John Clifford

JOHN Granville Clifford, a noted historian, author and broadcaster on the 17th century plague of Eyam, has died aged 83.

He turned his enthusiasm and passion for the subject into a second career after moving to the Derbyshire village following his retirement from teaching, although he harnessed those skills in talks he gave on the plague.

He had an inspirational gift as a primary school teacher and could hold children spellbound, especially when talking about history.

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In Eyam he developed a whole new life researching what has always been known as “the plague village”, and was always in demand as the authority on the subject whether writing, giving talks or broadcasts.

For 25 years he was the village historian and was a founder member of the village society and museum. He also wrote the history of the local parish church with which he was closely involved, and that of the neighbouring church in Foolow.

Mr Clifford, who was always known as John G because he did not like his second name, was born in Wakefield the only child of Sidney and Madge Clifford and the grandson of Blackburn Peace, a well known electrician in Sandal always referred to as “Blackie” Peace, who installed electricity in the village.

He attended primary school in Ossett before going to Silcoates School, Wakefield, but in 1940 the family moved to Sheffield where he attended Sheffield City Grammar School. He then went on to train as a teacher at the city’s teacher training college.

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But before he started teaching he was called up for military service in 1948, and was very proud of the fact that he was one of the last of the wartime call up before it became National Service. For two years he served in the education unit of the Sherwood Foresters Regiment.

After military service he taught at a number of primary schools in Sheffield before becoming deputy head of the city’s Hemsworth School. In 1966 he was appointed head of Ecclesall Church of England Primary School where he stayed for nearly 18 years until he retired.

He was closely involved with Ecclesall Parish Church of All Saints where he was a member of the Parochial Church Council and a churchwarden. He was also very good at recruiting boys for the church choir. When parents took their sons to enrol at the school he would always ask if they could sing and promptly take them to the choirmaster.

While still teaching in 1961, he joined the Freemasons which became a third career, especially after retirement as he would travel the country in charity work, and served them for 50 years.

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For five years from 1996, he was Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire West Riding which has over 200 lodges. He then became head of the Red Cross of Constantine, a Christian order of Freemasonry.

Mr Clifford is survived by his wife of 48 years, Francine, his daughter Louise and son Michael, five grandsons and a granddaughter.

A memorial service will be held at All Saints Church, Ecclesall, Sheffield, on October 2, at 11am.