Lawyer, writer and stalwart of the Stratford dramatic arts community John Jennings, who has died aged 85, is fondly remembered by friends and family
Lawyer, writer and stalwart of the dramatic arts John Jennings has been lovingly remembered by all those who knew him after his sad death aged 85 on 2nd September.
Born and raised in Quinton, Birmingham, he was the first in his family to go to university. After attending King Edward’s School, he read law at Birmingham University before taking articles in the city and joining distinguished law firm Eversheds.
Recalling his career, his partner Juliet Grundy said: “He was the head of probate and trusts. The little old ladies apparently loved him he took care of them so well. Like everything in his life, he looked after the details, and had a strong sense of what was right – moral standards that ran through all aspects of his life.
“He started in 1962 and in 2012 got a certificate congratulating him on 50 years on the roll of solicitors. He was very proud that he’d achieved that,” added Juliet, who is also a solicitor.
John later settled in Stratford, where he lived by the river at Avonside, and was an enthusiastic supporter of theatre and the RSC.
A keen writer, he was an original member of Stratford Playwrights, and had plays performed locally.
John and Juliet had a late blooming romance and were together for the last decade.
Their first meeting had a plotline suitable for the finest of love stories.
“I fell over his legs in the cinema – at the old Picturehouse,” recounted Juliet.
“I had decided I wanted to see the National Theatre’s live screening of the play Driving Miss Daisy. I was in rehearsals for a play and so I arrived late and stumbled over him in the dark.
“I sat down – as he maintained ‘very heavily’ - beside him. There was an interval and we got chatting. As we left the cinema he suddenly said ‘would you like to come for a drink? – and by the way I know who you are’.
“He had a phenomenal memory he could remember who was the third spear-carrier to the left in any production. Anyway he had seen me in a production of Pericles that had an amateur cast but was put on at the RSC.”
She continued: “One of the astonishing things when we met was how much we had in common – we were born in the same town, both went to King Edward’s – although he was 13 years older than me - our mothers even had the same, and we both loved theatre – he wrote plays and I acted in them. We loved going to the theatre and cinema and that was our bond.”
Theatre was a lifelong passion for John.
“He saw all the greats, he could tell you about all the live performances of Olivier, Richardson and Gielgud – and he remembered so much detail and kept programmes,” added Juliet.
Most recently, in 2021, Juliet had acted in John’s playlet Nursery Tea, directed by the RSC’s Nicky Cox at the Bear Pit during the Festival of One Act Plays.
“John’s plays weren’t big and thunderous, he was very good at creating realistic recognisable characters – they stood up on the page and were easy to act. Nursery Tea was taken from an episode little portrait of his parents. Director Nicky made an absolute picture of it and every word sang.”
The couple loved travelling, and would regularly spend time in Cornwall, frequently at their favourite place near Mullion. And John was also a great walker.
Describing her much-loved partner, Juliet said: “John was charming, convivial, generous and kind-hearted. He was quite old fashioned in a way, an archetypal gentleman with a bit of flair to him. He loved dressing well, a classic dresser I would say – he always wore a hat of some sort.
“All the tributes say the same thing – he was an absolute gentlemen – they don’t make chaps like John any more – he was intelligent and articulate and loved words – in every conceivable sense.”
For the last three years John had bravely fought cancer.
“He was so positive, never moaned, just got on with it said I won’t let this defeat me. He had fantastic support from Warwick Hospital and everyone at the Rigby Unit, including all the nurses and Dr Hannah Tween.
“Towards the end he went into Myton Hospice, who were wonderful. John slipped away with his family and friends with him.”
As well as Juliet, John leaves behind Clive, his youngest brother, Clive’s children Duncan, Max, Bertie and Phin; and George and Alexandra, the children of Paul, John’s middle brother, who sadly pre-deceased him.
Many other tributes have been paid to John. Sharing their thoughts, the Bear Pit Theatre said: “We will miss his generous and wise comments on productions and his kind and gentlemanly approach to everyone he encountered. His memory will forever be cherished by all who had the privilege of knowing him.”