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Memories of Professor John Healy who died on 25 April 2012

23/07/2012

We are grateful to receive the following Memories of Professor John Healy who died on 25 April 2012.

Who could ever believe and indeed how unlikely is it that a career would be mapped out by a rather cryptic message such as the following? “You will visit a large ornate red brick building near water when you are not feeling completely well and there you will meet someone significant from your past who will give you the edge in obtaining a much deserved position”. Well this was the amazing prediction of a psychic friend that came true in 1966 and as he walked down to Egham station for one last time two and a half decades later in the summer of 1990, although he was now sadly leaving it forever, Professor John F Healy reflected on how fortunate he had been to be drawn to what he regarded as his beloved Royal Holloway College. Whilst at the latter he was both Professor of Classics and also Head of the Department of Classics initially then in 1985 just four years after completing a term as Dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1978-1981, he was promoted to Chairman of the Department of Classics.

Chairman of the Department of Classics was the ultimate achievement for John and it had been a long hard battle to realise his ultimate ambition. Despite having gained a coveted place at Battersea Grammar School where he was a pupil alongside Sir Roger Moore noted for his role as James Bond, his education was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War which saw him evacuated to Worthing and later Hertford. Then by a stroke of good fortune his father’s work with the admiralty was transferred from London to Bath and here John became a pupil at the City of Bath Boys School where he was not only a contemporary of Sir Roger Bannister CBE the former English athlete best known for running the first mile in four minutes but also was inspired to take a keen interest in scholarly pursuits further encouraged by the rich classical background of his surroundings.

Soon his earnest studying saw him gain a place at Cambridge University but John was keen to join the forces so as to have the opportunity to fight for his country and at the end of his first year his wish came true when he was “Called Up”. As a Captain in the Army Intelligence Corps from 1943-1949, he saw service initially in India and latterly in Singapore interpreting in the Japanese War Crimes’ Trials but at the conclusion of these six years, John determined to return to his studies becoming a senior scholar and a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge. A Ph.D. followed in 1954 a year after he embarked on his career in Classics and Archaeology at Manchester University.

In his capacity as a literature lecturer at Manchester University, John was to get to know as well as date one of his students Carol Ann McEvoy (daughter of the Chief Executive and Founder of the Kellogg Company of Great Britain) before marrying her in 1957 in the year after her graduation. Seven and a half years later the couple gave birth to a son John Matthew in October 1964 during the time that John was Reader in Greek at Bedford College London a position which he had taken up three years earlier. However this was not the end of the story as we saw earlier.

Outside of University life he was the sometime curator of Greek coins at Manchester Museum and President of the Windsor Art Society. He also lectured occasionally on Swans Hellenic and Royal Viking Line cruises as well as being the author of several articles and a number of books, including Pliny the Elder on Science and Technology (OUP, 1999) published nine years after he finally retired from Royal Holloway.

In retirement John lived with his second wife in Macclesfield, Cheshire and although he enjoyed travelling, socialising, gardening and busying himself with the church, he never lost his enthusiasm for lecturing as was borne out by the fact he was an active member of The Speakers Agency for whom he would give interesting and popular presentations in the UK, Europe, Far East or USA to learned societies, universities, museums, libraries, local/group gatherings, church meetings, The Rotary and other similar clubs. When not doing that he could often be found giving numerous cultural enrichment programmes for major British and American cruise lines.

His desire to share his knowledge with as many people as possible either in formal lectures or light-hearted presentations, his rather colourful character, his amazing sense of humour, his unconventional nature coupled to a unique position as both a Classicist as well as a Scientist and his outstanding academic abilities were all the attributes that made Professor John F Healy truly unforgettable.

Professor John Healy, the distinguished classicist who died on 25 April 2012.


By John M.C. Healy