Monday, 17 November 2014

Goodbye John Walton

John as a warden on Brownsman

John (far right) in Seahouses during his five year wardening period

John (left) Gloria Shop manageress dressed as a Puffin (!) and Maureen (right)

Half-man, half-Puffin; Johnalways having a laugh

Monday 17th comments: Gone but certainly won’t be forgotten! Today John Walton has retired having served the Farne Islands and the Northumberland coast since 1990. John spent five years as a warden on the Farnes from 1979-83 before moving on to other seasonal countryside jobs in the UK. In the mid-1980’s John returned to the islands for several seasons to undertake the ‘Seal Contract’. The Farne Islands runs deep in his blood and in 1990 John handed the ‘top job’ as the Farne Islands and Northumberland Coast Property Manager.

John and his wife Maureen then moved to Seahouses to overlook planet Farnes… and what a mean feat that has been! The Farnes require round the clock attention and often things do not go to plan. The unpredictability of the weather, sea conditions and general island living cannot be stressed enough. Thankfully when things go wrong we remind ourselves of the many stories John could tell and know that no matter what- John had been there and done it before.

In later years, I took up the day-to-day running of the Farnes whilst he dealt with more managerial work. With his endless knowledge of the Farne Islands and natural history, I could always rely on him for a good chin wag and a few laughs along the way. During one of our infamous calls I interrupted the phone call with a series of expletives that would make even Gordon Ramsey blush; I had just seen a Humpback Whale breach near the islands. As ever John took it with good spirit and just a hint of jealously as we shared another one of those ‘Farnes moments’. During his reign there was certainly many of them!

Maureen didn’t have the opportunity to escape the wrath of the Farne Islands either as the ‘distinctive smell’ of wardens would linger long after they left John’s home office and with the patience of a saint (and a strong stomach) Maureen provided support to John and the demands that were placed on him as our property manager.

For me personally, I have always had John as part of my Farnes family. I started as a seasonal warden in March 2001 (what a mistake that was John!) and since then he’s always been there to guide and advise me. Like any boss/employee relationship we had our ‘moments’ but John always had the ability to make me laugh when the chips were down (and for pointing out my numerous grammar mistakes- of which there were many!)

John departed Seahouses for the final time today after 24 years. The Farnes will not be the same without him it really is the end of an era. John was not only an important figure to the Farne Islands but also to the local community and will be greatly missed. From all of us on the Farnes, we would like to wish John and Maureen all the happiness in the world and we hope you enjoy every minute of your retirement; you deserve it. You can take the boy from the Farnes but you’ll never take the Farnes from the boy. Good luck John!

David Steel, Monday 17th November 2014.

3 comments:

Gavin Crook said...

Is there to be a party? Have I missed it? I spent 2 extremely happy seasons as an assistant warden working with John in the early 80s and have many wonderful memories of his wit and wisdom. Many other memories featured him indirectly: the shout across a busy Inner Farne asking "John! What's the German for shag?" will remain with me for ever. I wish him all the best for a happy retirement, which I am sure he will spend, not only with Maureen, but also with his good friends, Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan. Regards, Gavin Crook (1981, 1982)

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