John Sales

26th February 1952 – 5th December 2021

As Chris and I were ill and unable to attend John's funeral on December 23rd, Tony Lawther has kindly written a report.

Mary Payne

A report of John's Funeral by Tony Lawther

The funeral and committal for John Sales took place at Woodside Cemetery, Benfleet in Essex on Thursday 23rd December 2021.

I attended the service, along with about forty other people, in the pleasant Woodside chapel, beside the extensive field cemetery in Benfleet. The whole event had been admirably organised by John's brother Roland, in haste to beat impending possible Covid lockdown measures.

The service, which began with the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah sung by Katherine Jenkins, was led very ably and appropriately by Vanessa Milligan. After a welcome and introduction she read the poem 'A Life Well Lived', about "…someone who has made our world a brighter, better place." Then Roland, stoically containing his obvious grief, gave us all an insight into the 69 years of John's life. His early apparent interest in all things mechanical and electrical had led him into a job as a university electrical technician, at which he was eminently successful. He had never married, but lived on his own, frequently visiting his family, including nieces and their children, who all lived close by, and he had interests and hobbies to keep him busy. Roland had been aware of John's particular interest in offshore radio, but knew little about it, except that he was an ardent and obviously knowledgeable fan.

We learned more about this from the tribute written by Mary, who, along with Chris, was unwell and unfortunately unable to attend, but it was read by Vanessa, and is reproduced on the Radio London web site at the head of the many, many tributes to dear John.

At the conclusion of the reading, the strains of the harpsichord introduction, familiar to all us anoraks, of Johnny Young's Craise Finton Kirk, fair tugged at my emotional heart strings. I had met John at the various Harwich reunions and broadcasts over the years, sat on Ha'penny Pier with him, reminisced and indulged in some delightful nostalgia, and that song inevitably featured highly in the playlists of the old pirate DJs who came to recreate the heady days of the sixties revolutionary broadcasting. Hearing that tune followed by Big Lil was almost too much for me to bear. It was particularly poignant on this day, the 57th anniversary of the start of Radio London, and the day on which we had all been due to meet up on the Tatty Castle for our annual get-together, sadly postponed from Covid-ridden 2020.

Vanessa read the poem 'One At Rest' – "…And now I am at peace." We all said the Lord's Prayer and listened to Katherine Jenkins sing Time To Say Goodbye.

Out in the chill Essex air, and overcast sky, we followed the coffin to the graveside, where it was reverently lowered into the earth, in an open, tranquil, grassy field, which emanated a sense of peace and freedom. There we laid John to rest and, given sprigs of fresh rosemary by Vanessa, we each paid our own silent respects to John and cast the sprigs into his grave. It was dignified, tender, moving and just right.

We then went to the Oyster Fleet Hotel in Canvey Island for the wake. There I met quite a few of John's relatives and friends, and found they were intrigued by his interest in offshore radio. I felt honoured to be apparently representing this aspect of his life and, as such, very glad that I had come. I enlightened many people about the activities in Harwich over the years and about our annual December meet-ups, and about John's help in running the August 2017 offshore DJ reunion in London. Several people knew of the LV18 and had wondered what its connection was to radio. I think Tony O'Neill may be getting a few more visitors now, who journey up the coast a short way to the little pier. After partaking of the excellent ample sustenance, to the extent that we were given food to take for the journey home, I was invited by a great nephew to write a 'treasured thoughts' card of my own thoughts of John.

All in all, I spent a very happy couple of hours amongst extremely friendly people, and I left feeling I'd got to know John a bit more than I had previously, but then sad that I hadn't known him better before he was so suddenly taken from us. It is a lesson I try to learn.


Above: Tony's 'Treasured Thoughts' card. Below: A board full of happy memories

Click here to see the Order of Service

Back to 'What's Happening'
Back to the Page of Tributes and Photos