Obituary: John Bateson (CR 1973-98)

John Bateson (CR 1973-98) died suddenly on Tuesday 16th May. He was a long-time modern languages teacher at the College, from 1973 to 1998 and thereafter a familiar figure in the town and supporter of many activities.

At the College he was an inspiring teacher of German and the first Head of the subject. One of his remarkable achievements was the organisation of Advanced Level exchanges in which pupils were allocated to individual schools, spread around the country and staying for a whole term, so that they had total immersion in the language and culture. This involved John in much travelling, but brought contacts that enabled him to teach in two German schools at Salem and Birklehof. Under John’s direction the weekly News Sheet developed from a rather straightforward, factual chronicle into a publication which engaged with any current topical news. Often controversial and hard hitting it provided early journalistic experience that was a foundation for some who now write for national newspapers. John’s chief activities though were musical. He possessed a fine alto voice and was a most accomplished keyboard player. These skills he used to the full, whether it was founding the May Day Madrigals, accompanying young pupils or directing the Chamber Choir. He also played a sporting role, refereeing football and coaching tennis.

John had to take very early retirement, on medical grounds. But this did not prevent him from playing a very active part in many activities in the town. At St John’s School he was instrumental in setting up the Year 10 interviews that precede work experience and he also gave much help to the Learning Support programme for students on courses at Swindon, who were in work placements. At the Tourist Information Centre he was one of a trio, who had between them over a century of experience in the town. This they used to give wonderful service to the many enquirers who visited and it allowed John to use his language skills, often to tourists’ surprise. Their B & B booking service was unrivalled and sadly discontinued when the County closed the TIC. Beyond the town John gave notable service to the Appeals Panel of the Swindon Education Authority. Even when his sight deteriorated John spent many hours mastering the documents that this work necessitated. Although he did not travel in recent years he maintained contact with abroad through an internet advisory service via Bulgaria. He also kept in touch with many of his ex- pupils one of whom wrote; “I have hundreds of pages of correspondence.. a wonderful chronicle of both our lives”.

John’s sudden, and untimely, death means a huge loss to his many friends from the College, the town and to ex-pupils far and wide. John was single and had no relatives: at his direction there is to be a private cremation.

Christopher Joseph