Mount Bures Community Web Site


John Henry Charles Cowlin
7 July 1934- 27 January 2021

Eulogy (courtesy of Emma Barr) read at Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Mount Bures Wednesday 24 March 2021 at 1.30 pm

It is a great privilege to be asked to write and deliver John's eulogy.
A man we all knew and loved in so many different ways.

John and the countryside

John had a rural upbringing, and enjoyed huge freedom if slightly unruly. He and his brother David were adventurous boys living through a wartime childhood, where it was common to see the bombers overhead. He on one occasion was straight out on his bike with his brother David to see a bomber crash near his home in Chelmsford. When he was living in Mount Bures there was a bomb dump, which stretched from Craigs lane to Pebmarsh and Bakers Hall to Earls Colne, these were concrete pads at the side of the road where the bombs were stored and collected when needed, then taken to Earls Colne or Wormingford which were both bomber bases. John said:" a patrol truck would often ride around and catch us boys climbing on the heaps which they did not agree with" John always talked fondly of coming to live in Mount Bures making the move from Chelmsford. How the children at Bures School made him and David very welcome, it was a very happy time where they could make dens, roam freely, sometimes too freely where no one knew quite where they were. Johns love for his surroundings and the countryside came from this rural childhood.

He told a story where he went swimming in the Bures river: "one boy dared another that he couldn't hang over the side of the bridge by his finger tips, which he then did. The first boy then stood on his fingertips which was when his swimming lessons came in handy!"

Another time he and David some how got hold of a fuel tank which would have been carried on the underside of an airplane to increase range that were often jettisoned over the countryside, John said; "we cut a hole in the top also fixing a wooden keel on the bottom and when we put it in the river it floated taking the two of us comfortably, from this we used to fish". this showed even at a young age John`s engineering skills.


It was at school in Bures that Johns love for woodwork and veg growing flourished. They had a vegetable plot and encouraged children to grow their own. His love and knowledge of gardening was for many of us a defining memory of him. He was full of hot tips for growing all kinds of plants and probably had the biggest geranium ever seen in Mount Bures. I remember l had the best leek crop from seedlings he gave me. John always supplied the Church Christmas tree and also one for the last 34 years to Christine and Alan.

John recalled his last day of school in 1949 when the school master said to him:-
"that he would give him a reference for a job if you can get one "
to this l replied "I already had one"
So the Master said, " If someone gave you a shovel and faced you the right way you may dig them a trench!"
A few years after the Master retired he returned to Mount Bures and as John recalled
'l made a point of speaking to him and asked if he remembered me, after a minute he did and said " well what happened to you?" when l told him he hit my shoulder and said " I knew somehow you would do alright"

This 'doing alright' this making something of himself was important to John he was a man who worked hard at each stage of his life whether it be making the most out of his childhood adventures, excelling in the things that interested him at school, his National Service, working hard at work, working hard to build a family home and garden and the church and this community.

The Army

John did his National Service volunteering in 1952 for the Army Catering Corps, he didn't last long here before he and his skills were transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps. It was whilst in this unit that he was sent to London to help with logistics for the Queen`s Coronation.

John writes:
"We started the Coronation Day with Reveille at 0200hrs, and off to Bagshot Barracks to make two runs carrying troops into Hyde Park, ready to march onto the route. Then it was back to 20 Company for a brush up and change into our new blue No1 Dress. All of these uniforms had been tailor made and ?tted. We assembled on our parade ground for an inspection of our uniforms and lorries, with each driver stood next to his lorry. There were teams of three to hand out the rations. It was then off to Chelsea Barracks to load up and then assemble in Birdcage Walk in the right order to drive around the route and stop at given points as our turn came from the back of the convoy. My stopping point was 200 Oxford Street. One man stood in the truck handing the rations to the two on the ground, who, in tum, handed them on to the troops until we reached the next section. We then drove off the Hyde Park until" the next feed-. This was an experience one could never in a lifetime hope to see again. it seems hard for me to realise now that I took part in it.
But at the end of the day, we did not see the Coronation Procession, but as compensation, 20 Company purchased a projector television so we could see it back at the Barracks"

John always had a story and his farming tales were legendary this one is from the time he worked for Billy McMaster at Mount Bures Hall.

