Tribute: John Hull

  |  Published: Sep 30th 2017

Thank you to everyone who sent in a tribute to John Hull. in the October 2017 print edition they were edited to fit the space available. here they are printed in full. if you would like to add a tribute. please email it to editor@wendovernews.co.uk.

From John's sister Ann

John Hammond Hull was born on 14 August 1936 in Grays, Essex. His mother Amy and husband Jack lived in a house bought for them by her family member.

While father Jack was away at war Amy and John lived with Aunt Ruby and Uncle George in Stanford. John went to the Roman Catholic primary school in Stanford and once back in Grays after the war went to East Thurrock School in Rectory Road. John joined the church choir at St Margaret’s, Stanford. Once back in Grays John went by bus to Stanford on a Sunday to sing in the church choir, he used to have lunch with the family in turn, Grandma and Grandad Hammond, Nanny and Grandad Hull, Bill and Dorothy and George and Ruby. John also remembers that when living in Stanford he visited Nanny and Grandad in their shop at 10 London Rd every Saturday morning. 

Mr and Mrs Painter lived in 28 Tennyson during the war and stayed on after the War ended. They were there still occupying the back bedroom and the lounge once Jack and Amy moved back.

Amy became ill at the end of 1946 and in early 1947 John went again to live with his Aunt and Uncle, Ruby and George, in Stanford but he travelled by bus to school in Grays as the bus went by the house in Stanford and then stopped at ‘The Oaks’ on The Parade, Grays and he walked down Rectory Rd from there. The fare was 4d.  

Sadly Amy died of hepatitis on 28 April 1947, in the Isolation hospital, (Thurrock Hospital) Long Lane, Grays.

John continued to live with his Aunt and Uncle but Jack lived in Tennyson Ave due to his work. Whilst his mum was unwell John remembers still going for lunch from school and Mr and Mrs Painter providing that. Sometimes his Dad was there too.

In September 1947 John went to Palmers Grammar School for Boys, Grays and continued to travel by bus from Stanford. He continued to have his lunches at no 28.

Whilst at Palmers John became involved with the Gilbert and Sullivan yearly productions. These were performed to the public in the school hall. John had a good voice and took some leading parts. Ann remembers John performing solo at a wedding reception when he played the piano and took on many different voices in songs including soprano! Hull family Christmases were held in the shop and there had to be two sittings for dinner as there was so many present. The men took it in turns to be Father Christmas. Some of Ann’s earliest memories are of the Christmases there. Ann remembers Uncle Fred as Father Christmas giving her Dad a carrot wrapped up in paper as a joke present. John remembers singing as a family at these Christmas parties. He himself played the piano and he particularly remembers his Dad Jack (John) singing solo with him ‘On the road to Mandalay.

Jack and Edna were married on 19th June 1948 at St Johns, Victoria Ave and the reception was held at no 9 Tennyson Ave. They had their honeymoon in Eastbourne.

It must have been difficult for Amy’s family to accept being so soon after Amy’s death. John must have found it hard especially. After the honeymoon and once settled at No 28 Tennyson Ave Jack and Edna went to Stanford to fetch John back home. John didn’t want to come home and so he stayed with his Aunt and Uncle, Ruby and George and it was always his base home. Ann was born then Robert. Jack continued to send the maintenance money for John to George and Ruby. John continued to come to lunch on the days he was at Palmers and Ann remembers him vaguely at the dinner table as she remembers the Palmers blue blazer. There is a lovely photo of John with Ann resting on his back looking over his shoulder in the garden at no 28 when she was about 3 years old.

John left Palmers in 1952 and went to work at Thames Haven. After Johns time in the Air force on National Service in Singapore. Ann remembers the lovely embroidered table cloth set John bought the family from Singapore. He worked for Thame Haven for a year and then trained for the priesthood. He was at college in Brasted, near Sevenoaks, where he spent two years rather than one as he needed to upgrade his education from a mere 5 O-levels. John’s first main curacy was in Clacton where he married Karen Yule, in 1966 and they had 2 sons, Mark and Richard. They all moved to Wendover in 1975 when he was made Chaplain of TocH whose Headquarters were in Forest Close.

From John's son Mark

My Dad was a wonderful father, clergyman, artist and musician and a truly great man , bringing us up single handedly after our family sadly broke up in the late 1970's . 

