likely culprit was a fellow officer, DI Malcolm Crawford, son of Lt-col. Fred Crawford (qv), and son-in-law of a former NI prime minister, John Andrews (qv). Apparently resentful over lack of promotion, Crawford had first come under suspicion on 17 December 1955 when poisoned mince pies were sent to Pim's private residence, Mullagh Cottage, Killyleagh, Co. Down. Confronted in January 1958, he was forced to resign. The affair was hushed up.
The border campaign ended 26 February 1962, having claimed the lives of six RUC men and ten IRA members. Pim had retired a year earlier, in January 1961, and in June 1962 he was appointed national governor of BBC Northern Ireland, at an annual salary of £1,500. After five years he retired, saying that the job was only rubber-stamping and that he was old and deaf. Nevertheless he lived another twenty years, before dying in hospital in Belfast on 26 June 1987. He was predeceased by a year by his wife, Marjorie Angel, daughter of John Young of Dungiven, Co. Londonderry, and survived by two sons.
Pim was tall, good-looking, and immaculately dressed, with a direct, charming, humorous, down-to-earth manner which was masked, however, by initial shyness. A unionist who perceived the need for reform, in 1966 he congratulated Jack Sayers on his Belfast Telegraph articles espousing liberal reform. However, with the resurgence of the IRA and the imposition of direct rule a few years later, he grew more defensive and, in his unpublished memoirs, accused the civil rights movement of being infiltrated by Trotskyite socialists, and Britain of selling out its friends to appease its enemies. He was particularly galled by what he saw as the humiliation of the RUC, and decried the disbandment of the B Specials, the setting up of inquiries which he thought bad for police morale, and the appointment in 1970 of an Englishman, Sir Arthur Young, as head of the RUC – a position that Pim felt only an Ulsterman could undertake. His unpublished memoirs are in PRONI.