Heath Old Boys Association


Obituaries


John Roger Wilkinson: [Heath 1942–1949]

After a long illness, patiently borne, and increasingly poor eyesight, the death took place of John Roger Wilkinson (always known as Roger) on 29th September 2004. Born in Halifax on 15th June 1931, his father and two uncles had a family engineering business, William Wilkinson and Co. just above Cow Green, where they produced small parts for the woollen mills of the West Riding. His mother, who became librarian at the Boothtown branch library, was adamant that he should not enter the family business and work such long hours, so that after he left Heath, he took up a place at Manchester University to study Mathematics.

Roger left Heath Grammar School in 1949 — remembered as a tall, statesman-like character with dark hair and glasses giving him a wise and learned countenance, always welcoming and helpful, but with a slightly distant air. His poor eyesight exempted him from active National Service, and he spent six years at De Havilland’s at Hatfield in Hertfordshire, where he worked on the aerodynamics of military planes. At the end of this compulsory stint, he ventured into oil exploration with Seismographic Services Ltd. As an engineer he produced field data and records which were then computed into sub-surface contour maps for companies like Shell and Mobil.

At this time he met and married Muriel, one of the team responsible for the production of the maps. They were married on 19th August 1959 during Roger’s mid-contract leave from the company, and Muriel joined him for his second year in the Niger Delta, where she taught geography in one of the few girls’ boarding schools in Nigeria which happened to be near-by.

They then returned to Britain, and settled down in Derby with Roger working in the aero engine division of Rolls Royce, and enjoyed ten years of family life when all three of the children — two daughters and a son — were born. Roger moved into management services, but a growing dislike for military hardware led him in 1971 to Kendal to join Westmorland Country Council, which a few years later became Cumbria County Council. He became a roving trouble-shooter in management services for the County Council, which gave rise to a family joke that when their children were asked, What does your daddy do? they usually replied, He walks around, looking inscrutable, carrying a notebook!

Sadly, he contracted Hodgkin’s disease in 1984, and although chemotherapy and radiation cured the cancer, they affected his lungs, and about 2000 his lungs and heart began to weaken. However, Muriel and the family felt that they were fortunate that he had twenty years of ’borrowed’ time, as at the time he was cured of cancer, a five year survival rate was thought to be a success. He took early retirement in 1988, and by the time he died, all three children had married and had produced two grandchildren each.

The greatest development in his life was when he met, in the course of his work, a member of the Bahá'í Faith and finding their beliefs matched his own in survival and ecology he became a member in 1973. After his retirement he continued active Bahá'í work, and also worked for WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), WDM (World Development Movement), UNA (United Nations Association) and FOE (Friends of the Earth). He also had a lifelong love of music, developed through the use of a pianola belonging to some relatives, and which now stands in the lounge at home. His short sight had prevented him ever learning to play an instrument.

The Heath Old Boys’ Association sends their deepest sympathy and condolences to his widow, Muriel, their children, Susan, Elizabeth and Andrew, their husbands and wife, his six grandchildren, and also to his sister, Margaret.