Remembering Dr P John Alvey

Published on 04/18/2024 | by Waterline Admin

As featured in Waterline Spring 2024

Remembering Dr P John Alvey

It was with great sadness that we announced the passing of Dr P John Alvey in the Winter issue of Waterline. John was involved with WMSoc for over 30 years, and with the LCA from its inception.

During the 1990’s WMSoc struggled financially with Council members regularly dipping into their own pockets at Council meetings. John was instrumental in modernising the Society and making it financially secure. A highlight was the creation of the training department with the introduction of a wide range of accredited training courses. This provided the regular income that WMSoc needed.

Many WMSoc and LCA members were in attendance at John’s funeral where we all listened to his best friend Robin give an uplifting eulogy which centred largely on John’s private life. With the permission of Robin and John’s partner Bridget we have printed the eulogy in full below. John will be hugely missed by all who knew him.

A eulogy by Robin Norrie
We remember and celebrate the life of a person who was not just a thread, but a brilliant, iridescent streak of light that touched and brightened every life it intersected. Can I say this is not a reference to the gram of Plutonium, it is alleged John lost, while carrying out research at Harwell. I should perhaps add, John, strenuously denied this.

From the moment John and I met over 30 years ago, it was clear that we’d share laughter and countless pints of beer. It was in the simple moments, the quiet conversations, and the loud, boisterous laughter at outrageous jokes, that our friendship blossomed and grew.

His Ph.D in Chemistry was awarded for research into the F Block metallic chemical elements known as the Actinides series. Now John would be delighted I’m mentioning this, because he himself, would often recite this series of the periodic table in public. I remember on one occasion; he recited this string of elements on a train, with standing room only, to anyone who’d care to listen.

Being born a Yorkshire man, he had everything a civilised man could desire for a full life. With his wit, his erudition, his aristocratic Yorkshire birth right, he could have made his mark in any sphere of human activity he cared to choose. His first job was as editor of The Textile Institute Journal, based in central Manchester. It was not a job he enjoyed, nor did it pay well. It took him five years to escape but in 1978, he was appointed as a technical sales executive with Dearborn and was able to exchange his battered old Datsun for a Vauxhall Cavalier with kerb appeal.

At this time, John was living in Tyldesley Lancashire, and it was round about then, that John renewed his interest in singing, and was cast, as the lead male role, Tony, in the musical The Boyfriend. Now as we all know, John loved an audience. In the pub, in the car, on walks, on the phone, practically anywhere, and of course, onstage. The gaiety of Gilbert and Sullivan operas proved a roaring success for John, or should I say, Opera John, as he became known. And so, a glittering future of rampant stage success was assured.

John had the most wonderful voice. For many years, he was one of the principal tenor singers for the West Wirral, Chester, and Warrington operatic societies. Occasionally, he dipped his toe into drama. I don’t think he’d mind me saying, he so enjoyed playing the pompous old fool Bienassis, in Court in the Act, having sung this sort of role several times in Operetta. And I thought he was brilliantly cast as the innocent and naive Dr Bonny in “It Runs in the Family”

Now, for all his love of performing, John was a man of sensitivity and modesty, except when it came to Sheffield United. This was a very public love affair. I never did see his shantung Sheffield United Blazer and club tie. But I did see him donning his flat cap, drinking braces, muffler and moleskin waistcoat, with his replica Blades shirt, safely hidden by layers of sensible clothing.
His support for Yorkshire cricket was equally unequivocal and here, at least I could share his commitment and passion. As Yorkshiremen, we instinctively knew that the cover drive, the late cut, and the wristy leg glance were not the sole province of the upper classes.
The “Last of the Summer Wine Appreciation Group’ or Lotswag, as it was more commonly known, was born on a Charabanc excursion to Ludlow. It was as El Presidente that John’s leadership skills of this real ale drinking group, emerged. His credentials were impeccable. It was his inherent nobility and generosity and passion for bird watching, real ale and of course, storytelling that singled him out. All lotswagers know, how caring John was, and how each trip was planned meticulously, considering logistics, transport, distance between pubs, the quality of beer and, most importantly, the wellbeing of the membership.

Over the years, The Bird in Hand pub in Guilden Sutton has been a place of great comfort for John. It’s where John reached out for company and erm, the odd glass or three. He was one of the first to join the successful campaign, to save the pub. It was somewhat ironic then, that twelve months or so after the Pub was saved, John managed to close it.

He gave an impromptu performance of Nessun Dorma, on the pub car park at some time past 11pm, local residents complained to the licensing authority about being kept awake, who discovered that, for technical reasons, the pub’s license was no longer valid. The owner had to reapply for a license and the pub was closed for 30 days to satisfy the regulations. To this day, it still brings a smile to my face whenever I think about it, especially as Nessun Dorma means “None Shall Sleep”.

Then there is the story of John’s friend Keith Porter who owned a brewery. He still talks about the time, when John got a pub to cough up a bad debt, by pretending to be Keith’s “enforcer”. John was almost 20 stone in those days!

Now, John loved words. He was probably the best solver of cryptic crosswords, in Vivian’s crosswords group, that meet at our house. And he was particularly fond of spoonerisms. Who hasn’t heard him say, “The Toast is – the queer old Dean” and my favourite cake which he spoonerized into “Yorkshire Turd Cart.”

His refusal to cease dispensing jokes of profound feebleness is legendry. No-one can tell them like he did. And NO, I’m not attempting to tell his joke about the Guatemalan wide mouthed frog.

I know I speak for Driver Lane and Private Prendergast when I say how much we loved our annual trips to European battlefields with Bandsman Alvey. None of us, for example, will forget walking the trenches at Passchendaele and the carnage of Somme. The Menin Road & Kimmel Hill, on the Ypres Salient are just a few of the experiences we shared with John.

But I am also reminded of the countless moments of joy that we shared. These were beautiful moments, of laughter and camaraderie that enriched our lives in ways that words cannot encapsulate.

Bridget, John’s partner was with him for six years. She has told me that John, was one of the nicest, kindest, caring, and genuine people she’d ever known. John brought so much love and joy into her life, and she treasures all the memories she spent with him. John spoke to me about how happy you made him Bridget, and how lucky he was to have found you.

John was a beautiful person, inside and out; a kind caring soul, sharp, witty, and fun to be around; someone who brightened the lives of all those around him. His generosity knew no bounds. He was always ready to extend a helping hand to those in need. His heart was a beacon of kindness and compassion, in a bleak world that has forgot the essence of humanity.

So, I stand here, with a heavy heart and tears that threaten to overflow. John was more than a best friend; he was like the brother I never had. I am so sorry that he was taken from us, too soon, but I hope, as time passes, I will find it easier to hold him in my heart. Our lives are like rivers: Eventually they go where they must. Not where we want them to. I know, we all carry a piece of John with us.

But, as we remember John today, let us not dwell on the gaping hole left behind, but celebrate the incredible journey of a life well-lived.

For me, he was the opening batsman for Yorkshire Cricket, and I’m sad to say his superb innings on earth, is declared closed.

Thank you so much, John.
Robin Norrie
8th January 2024


Diary Dates & Events

Grime Scene


Following on from the successful Grime Scene competition, we have decided to continue the theme for another year, but with a twist. This year, we are asking for photographs of the grimiest pictures you can find accompanied with another photograph of how the ‘scene’ has been improved by your maintenance or cleaning.

We will display the photographs in each of the Waterline editions throughout 2024. The ‘most improved’ picture will be chosen by WMSoc members via an online vote. The winner will receive a £25 Amazon Gift Voucher after the Winter 2024/25 edition has been published.

Please send your photographs to:
[email protected].

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