My father, John Marston, who passed away at the age of 87, was a dynamic and inspirational businessman, civil engineer, adventurous sailor and longtime governor of education. His drive has always been to find ways for individuals to fulfill their potential – he has achieved this through running family businesses, promoting apprenticeships and supporting numerous charities.
Born in Wandsworth, south-west London, he was the son of Elsie (née Shepherd) and John Marston, who ran the family construction business WJ Marston & Son, established by his grandfather, William Marston. John Jr went to Dulwich College in South London and then Rugby School.
After graduating with an engineering degree from the University of Manchester in 1957, he worked as a junior engineer for Costain. Various projects range from the development of the new M20 motorway in Kent to the construction of an aircraft refueling stop in the middle of the Indian Ocean, at Gan in the Maldives, with a runway longer than the island it is. -same.
After joining the family business, John managed many diverse WJ Marston building projects over the next four decades: schools, hotels, Tottenham Hale tube station, Kingston School of Architecture, London School Oratory and many residential and commercial developments in South London.
Alongside his professional career, John enjoyed a social and playful life as a mainstay of the Shirley Wanderers Rugby Club, whose members distinguished themselves by stealing the Twickenham crossbar after the 1965 college game in an incident that made the national newspapers, before negotiating his safe return.
Among his achievements was guiding Marston Hotels to become the largest independent hotel group within Best Western UK, winning the AA Hotel Group of the Year award in 2004, before the company was sold in 2006.
He served for 25 years as Governor of the higher education institution Hammersmith College (now West London College), for which he was made an MBE, and was President of the Putney Sea Cadets.
A lifelong sailor – both racing and cruising – he owned the classic 20-ton yacht Clyde Tigris long before her glamorous run to St. Tropez triumphed; in John’s ownership, she was driven to Africa and back.
Later in life his enthusiasm for others to succeed grew into a passion for philanthropy – support for the Woodland Trust which saved many old woods and created new ones; for the University of Manchester, which established a Marston PhD Fellowship in Audiology, as well as funding for pioneering graphene research; and for the Jubilee Sailing Trust to launch its second training sailboat Tenacious.
John believed in the business and not all of his investments were successful. “I’m more of an opportunist than a long-term planner,” he writes. “Once you’ve finished something, move on.”
In 1964, he married Mette Dahl. She survives him, his children, Nicola and Andrew, and five grandchildren.