TRIBUTE TO JOHN STEPHENSON: A true champion of Heath ponds

Judging by the numbers that crowded the funeral of John Stephenson at St. Michael s Church Highgate, he had accreted friendships over many years. I came to know him a little in more recent times, as a colleague and collaborator in the USA campaign to keep

Judging by the numbers that crowded the funeral of John Stephenson at St. Michael's Church Highgate, he had accreted friendships over many years. I came to know him a little in more recent times, as a colleague and collaborator in the USA campaign to keep the Hampstead Swimming Ponds open - as they had been for a century or two.

The lack of reference linking him to the campaign seems in keeping with John's discrete and quiet personality. There was nothing noisy or ostentatious about John Stephenson. If the loudhailer was the metaphorical campaigning device of choice for many of us, for John it was the magnifying glass. He sought and found the devil in the detail, as he examined and analysed documents for facts and meaning which he sometimes ingeniously fashioned into ideas and proposals.

Always politely understated, he reminded me of a sharp minded fictional detective who knew how to blend in with the wallpaper, but through whom the electricity of enquiry was constantly flowing. It would light his face with an impish smile when he discovered in the detail of diligent research, some atom of significance that had eluded the rest of us.

A companionable and civilised man, he and his wife offered the hospitality of their home for meetings of the USA. on which I look back upon with pleasure. John, played a valued and valuable part in ensuring that the swimming ponds of Hampstead Heath remain open. That is more than just a footnote to the history of social life in London and Hampstead Heath. Greatly liked and much valued, he and his ingenuity will be missed.


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Robert Sutherland-Smith,

Chairman United Swimmers' Association of Hampstead Heath

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