I first came across John in the Summer of 1968 with Bogg issue No. 2 (or it could have been No. 3—my memory isn’t what it was), when we were working with my Stone Age Spirit duplicator at Trevor Greenley’s house on Brudenell Place in the Hyde Park District of Leeds.
John had submitted some poems that didn’t quite fit in with our policy, and I returned them saying, “They were very nice but not what we were looking for.” A few days later, another selection came along with a letter, which said, “I don’t just write nice poetry.” I liked all of them and immediately accepted them, and thus began our long and fruitful relationship. This, in many ways, reflected John’s personality. He accepted my comments without taking offence and obviously grasped my philosophy of looking for something a little bit different that had an individual voice. The poems he sent fit in ideally with my approach.
Bogg was only meant to be a fun magazine with no intention of becoming an academic or literary mag—goodness knows there were many of those around. After all, this was England of the swinging ’60s, psychedelia, and Beatlemania. I graduated in the summer of 1969, returned back to the East Coast, and that should have been the end of Bogg, as I never had any thoughts of it having any longevity, but so many people contacted me that I decided to carry on. Obtaining a better duplicator, I started up again.
The first time I actually met John would have been early 1970. I think he came to visit me with Gerald England, the editor of Headland magazine. We got on from the start. Later, John came up from Cambridge, where he was a postgraduate student studying for a Ph.D., and he stayed for a few days with my family and me. I took him round the sights of Filey and the neighbouring environs and introduced him to my friends.
Over the course of the next few years, I made an annual pilgrimage to Cambridge, where I stayed with John and Connie at their house on Hertford Street. I have many happy memories of those far off days: visiting the local arts cinema, the various colleges in Cambridge, punting on the River Cam, and going to a French restaurant with John, Connie and some Canadian friends of his.
We discussed poetry and literature in general, the magazine and various pubs, and, all in all, had a great time. It was during these visits that the idea of a U.S. section of Bogg run by John gradually developed. He eventually returned to the States, which is when a long and fruitful correspondence and collaboration developed (this was long before the internet), and through John and his contacts, I made many new friends in America, some of whom came to visit Filey whilst in England and whom I took to local pubs.
Bogg became well known over the years, and John gradually developed the U.S. section into an invaluable part of the magazine and tested Joe Hirst (our artist in residence) to come up with an American cover for each issue. We always tried to keep it as a non-literary mag, and always looked out for something quirky or different, and John seemed to have an eye for picking out just the right sort of work that fit in well. I never had to refuse any of the items he sent over to me. At the end of the day, it was work that we liked no matter what.
We were of different personalities. John was more thoughtful and deliberate than myself and came from a more literary and academic background, but it was our differences that made us a whole. Our likes and dislikes of works might have varied, but we were at one on basics. John would send me a selection he had made, and I would make the final decision, but I can’t remember ever disliking anything he sent.
I always enjoyed being in his company, and we never had any serious arguments about anything. He was an amiable man, very laid back and very literary aware, but always ready to adapt to the needs of the mag.
During the ’80s, I began to feel the pressure of running a business and editing. Bogg had become too much for me. I toyed with the idea of closing Bogg down, but John suggested that we reverse roles—he would be Bogg’s editor, and I would edit the British section, a suggestion with which I heartily concurred. Bogg then became an American publication, and the rest is history.
In 2003, I became a pensioner and decided to retire from the literary world. I gave up editing the British Section, leaving the mag in the keeping of John’s safe hands. I know that John was aiming, upon his own retirement, to bring Bogg out on a regular basis of four issues a year, but it was not to be. It came as a great shock to me when Connie contacted me with the sad news that John had died.
I last met John sometime in the ’80s, or it could have been the ’90s, when he and Connie came over to England one summer. They came to stay in Filey for a couple of days. The weather was superb, and we visited Rievaulx Abbey near the market town of Helmsley, and the village of Coxwold, where we saw Shandy Hall, the home of Laurence Sterne, the author of Tristram Shandy. It was wonderful to see them, and it was if the intervening years had never been.
He may no longer be with us, but the memories remain—forty years of them. The discussions, the laughter, the collaboration, and the mag will always bind us together. John was a decent, thoughtful, intelligent man, and it was a privilege to have been his friend.