John Marshall, my dad, was born in 1935 in the east end of Newcastle. He was evacuated for some of World War 11 to a big house on the outskirts of Carlisle. I remember my granny (his mam) telling me that she told his older brother, George (my uncle) to keep hold of his hand on the journey. John was four years old.
John served his National Service in the RAF. He then worked as a draftsman before attending evening classes and training as a teacher.
My lovely dad very sadly died last weekend. Whilst it was expected it is still obviously deeply sad. I have a wealth of wonderful memories.
One of my early memories was on a family holiday in Aberystwyth, Wales. It was a British summer, cold and somewhat wet but we children still wanted to go in the paddling pool. I remember sitting in the car warming up, wearing my dad’s jumper which went down to my knees!
My mam and dad, John and Audrey started the youth club at English Martyrs’ Church, Fenham when I was nine. This was the first time that anything like this had happened and I think it was actually quite a revolutionary step! Not everyone wanted to see (or look after) hordes of teenagers!
I was allowed to go to the youth club a few years later and this was a very happy time. Twice a week, hundreds of young people turned up at what became known locally the ‘Chicken Shack’. There was a disco, playing all the latest records and a canteen selling drinks and snacks. It was the place to be!
I don’t think I really appreciated it at the time but looking back I see that the youth club provided a safe place for kids from a wide range of backgrounds in the area to spend time with their friends and have fun.
My sister, Anne, went into youth work as a career, inspired by what my mam and dad did.
The youth club also organised camping holidays including trips abroad. One year my dad took us to France in an old (slightly) converted ambulance. That was really cool! He had no words of French (at all) but always managed to communicate somehow, through his positivity and lovely smile. Impressive!
My dad is the most optimistic person I know. My own children grew up with something of a saying, which went like this:
“What’s the weather going to be like today?”
“It’ll be sunny because granda said so!”
The youth club also put on a huge number of pantomimes. My mam directed and made the costumes and my dad invariably played the pantomime dame, often opposite his friend, Tom Laidler. These shows were something that certainly gave me confidence to perform onstage. I kind of ended up as Cinderella in the first one because no-one else would do it!
Alongside the youth club, John was a dedicated and successful secondary school teacher. He taught maths, woodwork and metalwork and also became a housemaster. He taught at John Marley School in Newcastle and St John’s and Edmund Campion in Gateshead.
John Marshall was a Newcastle City Councillor for many years, representing Wingrove ward. He became Lord Mayor of Newcastle in 2002, and was instrumental in Newcastle becoming a Fairtrade City. He was made an Honorary Alderman of the city in 2008.
One of the things that always impressed me about my dad was that he always stayed true to his beliefs and principles as part of the Labour Movement. He has been a real credit to the Labour Party and will be hugely missed.
His beliefs in social justice and his integrity led him and my mam to start a refugee project in Newcastle. For many years they gave up a huge amount of time each week, collecting food from the many churches and organisations that supported the project, as well as welcoming refugees and asylum seekers several times a week. They also promoted this cause through speaking at schools, churches and other venues.
John Marshall, a man of principle.
John Marshall RIP.