John Vose, a gifted writer of numerous books on St Helens, has died. Here, his son Kevin pays a touching tribute to “one of the funniest man I ever knew”...
John Dennis Vose was one of the funniest man I ever knew, and I was lucky enough to have him as my father.
Blessed with a natural wit, he was a gifted writer.
Born in 1933 in Thato Heath, St Helens, to Joe Vose, a well-known builder in a family of three sons, he attended West Park Grammar School and was a keen rugby player.
Like many schoolkids, he became an ardent fan of the town’s rugby league team, the Saints.
Enrolling in the Manchester School of Chiropody, he qualified as a chiropodist, but finding it hard to gain employment took work in his father’s record shop in the town.
Through contacts gained there he became a sales representative for VOX, the company whose most famous product were its amplifiers, used by the Beatles and many more bands of the 1960s.
Marrying Philomena, an Irish nurse he met at a dance, they moved in 1962 to Larne in Northern Ireland, where he worked for VOX selling Amplifiers, his patch was both Scotland and Ireland.
Vox Amplifiers were made famous by the Beatles. By 1968 they had four sons, Michael, Kevin, Colin and Martin.
It was during this period that he started to write, to while away the hours while staying away from home. A great fan of writers such as Conan Doyle, Jeffrey Farnol and Rider Haggard, his first novel was The Lady Of Connemara, published by United Writers in Cornwall, a historical adventure set in 18th century Ireland.
In 1970 they moved to Blackpool- a hotbed of crown green bowling – where he worked for the Dallas Arbiter company, famous for their guitars, as their north of England representative.
Here he wrote Corner to Corner (and over the crown) the first of several non-fiction books. This was an affectionate look at the characters who peopled the game in Lancashire, and was later reprinted in 1992.
His experiences as a young chiropodist led to his next novel published in 1978, Your Feet Are Killing Me! following the adventures of a young man dealing with bunions, callouses and corns, and a legion of grumpy but often eccentric patients.
It was one of these who led to him being regularly consulted by The Sun and Daily Mirror newspapers, along with Granada Reports, as a weather forecaster.
A lady with a bunion claimed she could tell if it was going to rain the next day, and sure enough, the heavens opened. This was followed in 1980 by The Diary Of A Tramp, an affectionate tribute to those who tramped Britain’s roads in the 1930s, and in 1982 by the non-fiction The Lancashire Caruso: the Story Of Tom Burke, son of an Irish miner who became a noted opera singer after working in a coal mine in Leigh, Lancashire.
It was such a success, BBC Radio 4 and Radio 2 ran programmes based on the book. A pub in the town is named after Tom Burke, and John was interviewed live on Granada television.
Although selling musical instruments to shops, he had no interest in pop music, even though one of the major bands of the era, The Who, used to break guitars made by his firm on stage.
He used to say it was good for business. On one occasion, he attended a trade fair in Manchester, representing Dallas Arbiter, and was introduced to rock band Emerson Lake and Palmer, who were staying in the same hotel. He thought they were a rival music firm and offered them a catalogue!
Due to ill-health, in the 1980s he swapped the open road for the chiropodist’s chair, taking up his old profession in Blackpool, before working in Halifax as a hospital chiropodist.
Here he teamed up with nurse John Starr to write the play A Murderous Concept, based on a murder in a railway tunnel.
In 1985 he took a holiday in Ireland to investigate the Moving Statues phenomenon, which led to the book The Statues That Moved A Nation, and interviews on radio in Ireland, including Gerry Ryan’s Radio 2 morning show.
It was then that he started buying and selling 78rpm records, a love which harked back to his days working in his dad’s record shop.
He became known as The Shellac King, and spawned several pamphlets about collecting records. He travelled widely to collect them, and the family home in Blackpool became a Mecca for 78 collectors.
An ardent Saints RL fan, John was steeped in the lore of the early days of the club, and wrote three comic novels about a fictitious Lancashire rugby league club, the first being ‘Up T’Rovers’, featuring the character of Joshua Hepplethwaite. Another two followed, ‘Joshua Joins The Super League’ and ‘Ref Put A Jersey On!’ These were typed and edited by son Kevin Vose, who ran for St Helens AC and Liverpool Harriers in the 1980/90s
John moved with Philomena to Blundell Sands in Liverpool in 2009, and after the love of his life died in 2011, became ill with dementia. He was well looked after by his son Colin and wife Eileen.