Obituary – John Worlidge (C1 1942–46)

One of the joys of being the Secretary of the Marlburian Club was meeting so many outstanding OMs over the years, one of whom was John Worlidge. He was always an extremely modest man, but proved a natural at school before joining the Royal Engineers for National Service, where he won the award as the best Officer in his entry.

John then went on to St John’s College, Cambridge to read Mechanical Sciences and it was here that he took up rowing for the first time. He helped St John’s to be Head of the River twice and to win the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley in 1951. This was also the year in which he rowed at 5 in the winning Cambridge boat, when Oxford the indignity of sinking! The winning crew went on to beat Yale, Harvard, MIT and Boston. 1952 was the year John was selected to represent Great Britain in the Olympic Games at Helsinki, not a bad achievement for someone who had only taken rowing four years previously! In his final year St John’s awarded him the Larmor Award, which was given to the undergraduate who had contributed most the College in any one year. Understandably, John was very proud of this.

After Cambridge, John joined Wiggins Teape, the quality paper manufacturer, and he readily applied the principles of teamwork to build a successful management structure when he became Chairman in 1984. He was also appointed a Director of B.A.T Industries in 1980.

John had a long association with Marlborough College and was elected President of the Marlburian Club in 1986. In 1988 he joined the College Council and was soon appointed Chairman of the Finance Committee, in which role he worked tirelessly on the school’s behalf. As has been said earlier, he was a modest and down to earth man, but he was decisive and well-motivated and utterly reliable. He was always immense fun to be with and, when in the company of his two brothers –  Peter and Robert – and his three sons – David, Nigel and Mark, he was irrepressible. He was also a keen and able sailor and an ardent and enthusiastic golfer, possessed of the most lovely backswing.

His life was centred around his long and happy marriage to his wife, Margot, to whom he was devoted. Sadly, she suffered from Alzheimer’s and, typically, John worked hard to support research into this debilitating disease and the setting up and funding of the Hunter Centre in Haslemere. In addition, John had a strong Christian faith which underpinned his belief in family and fairness. He was a keen supporter of his local church, where he was Treasurer of the Friends until the age of 90. In every aspect of his life, he will always be remembered as a thoughtful and perceptive listener.

John lived a great life and gave a lot to this world. It was fitting that he should celebrate his ninetieth birthday at the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes, with a wonderful lunch for family and friends – a lovely gesture from a kind and generous gentleman.