Obituary Dr John Arthur Collings-Wells

Dr John Arthur Collings-Wells died peacefully at his home on 12th February 2009 aged 86 (NC 1936-1940). The short biography below has been written by his brother Jim Collings-Wells (NC 1940-1944).

“John Collings-Wells was born in 1922 on his parents’ coffee estate in Kiambu Kenya. The family returned to England in 1927 eventually settling on a small fruit farm at Cheriton Bishop in Devon. John was at Blundells 1936-1940 where he was a keen member of the OTC and of the boy scouts, going on the World Scout Jamboree to Holland. He spent much time developing his carpentry skills in the workshops and helped with the carving of the Gorton altar in the chapel.

On leaving Blundells in 1940, because of a heart defect since birth, John was turned down for the Fleet Air Arm or other active armed service, so he undertook an apprenticeship at De Havilands Aircraft Works at Hatfeild before going out to Abadan on the Persian Gulf as an aircraft engineer with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. At Abadan John developed his love of sailing, which he said kept him and his mates sane in that climate.

Back in England in 1947 John was able to have a new operation to correct his heart condition. This was a brilliant success and led to him deciding to change career and undergo the 7 year medical training to become a GP. Another great influence at that time was meeting Heather Chubb, a nurse, while in hospital after his operation. They were married in 1949. After qualifying in medicine and working in London for several years they moved to a general practice in Rugby until 1965 when John joined Dr J C Newell-Price (W 1942-1947) in his practice at Fleet in Hampshire. Holidays with Heather and the four children were often spent on their boat ‘Sea Flower’ and later ‘Sunbreak’.

On retirement in 1980 John and Heather moved to Lymington, that ‘Mecca’ of sailing, where John continued part-time medical work. He became increasingly involved with the Jubilee Sailing Trust which combines disabled and able-bodied crew members on its ‘Tall Ships’ – ‘Lord Nelson’ and ‘Tenacious’. John sailed as medical officer on some of their voyages with Captain John Fisher (FH 1942-1946).

Other major interests during his latter years included detailed family history research; making and repairing furniture; tree planting; many humanitarian charities, notably Amnesty International and Mission to Seafarers and their local church at South Baddersly, where John was buried on February 26th 2009.”

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The following was received from Dr John C Newell-Price (W 1942-1947).

"I first met John at Kings College Hospital Medical School, and soon discovered that we were Old Blundellians. I had the good fortune to work with him in partnership in a general medical practice in Fleet, Hants.

He was a first class doctor and a loyal and enthusiastic partner who gave unstinting service to his patients. He took a creative and active part in building up the practice at a time of rapid expansion. He brought a wide experience of people and places with him, and gave us a sense of proportion with the touch of humour that lightens, and a dislike of pretentiousness. His familiarity with matters aeronautical gave him an entree to many occupied locally in that industry. His concern for his patients extended beyond the consulting room, and he was an advocate for the disadvantaged, the handicapped and disabled. He was a scourge of bureaucracy and would pen letters to M.P.s, ministers, newspapers or organisations when required.

Outside the practice he was Medical Officer for the St John Ambulance and a police surgeon for some time. He gave support to REMAP, and the Church of England’s Men’s Society.

In retirement he had a formative influence in the early days of the building of the wooden square rigger Tenacious for the Jubilee Trust’s Sailing for the Disabled, and thereafter in a supportive role.

At Blundell's, like many others, he was inspired by the then Headmaster, who became Bishop of Coventry. We sang the Blundell's hymn at his funeral. As his brother Jim said of John, 'he had a fulfilled life'."