John’s widow Rosemary informed the School of John’s death on 21 July 2016. She provided the following obituary:
John Mortham was born on 22 October 1930 in Oxford, and grew up during the Second World War. His home was near the Thames, and he soon became proficient at all water sports, including swimming, diving, rowing, canoeing and even ice skating. He did well at junior school, and gained a scholarship to Magdalen College School.
There he excelled at Maths and sciences. The arts were never his strong subjects, but he enjoyed many sports, including rugby and boxing as well as water sports. The family was not able to support him through university, so he began work in the Public Health Laboratory at Oxford, where he could train on the job.
He was soon called for National Service, and served two years in the Labs at Woolwich Hospital, where he was able to continue his training.
After returning to Oxford, he achieved qualifications in Bacteriology, Haematology and Parasitology. He soon moved to Aylesbury, where he became a Senior Technician at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, mainly in Bacteriology, but he was expected to deal with all departments when he was on call at night.
The extra income allowed him to marry his first wife, Margaret. They had two children, Angela and Anthony. John continued his sporting interests, and completed the Devizes to Westminster canoe race (an overnight marathon). He was running the local scout troop, and later began to run the Rover Scouts in Princes Risborough.
Throughout his life, John was always keen to encourage young people, and it was his great boast that no one in his department had ever failed an exam, until the training was taken over by Universities.
When Sir Ludwig Guttman built the Stadium for the Disabled at the back of the hospital, John was asked to help found a Lifesaving Club, which provided all the lifeguards for disabled events for many years. A Junior Section was begun, and in order to retain the interest of the teenagers, he bought a boat, and began lifeguard patrols on the Thames. Their activities included providing a Safety Boat at Henley Regatta, and looking after the pool at the Boat Show. John gained a Distinction in lifesaving, and became a Royal Lifesaving Society Instructor and Examiner. He also became a Royal Yachting Association Examiner for power boats.
During the Cold War, John was involved with Emergency Planning at the County Offices. He finished his career in the laboratory as Senior Chief Medical Laboratory Scientific Officer.
In 1969, Quainton Railway Society was formed. John was able to pursue his great passion in life, and became one of their first members. Railways were in his blood. Many family members had worked on the railways, including his grandfather, another John Mortham, but known as Hellfire Jack. In 1972, John was able to purchase his own locomotive, a Peckett, number 2105, which he named Rokeby after the Mortham family estates in Northumberland.
In 1993, John married his second wife, Rosemary, and moved to Lacey Green. For many years, as part of his job, he had been overseeing Pest Control at the Hospital. When the opportunity came to take early retirement, he decided to set up a business on his own. He thoroughly enjoyed this, as it gave him the opportunity to meet many people, who were always glad to see him.
Things started to go wrong when he fell from a locomotive and broke his neck. He made a good recovery, surprising the doctors, but shortly after this he was found to have a heart problem, and was given a replacement valve. He was now retired, and was able to spend much more time at Quainton with his engine.
In 2013, he began to show signs of Parkinsonism and dementia, but he and Rosemary were still able to enjoy life. Both conditions worsened, so that by 2016 he was confined to a wheelchair. It was no life for such an active man, but he had many good friends who came to help him, and to whom Rosemary is very grateful.
He died in the early hours of 21.July 2016, at the age of 85 years. His was truly a full and active life, of which his family is very proud.