John Jezzard – A Modest and Thoroughly Nice Man.
Apart from Terry Higgins who dates from the same time as John I suppose that I am one of a slowly reducing number of people that have known him for getting on for 60 years. My association with the Old Anchorians began in 1961 when like some of my sports loving school mates I joined , presumably by paying my subs to John. On returning to Gillingham after university I was encouraged into taking up hockey by the now long departed John Hunt and continued my sporting career with cricket in the summer where John turned out on an occasional basis. My love affair with the club began in1964 when the old club opened in Beechings Way and at my first visit I met John behind the bar. He had been one of the leading lights in getting the project off the ground being involved with the groundworks and that started our relationship which continued throughout the years. John was, of course, then in various official roles, usually financial for reasons I never understood, both in the rugby club for whom he had played regularly since National Service and after a spell with the Ordnance Survey in Southampton as well as the Association and Club committees.
It was to this later august body that I joined to meet many of the older generation like Bill Willis, Les and George Brooker. There followed for me a very happy decade or so running social events and introducing new features such as disco and live groups to add to Saturday night after match entertainment. While the ohers were a bit sniffy about this John was a great supporter in what I was doing, mainly, I suspect, because it was revenue earning! During this time John was always there organising the bar rota, doing all the ordering and looking after the drinks. Along with a few volunteers this continued until we started to employ full time bar men albeit under John’s careful eye and supervision. This coincided with a growing success for all the sports clubs with 5 rugby, 8 men’s and 3 ladies hockey and 4 Saturday cricket sides. In the old club this led to much intermixing of the clubs which has resulted in many long term friendships for both John and I which have lasted to this day. John was always at the centre of everything at the club usually, but not always, helped by Les and he encouraged several other younger members of the clubs to join the committee. Throughout this whole period John was without doubt the hardest working member of the Club in his quiet bur effective ways and never ever missed any of his extensive duties.
In the early 80s plans led by Bob Hotham and helped by Ken Taylor – a loyal hockey man and later local politician who became Mayor, we achieved the 60 year lease on the current clubhouse site. This involved a huge amount of self help by many people to numerous to mention individually but on opening the operational running of new facility was eased by the presence of the loyal John still running the bar as well as running things like the 200 club and continuing his rugby club roles. When faced with problems he was always his usual quiet effective self albeit that some of John’s priorities did not quite accord with other members of the committee but we were always powerless to complain! During the first decades at the new club John was ably assisted by another loyal club servant in Ken Fisher who sadly we also lost this year. Ken was also of great help to me as we undertook the redistribution of a huge amount of earth around this new building and the laying the slabs and planting. This work was nearly finished in time for the grand opening although John’s car park surfacing was a little delayed!
On retiring from the committee a few years back John enjoyed a lot more of his free time and almost became almost a man of the west with his frequent visits to Dartmoor where, he told me, he was. regarded as a Devonian in the local of his village. Sadly his visits tailed off in recent times which I know disappointed him. He maintained throughout his connection with Maidstone Borough Council staff in the Highways department , and organised twice yearly lunches and much else. He thus spread himself well in enjoyable pursuits more in the passing years including coming to Canterbury with Dick Ferguson and I to watch Kent and have a few drinks. Happy times.
From this brief precis of the club’s history during my involvement, one man stands head and shoulders above every one for his unbroken service in a number of capacities and being wholly reliable in all that he did over this long time. Without him the club would not be where it is today. To sum up John’s attributes is difficult for me having been a close friend over all these years with our shared experiences. He was as everyone knows a quiet, effective and totally loyal club man who initiated and maintained so many of the procedures to last over 5 decades in the running of the club. He was a cheerful, sociable, quiet and unpretentious man and, in so doing, established many friendships which have lasted for years. In recent times John and I have lunched on a fairly regular basis with other oldies until ill health has taken its toll but I speak for all when I say we shall sorely miss his presence but are happy in the thought that his legacy will last forever.