Much-loved Sheffield teacher set to deliver message from beyond the grave
A former teacher from Sheffield who inspired a generation to help change the world is bowingÂ out in his own inimitable style - by delivering a message from beyond the grave at a party celebrating his life.
John Errington lived in Burngreave and taught for many years at Aston Comprehensive School, where his lust for adventure and determination to rightÂ social injustices rubbed off on students.
The father-of-four was made an MBE in 2004 for his work forging linksÂ betweenÂ the school, now Aston Academy,Â and the seaside villageÂ ofÂ Makunduchi on the island of Zanzibar, off Africa'sÂ east coast.
That involved exchange trips, raising funds for much-needed facilities from farms to new classrooms - partly through the sale ofÂ villagers' handmade crafts in the UK, and much more.
For John, this was a chance not just to help those in need but to open his pupils' eyes to life in the developing world.
He sadly died on December 21 at St Luke's Hospice, aged 65, after a long battle with cancer.
Family and friends are fulfilling his dying wish by organising aÂ party rather than a funeral, at which uplifting banners John designed himselfÂ to bring cheer and comfort to those he loved will be unveiled.
The content of those banners remains a closely guarded secret, but those in the know say anyone hoping for a final dose of his trademark wit and eccentricity will not be disappointed.
John Whitton, a close friends and former colleague, said: 'JohnÂ was an unorthodox teacher but his methods paid off and he was incredibly well-respected by pupils and staff.
'He had a knack for inspiring people, especially his students, and the work he did setting up the Makunduchi link changed lives both over there and here. I think his former students would say they're better people because of it.'
John's commitment to righting what he saw as the world's wrongs was not limited to his workÂ in Zanzibar.
He campaigned tirelessly on issues ranging from preventing fracking to saving Sheffield's trees from the chop, and his distinctive stripyÂ hat, specs and plethora of placards were a familiar sight at demonstrations across the city and beyond.
He was also a keen musician, playingÂ guitar and ukulele, most notably with The Dead Easy Band and alongside regular collaborator Dick Clark.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
John's ex-wife Sue Wallis described him as a '˜true eccentric' with '˜boundless energy', who was neverÂ one to turn down an adventure or to let things lie if he thought they could be improved, and who had a way of persuading people to back his many causes.
She told how his memoirs, written after his terminal diagnosis, are packed with tales of madcap escapades, often ending with the words '˜I could have died that day' - a reminder to readers not to beÂ afraid to push life to the limits as he did.
Born and raised in Seahouses, John toured the world on a shoestring as a young man, funding his travels by taking on jobs ranging from tobacco farming in Canada toÂ fishing in Belize.
He came to Sheffield to read botany and geology at university, and felt immediately at home inÂ what was then the People's Republic of South Yorkshire, settling down in the cityÂ and becoming a biology teacher.
For all John's far-flung adventures, it was a project closer to home which Farne Errington said best summed up his dad.
In 2015, John discovered a disused footbridge near The Riverside pub, just outside the city centre, and made it his pet project to fix up this forgotten crossing.
'We spent a whole summer there, scraping off rust, painting it in bright colours and making signposts,' said Farne.
'It was a very eccentric restoration project, and he even got the lord mayor to officially open it.
'It showed howÂ passionate he became when something took his interest, and how much fun he was to be around.'
The last word is probably best left to the man himself, who signed off his memoirs with the following advice: 'Enjoy your youth and your health. Lots of people die with unfulfilled ambition. I'm not going to, don't you either. If in doubt, always go for it!'
John isÂ survived by his children Lily, Crewe, Daisy and Farne, and his granddaughter Phoebe. The private party in his memory will take place in Sheffield this March.