A tribute to John Gordon

with No Comments

Written by previous CAG Oxfordshire Project Coordinator Simon Kenton. 

It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of John Gordon who died in February after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

John was a pivotal figure in the CAG network and the Oxfordshire environmental movement, an active member of Sustainable Wallingford and chair of South Oxfordshire Sustainability (SOS).  

During his working career John was a diplomat for the UK government and a fluent Russian speaker.  Crucially, he worked to deal with the consequences of the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 – an experience that helped shape his future environmental work. (Read more about John’s work here).

After retiring in 1990 John threw himself headlong into his work on social and environmental justice.  He was a principled internationalist with a commitment to humanity, often seen campaigning on a Saturday morning in the local market place.  Somehow he did so much – he used his energy effectively and efficiently to get things done.  John understood our climate emergency and, as anyone who worked with him will tell you, he expected you to work with the same urgency.   Never have I had longer ‘to-do’ lists than after coming out of a meeting with John!

John was an active member of CPRE Oxfordshire and a founder member of the Need Not Greed Oxfordshire coalition.  Forever the diplomat, John’s strength lay in building alliances between organisations, such as drawing together Thames Water and South Oxfordshire District Council to work on the increased threat of flooding.  He was also relentless in using his powers of persuasion to get the right outcome, as many of the organisations he worked with will tell!

During his 6-month illness John’s passion for the environment rarely faded.  Between writing his memoirs he demanded updates on SOS, on meetings with MPs, on conferences and talks attended, etc.  I remember speaking to him back in November from New Zealand and he was more interested in talking about the various organisations I was volunteering for than how he was doing himself.

However, all our fondest memories of John are as a friend.  There was always time for visitors; for tea and cake (always cake!); for canoeing and rowing on the river; for walks; for holidays; for his dog and of course, for his wonderful family – wife Liz and sons Alex and Tim.  John had a warmth and manner that made everyone feel the centre of his attention – always interested in you, your family, your aspirations – whilst himself providing excellent conversation and deep discussion.  Many a happy few hours were passed putting the world to rights with a bottle of wine.

John fought tirelessly to make the world a better place, and that world will miss him very much.  Thank you, John.

John Gordon