We had not long moved to Wendover, relocating from Essex, when he became chaplain of Toc H which had its headquarters in Forest Close. My brother and I attended the local schools, while my Dad went about starting up as a watercolour artist, of which he remained right up until the end of his life. Previously to this he had composed and written music for a group of madrigal singers made up of friends and professionals. They performed around the country and I particularly remember my Dad performing with a group of dancers with choreographer Liz Twistington Higgins. 

Throughout this time my Dad also continued his ministry, each week taking sometimes up to 3 or 4 services at Wendover, The Lee and St Leonard's. My brother and I were members of the choir, I served and bell rang at the St Mary's too. The community of Wendover provided a great support to my Dad through difficult times, as well as my Dad cared deeply for Wendover loyally right up to the end and it is fitting that it is here that he is laid to rest. 

We moved to Grenville Avenue with 'his boys' in 1981 and my father instantly fell in love with the immediate area, and it became of great importance to him. Like great artists such as John Piper, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer it became a source of great inspiration for his artwork. Though untrained as an artist, my dad took watercolour painting very seriously, received teaching from some of the great watercolorists, and particularly his mini's (pot boilers) as he used to call them, are particularly intimate and unique. 

He was loved by his neighbours, and he ran very popular  art classes up to the end of his life and with failing health in his front room which turned into social gatherings and he had a little swimming pool in his back garden of which he was greatly proud. 

In recent years, I often visited with all my 5 children who hardly all fitted in to his house. Although he loved his house, he would never show any concern , just loving all the boys 'having fun'.

My Dad's great achievement was not only to be found in his ministry, his beautiful spare exquisite watercolours, his clever compositions and arrangements, his improvised melodies, his great friendships, his finely written and judged sermons, his interfaith dialogue, and his work running a Charity and the legacy of that. For me it was the immense love he shared with so many and for the special everlasting love he showed and passed on to me for which I am eternally grateful.

My Dad selected some wonderful poems earlier this year for a flower festival here at St Mary's. They were all so so great, but it was this one I chose out of them all. My Dad had a great appreciation of beauty in all its forms. Even in things that many would not find so. Also, On the evening of his death, I remember looking at the sky with him which was clear lapis blue with dramatic scudding white clouds.

Pied Beauty - by Gerard Manley Hopkins?

 Glory be to God for dappled things-

      For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

     Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

      And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

 

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

     With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

    Praise Him.

Mark Rowan-Hull is Revd John Hull's Son - an artist and fellow of University of Oxford.

From John's son Richard

Father was loved a lot, for a raft of different reasons. He was clearly a hugely talented man, gifted in painting, music and ministry. He was also a gentle, loving and kind father, grandfather and brother, who was always there for us when we needed him. To us, he is dadsie, the revving John Hull as I used to write to him, darling (his most familiar greeting to us), granddad and, latterly for Zettie, granddad piano. His pure love, running through almost everything he did, is our strongest memory. We will treasure that and carry it with us; and it sets an example to us all.

Mark and I grew up together with father, and I think it is fair to say that we all grew together in many different ways. We have so many memories folded deep within us, from floating in the North sea with our backs to the waves, to the image of his smile – and I just want to provide a sample of those memories, to paint a very incomplete watercolour of our love for him.

As well as pure love, father’s humour and sense of fun runs through many of our experiences with him. He would find the silly side of almost everything – and he was the source of many jokes, witty one-liners and sharp retorts, none of which should probably be repeated here. We remember writing ‘welcome home daddy’ in the snow, playing cricket in the back garden at ‘Rowans’, Christmas mornings, Occasional singers’ concerts, his love of geraniums, hollyhocks and beautifully manicured lawns, anxious and sometimes euphoric private views, holidays at Hammels, his rather impressive left-handed table tennis playing, his love of landscape and of the sea – and rolling updates on the water temperature of his beloved swimming pool.

He loved his house, he loved his neighbours and friends. It is a cherished aspect of his life and, while he loved ‘just being’ in his private space, father’s life was very much about the people who were in it too. Mark remembers his boys taking over the house completely, running around everywhere with father completely unconcerned – and just purely enjoying the boys’ presence. I remember his look of complete and utter love for Zettie, even when he was clearly struggling with his health. Family and friends were everything to him – and a good excuse to open the gin.

