(June 2003) The Funeral Address for John the Tramp

My dear friend John Peter Gregory passed away on Tuesday 29th of April and died of natural causes. I was fortunate enough to have seen him the evening before and he was in great form both physically and mentally, so his passing came as quite a shock to me and my boys less than 24 hours later.

Over the past few weeks I have gained much comfort finding out the number of friends who cared and supported John in so many ways. Some I have spoken to, others through evidence I have seen of gifts left at his home after his passing. I think John has made an imprint on all our hearts. I know how special he was to me and I hope I can accurately portray a true picture of John and his life through what I was told by him and from his friends.

John was born in Blackpool on May 19th 1933 and he lived in a boarding house for many years. He was to celebrate his 70th birthday on Monday and thankfully the boys and I had discussed with him the evening before his passing our birthday plans. We had decided it was going to be a big chocolate cake and a belting rendition of happy birthday! And of course loads of candles, the works for such a special occasion.

You understand John loved music and song! His little radios he so meticulously looked after gave him so much joy. He loved Classic FM. One day I came knocking he opened his door and he said did you hear it? And I said no John what? The Planet Suite! It was fantastic!- 10 minutes it went on for. He was delighted. John never ceased to fascinate me.

The next part of his life (circa 1963) and for years after that he drove a frozen food delivery truck. What happened after this period is a blur, and he ended up living in a bus shelter in Tamworth in a syndicate? For 5 years. He told me he decided to leave because someone had been pilfering his money and food.

How did he end up here? I will try to get this right but if not 100% it is very close to how it happened. Well John was seen in September time trundling up Sunrising hill on the Stratford to Banbury road pushing his large trolley when he was first spotted by a future friend. John had then stopped in front of Sunrising house and was rummaging through a large dustbin. Later his friend spotted John sat on the verge reading a large broadsheet (like the Sunday Times) with all the one hundred and one supplements neatly laid out in piles all around him. This was John and he also loved reading and crossword puzzles.

His friend asked him where he was going and he was heading for a hostel he had heard of in Enstone. Thankfully his friend the carpenter as John always called him when he spoke to me enquired about this hostel and it didn’t exist so John ended up travelling to Sibford and there he stayed. He had a beautiful spot where he lived and thanks to the carpenter fresh water, wood and provisions. This friend the carpenter meant so much to John and he always spoke of him with such fondness. He would say the carpenter came to see me yesterday and they would discuss their mutual love of football, John being a Blackpool supporter. John would also share his fruit with the carpenter if he had any spare. I can only thank the carpenter from the bottom of my heart for all he did for John.

Another important family in John’s life let him have his tin hut where he set up his home. I am sure without his tin hut he would not have survived the winter as it kept him warm and dry. This also showed another side of John he was meticulous about how he kept his possessions and in his own funny little way he was very house-proud. Once again I can only say thank you to all of you who made such a difference to John’s life in so many ways. I would also like to thank Vicar Timothy Wimbush and Rebecca from Cherwell District Council for making today so special. John used to open up his door and say Hello love! I adored him and he knew it. I think it happened when I said do you need any new shirts and he replied, oh yes a 17½ collar please!

I don’t know if you know but he was 6 foot 2 and had a size 12 shoes, he was a very tall graceful man. Another day he asked me if I liked to dance! Well this was my passion in life and what was John’s? It was ballroom dancing he loved to waltz and to fox-trot! He was truly a gentleman.

There was one thing I did give John. He would say bye-bye love with a wink and a nod and then I would blow him a kiss bye-bye… love you. I adored him.

So let’s dance…

I’m Alright.
In memory of John.

“I’m alright,” you told us when we asked
And stopped to talk, on our way past.
We didn’t like to pry or interfere
For freedom is a thing we all hold dear.

It seemed your right to choose which way to live,
But it challenged us, in what we had to give.
We were safe inside, comfortable and warm,
While you sat in your tin hut, braving the storm.

Your large tin candle and your radio,
Were all the worldly goods you had on show,
To give you company in the long dark night.
Yet still you smiled and told us; ‘I’m alright.’

You chose our village as your stopping place,
And thanked us for our offerings with grace.
How right the term, “A Gentleman of the Road”,
For in your quietness, that quality showed.

We’re sad you’ve gone, but I think it’s fair to state
That in our village history, we’ll call your place John’s Gate.
May you walk Heaven’s roads now, in the warmth of Angel light.
You touched our hearts, John. Be more than just “alright”.

Jo Huckvale, May ’03