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News > Deaths and Obituaries > John Blackman 1952G

John Blackman 1952G

We regret to inform you that John passed away last weekend and a memorial gathering was held for him yesterday (22nd August 2019). 
 
The following is an obituary of John by his dear friend, Alan Bramwell (1952G):
John was born on 6 July 1935, in Cape Town, and passed away peacefully at his home on 10 August 2019, at the age of 84. He is survived by his wife, Gill, daughter Claire, and sister Jennifer.
 
In 1945 the family moved from Green Point to Rondebosch. Many years later, in reflecting back on his time at Bishops, he ventured “my most enjoyable years at Bishops were my last year at Prep. and the Matric years at College. I realise now how fortunate and privileged we all are to have had the superb education that Bishops provides, and also the opportunity to make enduring friendships, which time and distance have never weakened.” Distance indeed, with the likes of Brian Kennelly in Los Angeles, Basil Sgoutas in Athens, Oscar van Oordt in Vienna, Jeremy Waddell and Bobby Trew in London, and Pip Marx in Vancouver, to name but a few. John never failed to make contact when travelling overseas, both on vacation and business.
 
After graduating at UCT with a BSc Electrical Engineering degree, John joined Metropolitan Vickers in Manchester (at the time one of the largest engineering companies in the UK), as a graduate trainee. He returned to Cape Town a year later and joined a company selected to produce the Tellurometer, a revolutionary distance measuring device, which had been designed by Dr. Waddley at Wits. The Tellurometer revolutionised surveying, and distances up to tens of kilometres could be measured with the accuracy of a few centimetres. Later John was sent to Johannesburg to work under the guidance of Dr. Waddley to develop a new lightweight version of the Tellurometer.
 
He later returned to the parent company in Cape Town, and then felt the need of a “gap year”, which he spent travelling through Turkey, Cyprus and Israel, before heading back to London where he joined Norbury Instruments, a division of REL in New York. A spell with the parent company in New York, which was initially planned for a few days but extended for four months, afforded John the opportunity of exposure to the burgeoning world of the electronic industry in the USA.
 
In 1964 John returned to South Africa, and after a short spell with Plessey, decided to start his own company – Electrolink (Pty) Ltd. This was the early days of the electronic industry in South Africa, and the sourcing of components demanded specialised knowledge and skills, which John was quick to identify. His contacts in the USA led to his company representing two of the largest semi-conductor companies in the United States, namely Siliconix and National Semi-conductor Inc.
 
Approximately a year later, his long-time friend, Mike Howse (OD) joined the company to form a highly effective partnership, with Mike looking after the accounting side and John the technology. This partnership lasted until Mike’s untimely death. Further international companies were added to the portfolio of products they represented, including Telefunken Semi-conductor of Germany and Murata of Japan. The company continued to expand, and in 1998 was taken over by the international group EVB.
 
From his early years, John’s interest in electronics was also his hobby, and he enjoyed building his own transmitters and receivers. I can recall that when I was working in East Africa, I tried with the assistance of a local Radio “ham” to get in touch with John, without success, but this was to be a challenge to John, who then constructed a transmitter using War surplus equipment. The first time he tried to contact me with “Big Bertha”, as he called it, his signal strength in Nairobi was at least ten times that of the BBC. John never did things in half measure! We used to have many long chats over the air, which made me feel that Cape Town was not so far away.
 
John’s love of all things Bishops led to him becoming the communications hub for the Matric 52 Reunions. His amazing diligence in keeping in touch with all the Class of 52 was an outstanding achievement and was the major reason for the success of those Reunions.
 
John’s love of music was initially nurtured by Johnnie Walsh (Staff Prep.) and then by Claude (Bruno) Brown at College. Up until a year or so of his passing, John and his old friend Oscar van Oordt, were to be seen regularly at the Thursday night Symphony Concerts.

 

He was a member of the Owl Club for 56 years and was its President in 2003. He entertained the club on many occasions with performances on the piano or the accordion.


In his retirement, John and Gill were able to enjoy travel to many countries, including the Antarctic. Unfortunately, it was on his last overseas holiday to India that the illness which dogged him for the rest of his life, became apparent.
 
Health challenges were never allowed to impact on his life. His love of his fellow man, his enormous integrity and the unwavering intention to do what was right and proper, were key characteristics of his life. He was always a gentleman no matter who he was dealing with, or whatever the situation may have been. His love of his family was unfailing. His courage, kindness, generosity were hallmarks of the man who can be clearly called classmate, colleague and a true friend. He will be sorely missed by all.

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