Friends and family have paid tribute to a former Douglas mayor who died on SUnday, January 12, aged 73.
Retired councillor John Christian was described by council leader David Christian as a larger than life character, a Manxman through and through, and a father figure to new council members.
David Christian (no relation) described how Mr Christian had helped him canvass when he first stood for the council in 1987: ‘Hills ward had been transferred from Braddan so people were hostile at first and John Christian canvassed with me. He lived at Saddlestone at the time which was in Hills ward and I think some people thought I was another son.
‘He could be blunt at times and he had a very strong presence at committee meetings and in debates. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, always did his homework and would waste no time telling you if you had not. For some years he was chairman of the council’s policy and resources committee – now one of my roles – so in effect he coached me and I took over from him. As well as being a good mentor, he kept his interest in politics up to the end and was still involved in the local elections in 2012.
‘He was one of those characters who were part of the old brigade with a fund of tales to tell. I was very sad to hear the news and so were the other council members.’
John Christian and his wife Sheila were mayor and mayoress of Douglas in 1991-2 – a period which saw Royal and celebrity visits to the island.
He was a council member for Murray’s ward for 12 years from 1983 to 1995 and also stood three times for the House of Keys contesting Middle and West Douglas. He was beaten by just 52 votes on one occasion by Clifford Irvine.
John Christian’s son Adrian said his father had left school to work in the family fuel distribution business, AS Christian and son.
‘The business was started by my grandfather Arthur Summers and the “and son” was my father,’ Adrian said.
‘At a very early age he was driving the tankers delivering to the farms and also to the fishing boats which were leaving and arriving at all hours of the day and night. They used to tip him with free herring.’
For a time the family ran a cavity wall insulation company and also owned the Wessex garage in Alexander Drive from 1981. AS Christian was sold to Total when it first established in the island in 1989 and Wessex was sold in 1995 but was still run by Adrian until recently.
‘Dad remained a director of Wessex Ltd and often used to pop in up to a couple of years ago.’
After retiring from politics, Mr Christian spent 15 years caring for his wife when she became ill with cancer, until her death five years ago.
‘The two were inseparable so after mum died he devoted his time to helping out his many grandchildren, including my five children and he was a frequent chauffeur for them – even turning out to pick them up after New Year’s Eve parties. He used to complain, but he loved it really!
‘He was a great family man. As he never had a daughter he loved his son’s wives as if they were his own and adored his grandchildren and great grandchildren here and in Vancouver.
‘He knew a lot of people and had a great knowledge of the island. He could tell you where a person came from, what they did, who their parents and siblings were. He had a great memory for facts and figures which my older brother Jonathan in Vancouver inherited – unfortunately I did not!’
A great car enthusiast, he competed in the early Manx rallies in a Mini. Later, he took much enjoyment from his caravanette, which was often used for family holidays.
‘Our dining room at home used to double up as mum’s office so it was nice to get away sometimes and as a family we used to go up to the Point of Ayre or Sulby Claddagh in the caravanette. He also used to drive it further – not just into the UK but also making trips to France and Denmark. I think it was because his love of driving the tankers never left him.’
For many years he also marshalled for the TT and Manx Grand Prix at Greeba – and later Brandish with youngest son Steven turning out for the early morning sessions which he particularly enjoyed. As a Freemason, he was the longest serving member of the Douglas Masonic Lodge – even serving behind the bar at times to help out.
He is survived by two sisters, Barbara McCutcheon and Rosina Gash, four sons, Paul, Jonathan who lives in Vancouver, Adrian and Steven who has recently returned to the island after 16 years in the RAF, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He was born in Berkeley Street in 1940 and latterly lived at Harcroft Avenue in Farmhill.
Adrian said: ‘Everyone has described John as an extremely jolly man with a loud laugh and the kindest of hearts; nothing was ever too much trouble for family or friends. He will be sadly missed.’