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Newsletter, October 2015 (Issue 201)

Dr John Blatchly


Dr John Blatchly, MBE, MA, PhD, Hon LittD, FSA

It would be remiss of me to let this edition of the Newsletter pass without a mention of Dr John Blatchly. John died at the age of 82 on 3 September 2015 after a short illness.

If you happen to be reading this on 7 October and you can hear the bells of St Lawrence Church then you are enjoying but one of a multitude of projects that John championed, following his retirement from Ipswich School in 1993. The bells will be rung on the date of John's birth in celebration of his life and contributions to the town.

The fact that the bells are ringing is because of John's persistence whilst caring for the churches that came into the care of Ipswich Historic Churches Trust in 1981. Six churches came to the Trust; all were redundant, unloved and deteriorating. Five have been found new uses and the sixth, St Clement, is likely to become an Arts Centre in the not too distant future. Through perseverance, persuasion and sheer audacity John brought each back into a suitable community use and Ipswich is a better place for his, and his fellow trustees', efforts.

I will never cease to be amazed by how he persuaded Tesco to contribute a substantial sum towards the statue of Cardinal Wolsey in Curson Place before they had built their store in Grafton Way. It is even more surprising given that they didn't ever build the shop.

John was a scientist; he read Natural Sciences at Cambridge and taught Chemistry, progressing as Head of Science in three different schools. When he applied for the headship at Ipswich School he was one of over 100 candidates but the Governors' choice served them well for 21 years. One of the tasks of the Headmaster is to be custodian of the Town Library, the legacy of William Smart in 1598, a task John relished and one which enabled him to contribute so much to the knowledge of the history of the town. John was Headmaster at Ipswich School from 1972 to 1993.

He wrote articles for a number of publications, not least the East Anglian Daily Times 'It Happened When....' which ran to well over 400 editions (each on a different subject). What you may not know is that he contributed 56 articles on notable East Anglians to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for which he was made a Research Associate of the project.

John Blatchly was an occasional contributor to programmes on BBC television, Radio 4 and Radio Suffolk and was the champion of history courses at University Campus Suffolk regularly contributing his time, expertise and advice to staff and students alike.

He was a Paul Harris fellow of Ipswich Rotary Club, was made Honorary Wolsey Professor at UCS and in 1993 received LittD honoris causa (Honorary Doctor of Letters) from the University of East Anglia.

Above all he was a friend: a friend to many, to his fellow trustees, committee members and colleagues on numerous bodies from the University of East Anglia, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the more local Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History (to name but three). He will be sorely missed.

John Norman

    Front cover of issue 201 Cover, issue 201

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