Obituary: John David Roberts

The Old Sandbachians’ Association were deeply saddened to hear of the death in 2022 of legendary teacher John Roberts (JDR).
We are honoured to present this full obituary, provided by John’s granddaughter, Tess Moseley-Roberts

John David Roberts, 21st January 1933 – 22nd July 2022

John joined Sandbach School in 1964 to teach Art and Physical Education. A Lancastrian by birth, he lived with his wife, Audrey, and children Kim and Ian, in Winterley and later Haslington. Ian was a pupil at Sandbach School from 1969 to 1979.

Over a period of 24 years, John threw himself into school life in many different roles – Head of Art, passionate House Master, Head of Careers and dedicated coach to 1st X1 cricket, soccer and badminton. But it was people who really mattered to him – his genuine and abiding interest in the generations of boys he taught, as well as his supportive relationships with colleagues, mean that he is remembered above all for his integrity, care and kindness.

Ex-pupil Stafford Bowles has written a moving testimony about his influence and what he meant to him. You can read this further down the page.

When he retired in 1988, John wrote about what Sandbach School had meant to him with his characteristic mix of self-deprecating humour and wisdom:

I came here with button flies and the Beatles
Hair and youth
The fastest man on the football field
Often intolerant.
Now these eyes that need glass to function
See things with a self-confidence sapping clarity.
Sandbach School has squeezed my juice
But I have thoroughly enjoyed the squeezing.

In 1995, John and Audrey moved to Gloucestershire and in his later years his growing family was one of John’s greatest joys. Right up until his death at the age of 89, he was deeply and actively involved in their lives and is hugely missed by Audrey, Kim and Ian – as well as by his 5 grandchildren, Cora, Ellie, Tess, Joe and Ben, and 3 great grandchildren, Evie, Flynn and Luca.

John Roberts – a very special man and real legend of our time!
By Taff (Stafford) Bowles – a former pupil of John’s at Sandbach School, now 64 and still working with schools to develop more outdoor learning, adventure, and activity.

I have known John for over 50 years, and I feel incredibly privileged and blessed to have known him as my school teacher and house master, and subsequently a lifelong friend.

As an art teacher John was quite brilliant, inspiring me and many other students at Sandbach School to become more creative and to develop a deep love of art.

As House Master at school, John was a remarkable leader – his positivity, enthusiasm, and support for me and all my fellow students in Lea House was extraordinary. As students, we often said “Come on, we can do this for Mr Roberts!” He cared deeply for all his students, and it was no wonder that we developed a deep respect and love for him which continued well beyond our school days.

As a school sports coach, he encouraged and enabled all his students to perform to their best ability and to exceed their expectations. Having John watching from the touchline of a rugby match inspired everyone to give their best and to give total commitment and his presence always gave us extra energy and motivation.

As a sportsman himself (especially on the cricket field), John excelled in every area – it was his love of cricket (and other sports) that encouraged me and many school friends to grow in our love of sport and to work for each other as team members. Sadly, I never managed to beat him at any sport – whether it was croquet, or table tennis, or badminton! Even when I accidentally hit him on the head with my racquet whilst playing squash – causing a serious cut to his forehead! – he still carried on and won easily.

As senior and much respected school staff member, he was always so supportive to my dad (John Bowles who was Headteacher at Sandbach for many years) – always standing up for what was just and right. Indeed, he was a man of great honesty and integrity – someone who I would have happily voted to become Prime Minister!!

As a couple, John and Audrey always gave us such a warm welcome and provided us with such wonderful hospitality whenever we called by.

As a lifelong friend, John has been a constant delight – with a wonderful sense of humour and willingness to tease, he was always great fun to be with. It is not everyone who keeps in touch with their past teachers, but John was not an ordinary teacher. I feel incredibly privileged that John has maintained our friendship throughout his life.

I will miss him enormously, but his spirit and influence will linger on forever. He inspired me to become a teacher myself and to continue sharing many of the same attitudes and values. I will endeavour to continue doing so in his honour.

Thank you John!!