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John Carr obituary

·2-min read

My father John Carr, who has died aged 85, was an inspirational teacher, gold-winning sportsman, superb home brewer, tireless campaigner and a cheerful and entertaining friend. He was a lecturer at Middlesex University for 37 years, joining Enfield College of Technology in 1963 as a member of the team that transformed the college as it became part of Middlesex Polytechnic in 1973 and then Middlesex University in 1992.

During that time he championed efforts to widen access to education, and contributed to innovations in teaching, course development and exam standards through his work as chair of the Council for National Academic Award’s Geography Board. He retired from Middlesex University in 2000 as principal lecturer and university orator.

John was born in Derby to Merry (nee Jelley), a teacher, and Billy, a right-back with Derby County football club, who had met at the Derby Socialist Club. It is therefore not surprising that teaching, sport and practical socialism became the cornerstones of his life. Although he later moved away from the county, Derbyshire inspired some of John’s abiding enthusiasms, including Burton-brewed beer, the geology and geography of the Peak District, and rowing.

At the age of 19 he endured a testing time as a national service infantry subaltern, serving in the Royal Norfolk Regiment in Cyprus at the height of the EOKA terror campaign in the mid-1950s. His vivid adventures were collected by the Imperial War Museum’s oral history programme and can be found in their sound archive.

Once demobbed, he attained a BA and MA in geography from Reading University, where he was known as “the Old Man” for his wisdom, authority and pipe-smoking. He was popular on campus, participating in student politics, setting up a Socialist Society, taking a play to the Edinburgh festival, and rowing. Later he maintained close links with the university, always turning out in his boat club blazer to support its crews at Henley regatta and representing the alumni Ortner Boat Club in rowing competitions.

After retirement he characteristically set himself new targets, refining his home-brewing techniques and campaigning for causes he felt passionate about. After decades away from rowing he devoted his famed teeth-gritted determination to winning a gold medal in the 2000m “masters” event at the British Indoor Rowing Championships, where he won a gold medal in 2016 and a silver medal the following year.

He suffered a stroke in 2018, but remained stoic, charming, and nattily dressed until the end.

In 1964 he married Jean Sommerville, with whom he had three children before the marriage ended in 1984. John’s subsequent partner, Vicki Scarlett, died in 2011. He is survived by his children, Andrea, Harriet and Oliver, and a grandson, Arlo.

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