John Kennedy – MaA 41-49

Monday 10 December 2018

[Extract from CH Tribute by Chris Bruce-Jones (Th A 1944-49) at a Thanksgiving Service for the life of Dr John Kennedy (Maine A 1941-49) who died 19 October 2018. The service at St Nicolas’ Church, Taplow, included the Foundation Hymn and was attended by John’s widow, Brenda, their son Simon and their three daughters, Stephanie, Rachel and Philippa. Tributes from family and friends included one by local MP Rt.Hon. Dominic Grieve, QC, reflecting John’s lifelong service to local political interests, and a reading by granddaughter Freya Wright (CH 2013-2018)].

John Kennedy arrived at CH in 1941 at age 11. The next eight years produced a keen young scientist, going straight from school to University College London, with a maturity and self-confidence equipping him for the successes he was to enjoy. During an active life, John responded to the leaving Charge in exemplary fashion.

A couple of years younger than John, I had little contact with him whilst at school. He became a button Grecian, and beyond his studies he excelled at swimming and water polo, representing the school in these sports and in Public Schools competition shooting at Bisley.

John’s chemistry interests were at one stage reckoned to have been responsible for a substantial explosion near his boarding house, It was subsequently proved to have been caused by a V2 flying bomb shot down nearby. John would have been disappointed not to dine out on such a distinctive reputation.

Coincidentally, we left school in the same term in 1949, John to go to University, me, like many of our contemporaries, to submergence in the City.

It was many years before we met again, when John and I became very good friends as we worked together in resuscitating the Christ’s Hospital Club, an ailing alumni association focussed historically on the boys’ school both in the City of London and later at Horsham, but in the 1980s facing an uncertain future with the loss of the Club’s rooms in Great Tower Street. We re-established a club room at Horsham, recruited Mrs Wendy Killner as administrator, and went so far in our modernisation efforts as to purchase a computer for the club records. We also faced courageously and with fortitude the news that the Girls were to be reunited at Horsham with the boys, after 400 years in Hertford.

In some senses we were a surprising partnership : our politics were not in alignment, and I could not share his enthusiasm for freemasonry. I was as happy in my garden and my church as he was on the golf course – another sport in which he excelled. But our friendship was firm, united in the special cause of Christ’s Hospital. I remember John’s drive and impatience with any obstacle that we encountered; he was always direct, and never dissembling, and this could result in some occasions when I was called to smooth over an occasional clash with school authorities. I remember too the Club’s centenary, suitably celebrated at Horsham with a fireworks display to terrify any Health and Safety authority.

On my election as an Almoner, John succeeded me as Club Chairman, a post from which he retired in 2007, concluding 26 years service to the Club, when its membership was spread through numerous UK sections, and in over thirty countries worldwide.

But these activities were only a small part of John’s service to Christ’s Hospital : his and Brenda’s generosity as Donation Governors resulted in five CH presentees. He was a member of the Amicable Society of Blues, being President of that Society in 2010.

John’s dedication to Freemasonry was not detached from his love for his school, and he held many offices in Lodges associated with Christ’s Hospital during half a lifetime, during which he was awarded Masonic Honours and London Grand Rank in 2004, working indefatigably for that cause.

Any memory of John in later years is of him in the invariable company of Brenda, who nobly supported him in all his manifest interests and enthusiasms. Christ’s Hospital has ample cause to be grateful to them both.