28th January 1922 – 6th January 2007
John Foot was the Founder President of the OSSS. He always said that he had the idea for the Society on the Golf Course in 1969 and he enlisted the help of the OS Golfers like Tom Parry to get the idea off the ground and the OSSS formally came into being in 1970 at a meeting in Guildford. His original purpose was to allow OS to participate in the Bembridge Trophy which was then a very prestigious match racing event for Public School Old Boys sailed in the fleet of Bembridge One Designs in the Isle of Wight. The event carried on for many years and the OSSS were very successful but eventually the winners were largely determined by which boat you got and how fast you could bail! Things eventually staggered on via the fleet of Redwings but emerged as what we now know as the Arrow Trophy.
In the meantime the OSSS was formed and under John’s guidance and the continued efforts of stalwarts such as Tom Parry, John Goddard, Bobby Reynolds and Ken Cater the Society branched out into a wider range of activities. One of the first was the Boy’s Weekend which was our first attempt to involve the school. Over the years we have done much to help and equip the school sailing club.
John continued as Commodore until 1977 and then was elected as President. In 1980 the Society created the special office of Founder President for him. He held this up to his death.
If you look at John’s entry in the Sherborne Register you will see that he was son of H J Foot (OS). This belies the fact that thirteen generations of the Foot family have now been at Sherborne – with the latest being his 2 of his grandsons. After leaving Sherborne he went straight off to war and was wounded but this was a period of his life of which he never spoke. He returned to civilian life and the Ironmongery business. He married Nicky in 1953 and in 1955 they bought and refurbished the Dower House at Wonersh. At the time many of the old country houses were being broken up and they went around all the auctions buying large pieces of furniture to fill the cavernous rooms. Many of these rooms became storerooms for his enormous number of boat parts. They produced four children Caroline, Jonathan, Stephen, and Lucy. The boys naturally went on to Sherborne.
There came a point when John realised that the Ironmongery business ran perfectly well when he wasn’t there so he devoted more time to his sailing interests. He had a succession of yachts firstly in 1958 he bought Iras, a 44′ converted 9M mahogany on steel frame yacht followed by Water Music II, Water Music III and Water Music IV.
He raced and cruised extensively with family and friends and many Old Shirburnians have joined him as shipmates over the years. He qualified as a member of the Ocean Cruising Club in 1971 and was Commodore from 1982 to 1988. He became a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1978 and Vice Commodore of the Royal Thames Yacht Club.
He first crossed the Atlantic in Water Music III in 1975 using only sextant and dead reckoning. Upon his return at the RTYC in Hamble, he sheepishly had to admit that he had gone all that way without incident but had broken his collar bone by falling off a hired bicycle during a stopover in Alderney. He was also fuming because Customs had charged him duty on a bottle of scotch on his return to UK waters.
John also held office in other fields. He was Master of the Ironmongers Company from 1982-3 and President of the OS Society in 1991. Nearer home he was chairman of the parish Council, a member of the Parochial Church Council, a member of the Hambledon RDC, President of the Wonersh Cricket Club, Chairman of the Wonersh United Charities, a member of the Guildford Municipal Charities and to him most importantly of all the Wonersh Working Men’s club.
John was always a good companion. Not always an excessive drinker, he was, nevertheless, generous with the whisky decanter. Those who sailed with him will recall the optics of gin and scotch each side of the companionway for the weary crew to replenish their glasses. On one occasion, John and Nikki were invited to dinner with Richard and Sue Anderton who were then newly married. Richard had also invited his cousin, who had been a contemporary of John at Sherborne, and his cousin’s wife. The evening started inauspiciously when John rang from a nearby garage saying that he had filled his car with petrol but had then discovered that he had no money with him. Would Richard please come and rescue him! The meal then went with a swing with John and Richard’s cousin talking till the small hours Richard and Sue never got a word in edgeways and simply spent the evening serving food and replenishing glasses.
He was always an impatient man and tended to be a bit querulous with anyone who had the temerity to stand up to him! To him the hunt was everything, whether it was seeking office or crossing the Atlantic. When he had achieved his goal he tended to be rather laid back about it all.
In his later years he was housebound with emphysema and got around only with the aid of a couple of electric scooters – one for upstairs and one for down. However he was always pleased to see any OSSS member who cared to drop in for a chat and a glass or two of scotch.
Through all the years Nicky was a great support to John and to the OSSS. She even hosted some Society dinners at the Dower House. The OSSS recognised this with an Honorary Membership.
Richard Anderton (a 60-64)