Sir John Johnson (1930 – 2018)

The tribute to Sir John Johnson KCMG (1930 – 2018), a prominent member of the Society and much respected and liked figure in the Old Town, was originally published in the January 2019 Newsletter:

Sir John Johnson, 2003
Sir John Johnson, 2003

September 1930 to October 2018

Sir John Johnson first came to live in Amersham with his wife, Jean, and family in 1968. At that time he was a member of HM Diplomatic Service working at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

Sir John was born in 1930 in India, where his father was an engineer. He returned to the UK for his education and stayed with his grandmother. The outbreak of the Second World War meant that Sir John was unable to visit his parents in India for some years. After completing his education at Manchester Grammar School, Sir John read Modern Languages at Keble College Oxford and after graduation joined the Colonial Service. His first appointment was to Kenya as a District Commissioner. After Kenyan independence, Sir John returned to Britain where he took and passed the Civil Service Administrative examination and joined Branch A of the Diplomatic Service. He had a distinguished career and became an African specialist. His overseas appointments took him to Algeria, Nigeria and Barbados. Following these postings Sir John was appointed High Commissioner to Zambia and, several years later, he was appointed High Commissioner to Kenya.

Throughout his working life and when time permitted, Sir John had been an enthusiastic mountain climber, also a great walker. And on his retirement from the Diplomatic Service and his return to live in Old Amersham, Sir John continued to explore every part of the Chilterns on foot whenever possible. He became Chairman of the Countryside Commission and also Vice President of the Chiltern Society and Chairman of the Chiltern Conservation Board. He encouraged people to take up walking and opened a number of walks in England, including the Thames Path.

Sir John became Director of the Foreign Service Programme at Oxford University training diplomats from all over the world and was a visiting fellow of Keble College. He played an important part in training East European diplomats as their countries moved towards democracy following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Sir John was a familiar and very well liked figure in the Old Town. He took part in many of the local activities, and was a member of the Amersham Society, attending the meetings and taking part in the outings. Sir John’s wife, Jean, was a member of the Amersham Society Committee for some years helping to organise the programme of lectures and the annual outing. Residents often encountered Sir John as he strode along the High Street heading towards Shardeloes Lake or to other destinations, binoculars at the ready. In his later years Sir John sometimes paused in his walk and sat on a large carved tree trunk near the Lake, that had been named “John’s Seat” by fellow walkers and bird watchers. Despite having his route carefully planned, Sir John always had time to greet people and to stop for a word, ready to answer residents’ questions about birds or other wildlife that they had spotted or simply to admire a view with them.

We shall all miss this much respected resident, his great enthusiasm for life, his energy and his friendly smile.

Dorothy Symes
January 2019 Newsletter