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News > Obits > John 'Jack' Goss

John 'Jack' Goss

20 Nov 2023
Written by Cait Spencer

John 'Jack' Trenant Goss
Dates: 13/06/1903 - 1970
BGS: 1914-1922

You can read an article by Jack's daughter in Bristolienses here.

Biography provided by Jack's daughter, Lynda Goss.

My father, John Goss (known as Jack) was born at 38 Old Market Street, in the 17th century home of my grandparents over their drapery business. He received his primary education at North Street Wesleyan School. On his eleventh birthday, he sat the scholarship exam and, despite having a headache, was awarded a place at BGS with a supplementary exhibition from Bristol Education Committee, comprising £7, £5 and £3 for the first three years. For the rest of his time at BGS he was granted free education, provided that due progress was being made!  

Jack quickly entered the school routine, showing particular promise in Latin and, after starting Greek in his second year, excelled at that subject. Until he reached the sixth form, he was usually about a year younger than the average age of his form. Early specialisation was not frowned upon in those days, as indicated by one report comment when he was 13: "I should like to see him develop into a classical scholar, but he will have to work harder yet." Apart from academic work, he greatly enjoyed sport becoming captain of cricket, soccer and hockey and, in his final year, House Captain of Pitt's, named, according to custom, after the House Master, Sam Pitt, who taught maths and was a family friend for many years when he and his wife lived opposite us in Redland. Debating was another interest, and he won a prize for the best debater of the year, inspired, no doubt, by intense study of Cicero and Demosthenes!

Jack began to learn the piano from an early age and soon advanced to organ lessons. From the age of 15 he was unanimously appointed by the church trustees as organist of the Methodist Central Hall, Old Market Street. Later he was organist of Trinity Methodist, Whiteladies Road and, in 1937, organist and eventually choirmaster too, of Bishopston Methodist, Gloucester Road until five weeks before his death in 1970. For many years he was organist for the midweek services at the New Room, Broadmead, John Wesley's first Methodist Chapel ,where, as well as at Bishopston, he played for several B.B.C broadcast services.

My parents first met through mutual family friends and, although only 14 and 11, they promised to marry. My mother was living in Watford at the time and then Ramsgate before her family returned to Bristol when she was 20. She had had several boyfriends until, aged 23, she became ill with measles which required a fortnight in bed and no visitors. Much time to think meant that she wrote a letter finishing the relationship with her then boyfriend. Her brother had maintained a friendship with my father and tipped him off that she was now a free agent, as it were. In those days it was not the done thing to make overtures to someone who was going out with someone already. Once better, her brother as go-between arranged for my father to meet her after church the following Sunday. They very quickly fell in love; my father having never taken out any other girl. But there were obstacles to overcome. At BGS sports Day in 1919 my father drank three glasses of lemonade which confirmed his suspicions that he had what we now call Type 1 diabetes. He must have read of the condition, for in those days it was relatively unfamiliar. My maternal grandfather was opposed to his daughter marrying a diabetic, as the disease then was a death sentence. Eventually, he was persuaded to see a GP who convinced him that there was no reason why marriage and children were out of the question. After a year's engagement my parents married at Horfield Baptist, Gloucester Road, on August 29, 1932.

To revert to the later years at BGS, Jack's intention, strongly encouraged by his teachers, was to read classics at Oxford on a scholarship. As time passed, he was still doing well, but not quite well enough. After two attempts, he was offered a place at St Edmund's Hall as a commoner. Having been unwell off and on for several months, he agreed to his mother's suggestion that he should see the GP before going to Oxford. The diagnosis of diabetes was instantly confirmed and, leaving the surgery, my grandmother said succinctly, "No Oxford and no sugar." 

Plans for a career in law after graduation also had to be abandoned nor did he have the energy to do anything else. The situation improved with the discovery of insulin which he was reputed to be the first person in Bristol to receive. He did spend a term reading classics at Bristol, but four injections a day prevented him from attending all the lectures, resulting in withdrawal from the course. With good humour and determination, he undertook the management of the third drapery shop bought by his father who, in his early teens, had left his home village of Combe Martin to travel by steamer up the channel to Bristol to acquire an apprenticeship and lodgings. Having achieved both, as well as saving enough money to send to his widowed mother and younger siblings, he bought the business in Old Market Street.

After their marriage, the aim was for my father to do his degree at Bristol, followed by legal training, while my mother, who was an excellent saleswoman, ran the business. But alas! that had to be deferred, for she returned from their honeymoon pregnant, Plan B was to wait until the baby was a year or so old, but, before that happened, a second baby was on the way. Therefore, Jack remained for the rest of his working life in business which was by no means his choice. His debating skill, honed at BGS, indicates he would have done well as a lawyer. Although I did not pursue law myself, I think I inherited litigious genes, for, as a lofty teenager, “Don’t cross examine me, I'm not in the witness box" was a not infrequent injunction from my mother.

In retirement Jack was able to devote more time to hobbies. such as walking, much reading of both prose and poetry and the organ. He was employed at Canford crematorium to play for funerals to which he always wore a black tie, even though the congregation would only have seen his back. He continued as President of the Bristol Diabetic Association and a church trustee at Bishopston Methodist. He had been forced to retire earlier than intended, owing to the lack of trade, once Temple Way left Old Market as a ghost street. 

As a child, I was no good at P.E. or games, and so my father would take me to the Downs to practise throwing and catching a ball in different ways. When he became tired, we would sit on a bench where he would tell me Greek myths. At the age of 8 or 9 I resolved that I must one day learn the language, enthralled by the mystique of a strange alphabet. Greek had not been taught for some years at the grammar school I later attended, and then only off timetable. However, when I entered the sixth form, Jack wrote a beautifully rhetorical letter to the Headteacher who agreed that I could learn Greek. I took to the subject like a duck to water, managed to gain O and A level Greek and a classics degree.  My career as a classics teacher and an examiner stems directly from the influence of BGS.

Jack's life had been a triumph of courage and faith in overcoming adversity - and without complaint about his physical limitations. His Christian conviction upheld him throughout the many vicissitudes with which severe diabetes presented him. Hypoglycaemia resulting in comas and uncharacteristic behaviour were not infrequent, despite a strict adherence to diet and regular insulin injections. he always spoke warmly of BGS, appreciating the opportunity to have been educated there. Truly a life well lived , if a short one.


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