John and the countryside
John had a rural upbringing,
and enjoyed huge freedom if slightly unruly. He and his brother
David were adventurous boys living through a wartime childhood,
where it was common to see the bombers overhead. He on one occasion
was straight out on his bike with his brother David to see a
bomber crash near his home in Chelmsford. When he was living
in Mount Bures there was a bomb dump, which stretched from Craigs
lane to Pebmarsh and Bakers Hall to Earls Colne, these were
concrete pads at the side of the road where the bombs were stored
and collected when needed, then taken to Earls Colne or Wormingford
which were both bomber bases. John said:" a patrol truck
would often ride around and catch us boys climbing on the heaps
which they did not agree with" John always talked fondly
of coming to live in Mount Bures making the move from Chelmsford.
How the children at Bures School made him and David very welcome,
it was a very happy time where they could make dens, roam freely,
sometimes too freely where no one knew quite where they were.
Johns love for his surroundings and the countryside came from
this rural childhood.
He told a story where he went
swimming in the Bures river: "one boy dared another
that he couldn't hang over the side of the bridge by his finger
tips, which he then did. The first boy then stood on his fingertips
which was when his swimming lessons came in handy!"
Another time he and David some how got hold of a fuel tank which
would have been carried on the underside of an airplane to increase
range that were often jettisoned over the countryside, John
said; "we cut a hole in the top also fixing a wooden
keel on the bottom and when we put it in the river it floated
taking the two of us comfortably, from this we used to fish".
this showed even at a young age John`s engineering skills.
It was at school in Bures that
Johns love for woodwork and veg growing flourished. They had
a vegetable plot and encouraged children to grow their own.
His love and knowledge of gardening was for many of us a defining
memory of him. He was full of hot tips for growing all kinds
of plants and probably had the biggest geranium ever seen in
Mount Bures. I remember l had the best leek crop from seedlings
he gave me. John always supplied the Church Christmas tree and
also one for the last 34 years to Christine and Alan.
John recalled his last day of
school in 1949 when the school master said to him:-
"that he would give him a reference for a job if you
can get one "
to this l replied "I already had one"
So the Master said, " If someone gave you a shovel and
faced you the right way you may dig them a trench!"
A few years after the Master retired he returned to Mount Bures
and as John recalled
'l made a point of speaking to him and asked if he remembered
me, after a minute he did and said " well what happened
to you?" when l told him he hit my shoulder and said
" I knew somehow you would do alright"
This 'doing alright' this making something of himself was important
to John he was a man who worked hard at each stage of his life
whether it be making the most out of his childhood adventures,
excelling in the things that interested him at school, his National
Service, working hard at work, working hard to build a family
home and garden and the church and this community.
John did his National Service
volunteering in 1952 for the Army Catering Corps, he didn't
last long here before he and his skills were transferred to
the Royal Army Service Corps. It was whilst in this unit that
he was sent to London to help with logistics for the Queen`s
"We started the Coronation Day with Reveille at 0200hrs,
and off to Bagshot Barracks to make two runs carrying troops
into Hyde Park, ready to march onto the route. Then it was back
to 20 Company for a brush up and change into our new blue No1
Dress. All of these uniforms had been tailor made and ?tted.
We assembled on our parade ground for an inspection of our uniforms
and lorries, with each driver stood next to his lorry. There
were teams of three to hand out the rations. It was then off
to Chelsea Barracks to load up and then assemble in Birdcage
Walk in the right order to drive around the route and stop at
given points as our turn came from the back of the convoy. My
stopping point was 200 Oxford Street. One man stood in the truck
handing the rations to the two on the ground, who, in tum, handed
them on to the troops until we reached the next section. We
then drove off the Hyde Park until" the next feed-. This
was an experience one could never in a lifetime hope to see
again. it seems hard for me to realise now that I took part
But at the end of the day, we did not see the Coronation Procession,
but as compensation, 20 Company purchased a projector television
so we could see it back at the Barracks"
John always had a story and his
farming tales were legendary this one is from the time he worked
for Billy McMaster at Mount Bures Hall.
"The farm bull was housed
in a loose box between the old farm buildings and the churchyard.
Every evening the head cowman would walk him round the yard,
and let him drink from the water butt. One Sunday, when they
approached the butt, the bull put his head down and tossed Frank
into the water, and then, to Frank's advantage, the bull tipped
the water butt over him, which saved him from drowning.
