Obituary: John Leonard Bate MBE, head librarian and poet

John Bate MBE: Conscientious objector who became head librarian at what is now Napier University
John Bate MBE: Conscientious objector who became head librarian at what is now Napier University
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Born: 27 December, 1919, in London. Died: 18 May, 2015, in Berwick-upon-Tweed, aged 95

John Bate was born in 1919 in Finchley, London, the eldest child of four. His mother, Maud, doted on him, and he went to work in Birmingham Public Library on leaving school.

John was called up into the armed forces but, as a conscientious objector at the outset, was put to work potato picking in Wales.

This was followed by a stint in a Sapper Unit.

Later in the war he was posted to an army unit which was running a prisoner of war camp near Newcastle upon Tyne.

Here he become friendly with novelist Nevil Shute, Sid and Rene Chaplin and anthropologist Vic Turner, among others.

Initially his future wife Peggie was attracted to John by his poems, and after John agreed to become a Catholic the way was cleared for their marriage in June 1945.

After this children and house moves followed in quick succession. By 1956 John and his growing family were living in a Catholic community in Dundee.

It was here that John, by nowwell into his 30s, decided to take university entrance exams and enrol at St Andrew’s University, studying a degree course in Dundee followed by a year in teacher training college.

He qualified and taught history in Kircaldy High School before being offered, in 1964, the post of Tutor Liberian at the newly opened Napier College of Science and Technology in Edinburgh.

These were exciting times in education and John relished the opportunities and the challenges, as well as the opportunity to meet the Queen when she visited.

John retired in 1984 as head of the library services unit, where he was in charge of a much expanded department able to anticipate the future needs of the expanding college, such as with the introduction of early digital searching techniques. For his efforts John was awarded an MBE.

He was involved in the opening of the Scottish Poetry Library in 1984 after publishing a collection of his poems, Damaged Beauty Needs a New Design.

He retired in Oxford and kept an open house to a succession of family and friends, and became a guide at the Bodleian Library, tended his allotment, read, wrote and completed crosswords.

In 2000 John’s final move was to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where he quickly became involved in the Literature and Philosophy Society, the Church and the Liberal Democrats.

Once again John and Peggie’s cosy house welcomed family and friends for meals and overnight stays and they enjoyed watching their grandchildren and great grand children grow up.

John died peacefully in Berwick care home on 18 May and is survived by his wife Peggie, 12 children, 27 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.