"The farm bull was housed in a loose box between the old farm buildings and the churchyard. Every evening the head cowman would walk him round the yard, and let him drink from the water butt. One Sunday, when they approached the butt, the bull put his head down and tossed Frank into the water, and then, to Frank's advantage, the bull tipped the water butt over him, which saved him from drowning.
On another occasion, the vet came over from Halstead to do something to the bull, and when he came his appearance upset the bull, which prevented the cowman from catching him. As the vet was looking through a hole in the boards, the bull also tried to look out, and put his nose ring through the boards. The vet grabbed it, shouting " l got the sod!" but when the bull snatched back his head the ends of the vets fingers were taken off.
The vet was then taken to the doctors, leaving the bull to settle down. One can well understand why artificial insemination was to become the in thing for cows!"

Engineering skills

John went on to work for W.A Church where in 1969 he took charge of their new seed plant. John was a natural engineer knowing how to make things and repair things and understanding how they work. Not just out of necessity but also out of a creative desire to make things. He with Sheila rebuilt their house, which had been derelict for 10 years. He transported all the flints, which made up many of the garden walls, from Ferrier' s pits and laid them in the evenings, whilst Sheila pushed the wheelbarrow. The robust and well-made kitchen cupboards he made in his kitchen were testimony to his skill and precision. This became their beloved Catchlands the home they shared together for 62 years, the home they brought Simon into and welcomed Ruth into and the home they loved and seeing their grand children Amy, Lucy, Sophie and Oliver


John was a keen historian this was a more community driven effort than an academic pursuit. He wanted people to know where they lived so that they could understand and take pride in it. John was the fountain of all knowledge regarding The Church. John loved this church and took huge pride in maintaining it we are truly blessed that his stewardship over the years has left us with such a sound building for future generations. It wasn't all about the building,
John a committed Christian was at the centre of this Church family and was involved in every facet. Over the last year even though we were closed for some of it we both watched the congregation grow and marveled together with excitement for the future.

Good judge of character

John was an absolute rock in the Mount Bures community; he was on the PCC and a founding member of the MB Connections. He loved to socialize. He always had an open door policy and enjoyed spontaneous visitors to Catchlands where you would always be offered a cup of tea and a biscuit. it was easy to enjoy every conversation with John as he had such huge knowledge of the village and fascinating stories. When new people moved into the village their ?rst encounters of John were all very similar: friendly and warm and welcoming he had an easy familiarity like you had known him for years. He had a dry sense of humour and loved seeing the out come of a controversial comment! He could sum up people really quickly apparently he said of me that: "she don't half chatter" Hugs..... The master of hugging. Every lady here today would have had a John hug; he was a pro and the go to person for a hug. l know how he missed these when social distancing came in. He always said; 'a hug makes all the difference' and he was right there.

The Flower Festival

When not visiting other Church Flower festivals around the country John and Sheila could be seen manning the Church for the Flower festival here and it was on one of these occasions they firts met Sheryl.
ln her words they were: " the reason l became involved in the Church and the wonderful Mount Bures community. l am eternally grateful to them both and l subsequently got married in the church and became a Churchwarden."

He was a man of his word he promised Sheila that when they married he would look after her so she didn't need to work and indeed he did, they were a formidable team and together achieved great things they were members of this community they were doers and their legacies in many ways will live on. John adored his family and last summer he was able to spend precious time in the garden with them, which l know, will have created lasting memories for them all. He also regularly spent time with his brother David. Over the last year John had a difficult time learning to live with the loss of Sheila and his body slowing down. But his mind never did and he was always open to new things including his venturing into the world of spicy food, Zoom, Facebook and WhatsApp.

Home made wine

John wrote: "While I was working on the farm there was a man called Bill Crack who lived in one of the two cottages at Hobbs Well, which could only be reached by crossing an arable field. He invited me to his home, so l set off on my bicycle, and, after trying some of his home made wine, my bicycle refused to even be pushed in a straight line. This was a lesson l never forgot."

Does this experience sound familiar to anyone who might have drunk John's homemade wine ? l have only touched on a few moments of John's long and interesting life. What a great man. A man we all knew in our own individual ways, a man who right up until the end was embracing the new.
From the moment we are born we recognize within ourselves an insatiable hunger for more life. We try to grasp onto every experience enjoy every relationship and maximize every opportunity.

This was the John l knew.