Founder member of the Geezers, John Day, dies

The Geezers visit St Dunstan's Church Stepney

The Geezers attended the funeral of John Day, a true gentleman, and founding member of the Geezers. John was an ever present member from 2006.

John (aged 93) is standing behind the walker in the photo above when the Geezers took charge of an allotment at Stepney City Farm in Sept 2022. 

It was a sad occasion on Tues 26th Sept at St Paul’s Church, St Stephens Road. But it was also a time to reflect and remember the happy times we had with him.

For me the time we watched the Laurel and Hardy films that made him laugh, and when we all went to the Geezers allotment and he was in his element.

John will be missed and the eulogy (below) read out by his grandson, Tom Quigley, gives a detailed biography of John Day, 1929 – 2023. 

God bless John.

Eddie Snooks, Geezers Chair.

Tom Quigley’s Euology:

Thank you for coming everyone, it’s good to see so many friendly faces. For those of you who don’t know who I am, I’m Tom, John’s Grandson. 

I’d like to tell you all a bit about John’s life. There might be bits you know and there might be some new things you hear today. Lots of it was new to me as I wasn’t around for much of it!

John Thomas Day, My Grandad, was born in the Summer of 1929 third child to his parents, Annie May and Thomas, who already had Fred and Rose, his older brother and sister. They went on to have Joan, his younger sister. As a family, they lived not far from where we are today, on Usher Road, actually on ‘little Usher Road’ which is where his parents met living a few doors apart! 

His maternal grandparents, who were German immigrants, also lived locally and died on Ford Road. Many family members have been christened and married at St Marks Church. It’s safe to say Grandad liked living around here too as he spent the next 94 years here!

Money was tight growing up in the 1930s. I’ve been told Grandad would help the family by collecting discarded vegetables from the market, fetching beer for the old lady across the street and rented his comic books to the other kids at school! Being poor meant they were unable pay for school fees, and so Grandad had to work on the school’s allotment by Walthamstow Dog Stadium, helping grow food for the school dinners – school dinners that he didn’t get. Instead he brought jam sandwiches from home.

Like many others in the East End, his childhood was interrupted in 1939 by the Luftwaffe. He and his younger sister, Joan, were evacuated to Brightlingsea near Clacton for a year. The seaside was a very welcome change from London as Grandad told me he enjoyed spending his time picking fruit in the countryside and gathering cockles from the shore for tea.

Before returning to Bow, John passed his 11 Plus in nearby Colchester, earning him a scholarship at the prestigious Parmiter’s School when it was in Bethnal Green.

When John’s brother Fred was called up in 1943, John left school and took over Fred’s job at a steel foundry by the canal. Still at age 14, he also volunteered for Fire Watching duty during the war. He worked there until 1947 when he was called up for National Service. I remember him saying that he asked to join the signals corps but was denied because they said his hands were too small to use the typewriters properly!

Instead, he was placed into the Royal Engineers and being a local boy to London, the government decided to send him up to Scotland and then down to Cornwall. He spent a couple of years maintaining the transmissions on army trucks and lorries. This included checking the engines ran properly. 

One of his stories was when he got in trouble for closing the big doors on the garage during winter and knocked themselves out with the fumes from the engines. I’m happy to say they all survived!

After leaving the army in 1949, he worked on a window cleaning round with his Dad for just short of a year, before his Dad died in 1950.

A month later in 1950 his best friend, Bob Read, set him up on a blind date for his 21st birthday. The lucky lady was Lilian, or Lil as she was better known, who became his wife in 1954; and who later became my Nan.

While they were dating, John was part of a weightlifting club and took part in weightlifting displays for the Festival of Britain in 1951. There are even photos to prove it! Clearly my Nan was very impressed by this!

John Day talks about when he met his wife about 6 mins 18 secs into the above video

In 1955, the happy couple greeted their first daughter Sue, and 5 years later, their second daughter Carole arrived, both born at Hackney hospital. The following year, they moved into a brand-new maisonette on Candy Street which would become the family home for more than 50 years. 

Around the early 1960s and looking for more steady work, his friend Bob suggested that Grandad join London Transport at Old Ford as a bus conductor working on the number 8 bus route. John and Bob worked together, and he said it was just like ‘On The Buses’!

With the talk of phasing out bus conductors towards the end of the 1960’s, he made a change and joined the Post Office as a Postman in 1969, a job he enjoyed very much. As he got a bit older working indoors became much more appealing and instead started working as a Postman Higher Grade helping manage the sorting offices. He worked there until he retired at 65.

Shortly after retirement my Grandad experienced the sudden and untimely passing of Lil. Grandad now in his 70s, found himself with a lot more time to spend his many, many hobbies he’d had for years, including; collecting cactuses, breeding tropical fish, reading crime thrillers, tending to the dozens of plants on his balcony, his allotment, the Geezer’s club, taking up painting, collecting model soldiers, as well as helping out here at St Paul’s church. Not forgetting to mention all the time he spent with his wonderful grandchildren!

As an important part of his week, Grandad would always talk about what was going on down at the allotment. What was going on with his friends on the neighbouring plots, what fruit the birds had eaten this week and if we wanted another oversized marrow he couldn’t eat! He was boastful about being able to survive on 50p a day with most of his diet fuelled by his allotment produce and a tin of Spam! 

He was a part of the allotment society when it was announced that the Olympics would take over the site entirely, and he was key in successfully lobbying the council to eventually find them a new home for the allotments at Manor Farm.

I can’t forget to mention that he was also a founding member of the Geezer’s club, some of whom are here with us today. I’ll leave telling stories about his time with them, to them! Including the naked calendar shoot!

In time it became very apparent to me that Grandad found the church and its community here at St Paul’s an important and enjoyable part of his life. I look forward to hearing the Vicar’s side of the story! 

It was around this time that he and Mavis met, and it was here in 2012 at St Paul’s that they married – and where I was proud to be his best man at the wedding.

And that’s it for the history! There is a lot to say after 94 years and so much more I could not fit in! As a family, we would love to hear your stories about him and to share them with us later today.

On a personal note I would like to thank all of the kind and compassionate people who cared for him for the past few years. Family, friends and, of course, his carers. You made a world of difference.

Tom Quigley

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