Music ran through everything too, from jamming with two pianos and guitar before shepherd’s pie on a Friday evening, to jazzing up nursery rhymes for the grandchildren. Father would have been the most amazing pub pianist, as he could play every tune he knew from ear – and probably some that he didn’t. He would make songs up on the spot and could play in a variety of styles. He delighted in playing almost anything in the style of Bach – and certainly inspired us with his talent for and love of music.

I am less qualified to talk about his ministry. All I would want to say is that I think he had a deep sense of hope, along with more than a little exasperation about some of the things happening in this world. He loved delivering provocative sermons – and would report back on the success and failure thereof. Coincidentally, I saved a quote for him not long ago that I felt said quite a lot about his own message. It was a passage by W.H. Auden read by Shirley Williams during a world war one commemoration at Westminster Abbey: ‘We must love one another, or die’.  

As well as pure love, father had a deep interest in his boys, what we did and, more importantly, who we were – and this carried through to his grandchildren. He was a deeply thoughtful man – and his advice and counsel will be sorely missed. We are grateful for him in so many ways and we feel desolate without him.

We are profoundly grateful that we were both able to be with him throughout the last few days of his life.

From John's boss Ken Prideaux-Brune, formerly Director of TocH

John Hull, who was National Chaplain of Toc H in the 1970s, and an associate priest at St Mary’s Wendover for the rest of his life, died in August.  He had a remarkable range of talents: musician – singer, organist and composer.  He was a painter and he earned his living as a watercolourist for the past 35 years.  He was a comedian – no one who heard it can forget his party piece, the performance of a letter chasing up an unpaid gas bill arranged as a quartet from a Mozart opera in which he sang all four parts, moving nimbly from bass to soprano to alto to tenor.  And he was a priest who saw his ministry as awakening the creative spark which he believed lay dormant in each of us. 

His Music and Painting Weeks at Dor Knap, the Toc H conference centre in the Cotswolds, encouraged many to pick up a paint brush and to sing in four part harmony for the first time since their school days.  The group of singers that he led, the Occasional Singers, along with the Chelmsford Dancers, gave concerts entitled The Song and Dance of Worship, in churches and cathedrals around the country.  The Cotswold Festivals which he organised at Dor Knap included craft exhibitions ranging from painting to corn dollies, performances of music in a wide range of genres and a Shakespeare play preformed in the outdoor arena carved into the hill overlooking the Vale of Evesham.  He and I (I was very much the junior partner) produced major national Toc H Festivals at Central Hall, Westminster.  I particularly remember the effect he created at the end of the first half of one of them.   There was a deeply serious poem about the Crucifixion.  The stage lights went out and the organ began to play very quietly The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Over about half a minute that morphed into John Brown’s Body. The stage lights came up and revealed the staff of Toc H ready to sing a totally silly song.  That ability to move from profound seriousness to complete hilarity within half a minute somehow sums up John for me.    Religion for him was serious but never ever solemn. It was about joy and about becoming aware of the Glory of God and responding to it.  

From John's friend Anne Berry, widow of Geoffrey Milroy, former vicar of Wendover

John Hull was a very special person. I first knew John when he was Chaplin to Toc H. He helped my husband, Geoffrey Milroy, with taking services at St Mary’s and St Agnes as Geoffrey had no curate at that time. Originally John lived in Terrick. He was very talented, both in painting and music. He started a small group of singers who were called the Occasional Singers who performed at the Church and under the auspices of Toc H ran a fortnight’s holiday at a beautiful house (Dor Knap), near Broadway in Worcestershire, each summer for a number of years and Geoffrey and I went there several times. It was a holiday for painters and singers and very enjoyable. I was particularly grateful to John as the holiday started me painting for the first time since I had left school. Later on the holiday transferred to Cuddesdon (near Oxford) and was equally enjoyable. John composed many carols and other choral works and arranged many others most successfully. His sermons at church were particularly helpful and he always managed to tell us some very relevant funny stories in the sermons. The sermons were seldom longer than 10 minutes but always gave us something to think about and remember. He would have been a perfect parish priest and had a great love and care for everyone.

portrait John Hull
John Hull
John surrounded by family
John surrounded by family
John with Mark's boys
John with Mark's boys
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