Lives Remembered: John Ormiston

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The Independent Online

John Ormiston, who died on 9 January aged 93, led a life embracing local politics in Richmond and Kingston, service in the Second World War, which saw him evacuated with the BEF from Dunkirk and rise to the rank of major, and some 50 years working for the family wire-making business.

But it is perhaps his extraordinary devotion from childhood onwards to boating activities on the River Thames - rowing, skiffing and canoeing - for which he will be long remembered.

John, or Jack as he was invariably known because he had a a twin sister Jill, was four years old when he was regularly taken from the family home in Richmond-upon-Thames on outings up the river in their skiff, on one occasion as far as Oxford. At Westminster School he began what was to turn out to be a distinguished career in rowing. After leaving school he joined the London Rowing Club, with whom he competed at Henley, winning the Wyfold Challenge Cup for fours in 1937. And, following the interruption of the War, he channelled his energies into supporting and organising rowing, rising to become president of the London Rowing Club and chairman of the Remenham Club, an association of tideway rowing clubs.

His love of boating and the river far from exhausted by these activities, he became president of the Skiff Club, was a founding member and later chairman of the River Thames Society and helped to establish the Richmond Boat Project for disabled river users. He was also a long-time member of the Royal Canoe Club.

Jack was born in Richmond on 21 January 1916. From school he joined the family business which, since the late 18th century has been making speciality wire, in part for rigging sailing craft. Commissioned in November 1939, he found himself in action at Dunkirk and went on to serve in the Middle East and Germany, achieving the rank of major. He was mentioned in despatches in 1944.

Jack was a man of prodigious interests. On rejoining the family firm, he took a keen interest in small businesses. One of his achievements was becoming Honorary Treasurer of the National Association of British Manufacturers and helping, in 1972, to form EUROPMI, an organisation representing smaller enterprises across the EC; he later became its president. He was also a JP between 1964 and 1977, served on the councils of Kingston and Richmond-upon-Thames and was a governor of the Royal Star and Garter Home for disabled ex-servicemen and women, another Richmond institution.

Jack, whose first wife Phyllis predeceased him, is survived by two sons and two daughters and his second wife Brenda.


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