Grocott's Mail

Grocott's Mail 2013 06 June

28 June 2013

By Colin LEWIS

John Mayne ENGLISH was born in Ledbury in Herefordshire, England, on 13 January 1922. After attending school at Stowe, John left at the age of 15 to join his father as a learner-Farmer in Rhodesia.
In 1941 he Joined the Royal Air Force in Rhodesia and became a pilot. He served in Transport Command until 1945, flying Dakotas as far east as India, north to the Shetland Islands and south to South Africa. After John was demobbed he went to Cape Town to complete his degree in architecture at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Subsequently he practised in Northern and Southern Rhodesia.
In 1949 John married Joan WATSON, whom he had met at UCT. Joan was a great support for him, but died in 2004.
John was a gifted artist and in 1953 won a competition for the design of four Rhodesian stamps. He was also a gifted writer, and published a number of books for children based on African themes, which he illustrated with graphic pen and ink sketches. The two most notable were "The warthog story" and "How the kudu got its horns".
In 1962 John moved south to Johannesburg, but the bustling city held few attractions for him and he moved further south, to Grahamstown. John thoroughly enjoyed Grahamstown where, in the partnership of HOSKINS and ENGLISH, he made his mark in the restoration and extension of many significant buildings. His addition to the Anglican chapel at Hogsback is a masterpiece, as is his incorporation of the old facade into the rebuilding and extension of the Magistrates Court*. John was also involved in much domestic architecture and has left his mark indelibly on the small city*. John and Joan became members of the Cathedral community and John learnt to ring, rising to the heights of Plain Bob Doubles! When the tower and spire of the cathedral were restored under the guidance of John RENNIE, an architect then based in Cape Town, John acted as architect-in-residence.
I first met John ENGLISH in December 1983, when my family and I joined the cathedral band to ring for Evensong.
In 1990 the restoration of Grahamstown bells became the first project of The South African Guild of Church Bell Ringers. John was appointed as architect for the restoration. He supervised the cutting of the holes for the basal girders of the frame, and climbed the scaffolding to watch the frame installed, day after day, in spite of being over 70 at that time. Two years later, on 23 December 1993, the re-hung bells were rung for the first time. The first service ringing was on 25 January 1994 and John was one of the band.
A few years after the bells were restored John and Joan moved to a retirement complex in Fish Hoek, near the shores of False Bay, Cape Town. John continued his active life and, at the age of 83, had his first trip in a glider!
John died on 18 February 2013, leaving a son and grandson, both of whom he adored.
I remember John with gratitude: he was a true pioneer, a gentleman, and one of my best friends. A quarter peal in his memory was running at Bredwardine, in his native county of Herefordshire, in April. John always wanted bells rung half-muffled in his memory: we did not manage that but, instead, rang them open in gratitude for a life well-lived.
Jeremy BENTHAM - Grahamstown Provost Prison
By Caroline Van Der Mescht
Jeremy BENTHAM lived in England from 1748 to 1832. A successful lawyer who became concerned about the conditions of prisoners, he was a founder of Utilitarian philosophy, which desires "the greatest happiness for the greatest number" and a revolutionary thinker for his day.
He saw prisons as places for moral reform, and redesigned them on the panopticon (all-seeing) principle, exemplified in the Grahamstown Provost. He supported women's rights at a time when women were considered second-class citizens. He argued for animal rights, wanted to decriminalise homosexuality - then punishable by hanging - and to outlaw corporal punishment and execution, which in the 1700s was a public entertainment.
He donated his body to science, with some extraordinary conditions, all of which were kept. Firstly, one of his friends dissected his body in front of a gallery of medical students. Secondly, the bones were stripped of flesh and the skeleton, seated in his favourite chair, was dressed in one of his suits. The suit was stuffed with hay so that the body would look as it did in life. Thirdly, his head was mummified and placed on the body. The glass eyes he carried with him in his pocket in the years before his death were used. Finally, the skeleton, the suit and the head were all displayed in University College London, which considers BENTHAM it's spiritual founder, in a glassed "Auto icon" or self-display unit.
This was done in 1832, as his will required. However, passing years brought about changes. The mummification of his head was not successful, so a wax copy was made, reputedly with BENTHAM's own hair on it, and placed, with a straw hat, on the body. Students borrowed the head for pranks and now the Auto Icon is quadruple-locked.
Most bizarrely of all, BENTHAM stipulated in his will that his mummy should be taken to meetings, so he could participate as much as he was able. Minutes of these meetings list him as "present, but not voting." He has a deciding vote, always in favour of the motion.


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