I was fortunate to meet John Basford around 45 years ago at the start of my career. He had just joined the Germany based oil and specialist leather chemical company Schill + Seilacher when his first job, making glazed kid leather at British Chrome Tanning Company, came to an end. He had fantastic help at the beginning with S+S from colleagues travelling with him to teach and mentor him on the products and processes. Adding this to his Northampton leather studies (when leather teaching was done at what is now Avenue Campus), and his British Chrome Tanning experience, John soon became a formidable force in wet end technology in his own right. From the use of enzymes in soaking and liming right up, to advanced retanning systems with comprehensive fireproofing treatment, for forty years John was one of the top experts. He soon had loyal customers throughout the world who would not make adjustments, build new processes, or even new factories, without first consulting with him. His customers usually became his friends.

Unlimited skill and generosity

John Basford’s generosity was unlimited. He went out of his way to help his friends from all around the world. He was always available to assist. Whether it was advising on career paths, helping technicians find jobs, housing Northampton leather students and watching over them on behalf of their parents, or helping with all manner of personal or technical problems, he was never too busy. His help was truly meaningful. Back in the seventies when I was awaiting the paperwork to move to work in France from South America, he insisted that we stay at his home. Moving our young family in with his young family for a few weeks, and still being good friends forty years later, is a measure of the person he was. It was quite a stressful time for us work wise, and a busy work period for John. Yet, he was always there taking everyone to watch the Saints (Northampton rugby club), arguing about the latest wines he had discovered, and discussing the new products he was launching.

Leather was central to John’s life, and the idea of retirement was never a real plan. With his wife Pailing’s help, he was able to slow a bit in recent years but, until illness overtook him, he was still busy. And while he liked to talk about the past and how he had seen the industry change, he was always proud to be at the leading edge of leather technology: dedicated to advancing leather and keeping it relevant in the modern world. It was not that “leather was his job”, but rather, that leather was his life. And he was a proud advisor and mentor to anyone interested to learn. He will be deeply and sadly missed by friends all around the world.

Mike Redwood


Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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