On another occasion, the vet came over from Halstead to do something
to the bull, and when he came his appearance upset the bull,
which prevented the cowman from catching him. As the vet was
looking through a hole in the boards, the bull also tried to
look out, and put his nose ring through the boards. The vet
grabbed it, shouting " l got the sod!" but when the
bull snatched back his head the ends of the vets fingers were
The vet was then taken to the doctors, leaving the bull to settle
down. One can well understand why artificial insemination was
to become the in thing for cows!"
John went on to work for W.A
Church where in 1969 he took charge of their new seed plant.
John was a natural engineer knowing how to make things and repair
things and understanding how they work. Not just out of necessity
but also out of a creative desire to make things. He with Sheila
rebuilt their house, which had been derelict for 10 years. He
transported all the flints, which made up many of the garden
walls, from Ferrier' s pits and laid them in the evenings, whilst
Sheila pushed the wheelbarrow. The robust and well-made kitchen
cupboards he made in his kitchen were testimony to his skill
and precision. This became their beloved Catchlands the home
they shared together for 62 years, the home they brought Simon
into and welcomed Ruth into and the home they loved and seeing
their grand children Amy, Lucy, Sophie and Oliver
John was a keen historian this
was a more community driven effort than an academic pursuit.
He wanted people to know where they lived so that they could
understand and take pride in it. John was the fountain of all
knowledge regarding The Church. John loved this church and took
huge pride in maintaining it we are truly blessed that his stewardship
over the years has left us with such a sound building for future
generations. It wasn't all about the building,
John a committed Christian was at the centre of this Church
family and was involved in every facet. Over the last year even
though we were closed for some of it we both watched the congregation
grow and marveled together with excitement for the future.
Good judge of character
John was an absolute rock in
the Mount Bures community; he was on the PCC and a founding
member of the MB Connections. He loved to socialize. He always
had an open door policy and enjoyed spontaneous visitors to
Catchlands where you would always be offered a cup of tea and
a biscuit. it was easy to enjoy every conversation with John
as he had such huge knowledge of the village and fascinating
stories. When new people moved into the village their ?rst encounters
of John were all very similar: friendly and warm and welcoming
he had an easy familiarity like you had known him for years.
He had a dry sense of humour and loved seeing the out come of
a controversial comment! He could sum up people really quickly
apparently he said of me that: "she don't half chatter"
Hugs..... The master of hugging. Every lady here today would
have had a John hug; he was a pro and the go to person for a
hug. l know how he missed these when social distancing came
in. He always said; 'a hug makes all the difference' and he
was right there.
The Flower Festival
When not visiting other Church
Flower festivals around the country John and Sheila could be
seen manning the Church for the Flower festival here and it
was on one of these occasions they firts met Sheryl.
ln her words they were: " the reason l became involved
in the Church and the wonderful Mount Bures community. l am
eternally grateful to them both and l subsequently got married
in the church and became a Churchwarden."
He was a man of his word he promised
Sheila that when they married he would look after her so she
didn't need to work and indeed he did, they were a formidable
team and together achieved great things they were members of
this community they were doers and their legacies in many ways
will live on. John adored his family and last summer he was
able to spend precious time in the garden with them, which l
know, will have created lasting memories for them all. He also
regularly spent time with his brother David. Over the last year
John had a difficult time learning to live with the loss of
Sheila and his body slowing down. But his mind never did and
he was always open to new things including his venturing into
the world of spicy food, Zoom, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Home made wine
John wrote: "While I
was working on the farm there was a man called Bill Crack who
lived in one of the two cottages at Hobbs Well, which could
only be reached by crossing an arable field. He invited me to
his home, so l set off on my bicycle, and, after trying some
of his home made wine, my bicycle refused to even be pushed
in a straight line. This was a lesson l never forgot."
Does this experience sound familiar
to anyone who might have drunk John's homemade wine ? l have
only touched on a few moments of John's long and interesting
life. What a great man. A man we all knew in our own individual
ways, a man who right up until the end was embracing the new.
From the moment we are born we recognize within ourselves an
insatiable hunger for more life. We try to grasp onto every
experience enjoy every relationship and maximize every opportunity.
This was the John l knew.