The RNLI saves lives at sea.

John Hancock

Also known as: John.

Picture of John Hancock.

My father, John Hancock, sadly died on 21st December 2006 at the age of 71. He was diagnosed with cancer of the brain and lung six months previously, which was a huge shock to all of us. John was extremely brave during his illness and he never complained about what he was going through. He maintained a positive outlook and looked forward to getting better. We are deeply upset that John is no longer with us and the feelings of grief are still very raw.

We would like to give thanks for John’s life on this website, and thank all of John’s friends and family for their support during the past few months. We would also like to thank you for the very generous donations you made to the RNLI in memory of John, a charity of which he was a keen supporter.

John Alan Hancock 1935 – 2006

John Alan Hancock was born on 25th March 1935 in Sheerness, Kent. He was the son of Ernest & Elsie Hancock who met at Featherstone’s, a Kent based firm of department stores for which his father worked for 55 years, and for which his mother also worked. His childhood years were spent in the north Kent towns of Sheerness, Gillingham and later Rochester, with brothers and sisters Frank, Donald, Betty and Doreen. John had another sister, Jean, who died in infancy.

John was evacuated in World War II, aged 4, to Abercynon, South Wales This was a troublesome experience for all concerned. John was an adventurous child and this occasionally brought unwelcome consequences: in later life he would not lose that urge to enjoy a calculated risk be it by motorbike, car, boat, on a pair of skis, or on foot!

John attended Gillingham Grammar School where his interest in science started to develop. John enjoyed playing, and later watching, rugby more so than football, but his father’s keen interest meant he also followed the fortunes of Sheppey United and Gillingham F.C. Through the years the Gills’ result was always the one to look for.

On leaving school at 16, John’s first full time job was on the Isle of Thanet for Shell. Shortly afterwards he left home and took up work at BP in Sunbury. Then after initial unsuccessful studies for ‘A’ Levels in Kingston, John joined the Army to do National Service which took him to Korea, Japan, and the Middle East. He returned to study again for ‘A’ Levels, this time in Battersea, successfully gaining entry to Southampton University to read Chemistry where he graduated as a Batchelor of Science. It was at university where he met his wife of 44 years, Diana. John and Diana met at Southampton ice rink, the rink where a year earlier he had sustained one of his few serious injuries, a double fracture of the leg.

On graduation John started a successful career with the Shell group of chemical companies. From Birmingham he moved on to marketing roles at the Shell Centre in London, where responsibilities took him around North West Europe and the United States. He ended his long service for Shell as Managing Director of the subsidiary cavity wall insulation firm, Thermocomfort, based in Newbury, before taking an opportunity for well earned early retirement aged 57.

John and Diana were married in 1962, in Rochester, and at first lived in Kilburn. They moved to their bungalow in Ashford Common, Middlesex where their family grew with son Ivan in 1963, and daughters Laura in 1967 and Rachel in 1970. 1979 saw the family move to Sunbury-on-Thames. Over the years, the father of three was always addressed and referred to simply as ‘John’ by his children, which led to their friends realising that their mums and dads had real names too! In 2005 John finally became a grandfather with the arrival on the scene of grandson Ewan.

John loved cats. While in the bungalow, next door’s cat Lucy was casually adopted before the later arrival of legendary Eric, the first of several revered family cats. Subsequent feline family members were Lucy II, Kirby and in recent years, Tilly. Every year, John bought his Cats Protection charity calendars with dedication to give as gifts to his sisters. During his illness, John drew a lot of comfort from Tilly who was always close by, and in fact was asleep next to him at the moment that he passed away.

John enjoyed a passion for sailing on his boats, ‘Little Chinook’, ‘Brandy Wine’ and lastly ‘Poseidon’. Moorings at Bosham, Emsworth and The Hamble were always handy for exploring the Solent area and the more adventurous trips to France and the Channel Islands. With the rest of the family distinctly hesitant about tackling the high seas it was daughter Laura who fulfilled the longer term role of first mate during her youth. Whole family excursions usually involved a lot of groaning below deck; urgent screams of ‘don’t let it lean over so much’ and ‘I want to go back’, or Ivan being towed behind in the inflatable dinghy, with the rope extended the more he protested. Occasional encounters with a variety of south coast lifeboat crews, added to the wealth of often recounted incidents at sea. John and Laura had a particularly close shave not far from Old Harry Rocks when they got caught in strong winds and had to be rescued after the motor failed. (It was near this spot that we scattered John’s ashes recently as he particularly liked this stretch of the English coast).

Earlier family holidays regularly allowed John to savour the bracing air of the Scottish Highlands for skiing, walking and fishing, rounding off a perfect day with a ‘wee dram’. Over the years he retained his enthusiasm for more enduring treks or one of his ‘brisk walks’. He would relish opportunities for a countryside ramble or riverside stroll, rarely being overly concerned about adverse weather conditions, terrain or the time he was due back. John was a confident skier and embarked on a number of family holidays to France and Switzerland.

Retirement brought the opportunity for breaks in the Mediterranean sun, as well as increased activity in the garden which he loved. With his love of the sun, John dreaded the cold winter months and was always keen to get away in February or March for a warm winter holiday – often to the golden sands of Jandia in Fuerteventura. John was a keen swimmer and enjoyed getting out into the sea equipped with his snorkel. . In the midst of the cold weather, however, he loved Christmas. This has been a special family time, having fun and enjoying the festivities together with friends and partners. John genuinely enjoyed the pleasure of giving rather than receiving. That’s not to say that he wasn’t appreciative of our efforts to find ‘the perfect gift’, but when asked he always replied “I have everything I need.” In previous years, John would roll his eyes at us as we scurried around shopping in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Then, close to the day, he’d quietly pop out one afternoon and then spend a whole evening wrapping in his office with the door firmly shut. He created exquisite baskets, nests and decorated boxes for his gifts with beautiful paper, tape and bows.

A few months before John died, my sister Laura remembers a conversation she had with John about the Winter Solstice on December 21st. They agreed that the Winter Solstice is a positive event as it marks not only the shortest day, but also the beginning of days becoming longer; there’s a feeling of optimism, looking forward to the lighter and warmer days to come. It seems fitting that John should have passed away on that date.

I leave you with a poem which I found on the internet but for which cannot yet locate the author. I dedicate this to John:-

After Glow

I’d like the memory of me
to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an after glow
of smiles when life is done.
I’d like to leave an echo
whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times
and bright and sunny days.
I’d like the tears of those who grieve,
to dry before the sun
of happy memories
that I leave when life is done. (author unknown)

Rachel Hancock

Added by: Rachel Hancock on 22 October 2007.

Send to a Friend

Charity information


The RNLI is a charity that provides a 24-hour lifesaving service around the UK and Republic of Ireland.

As a charity, the RNLI relies on your support to carry on saving lives at sea.

Appreciations and tributes

Add your tributes

If you would like to add a tribute to John Hancock, please use the link below and follow the instructions provided.

Additional links

Make a donation

Make a donation in memory of your loved one or friend.