It is the early 1950s. Shebbear is bursting at the seams. Under JBM’s energetic and inspired headship, the number of boarders creeps towards the 250 mark. Few new buildings then. Boys sleep out – Buckland House, the Vicarage, the Manse … The school bustles with vitality. Competition to get into school teams is intense. House matches are fought with ferocious zeal. There are four scout troops. On stage in the Old Third, soon to be transformed into the Memorial Hall, something is always being rehearsed.
It is an environment that shaped many lives.
We look through the magazines of the period to discover how M.O.Johns was developing. A rugby player certainly; in the 2nd XV but soon to be promoted to the 1st. His ability in the senior team is applauded by EGEL.
He is a keen scout – a patrol leader in the Senior Troop. Leadership qualities already showing. A Sub-Prefect, too. This privilege allowed occupancy of the “subs hut”, furnished with leather chairs, a darts board and an electric wall fire for making toast. He does not ignore his studies and is heading for a good clutch of O-levels, including Latin. He is a Librarian.
We get some clues as to the direction he will take when he leaves Shebbear in 1957. An edition of the Shebbearian reviews JBM’s “zestful production” of Shaw’s Arms and the Man. We read that “Michael Johns capably portrayed a Russian officer.” Arms … officer … could a military career lie ahead?
Then in an earlier magazine, there is a report of a mock trial held in the old library and organised by the Union Society. Before Mr Justice Dickinson, Commander William Daniel is sued for breach of promise by Mrs Eliza Jones.
Evidence was given by a Pc Johns, “a stalwart constable of Holsworthy” …
Michael Johns left Shebbear and was called up for two years’ of National Service in the army. Quickly, he was picked out as someone of potential to be an officer. After attending Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt and served in Kenya, Muscat and Oman.
In 1960 he joined the Devon Constabulary as Pc No 689. Two years later he rejoined the Army and was awarded a Regular Commission. He served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the Royal Irish Rangers, undertaking duties in Muscat, Oman, Aden, Bahrein, the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, Berlin, BAOR and Northern Ireland.
He was also attached to the Royal Ulster Constabulary for two years.
Retiring from the Army in 1979, he returned to Holsworthy where for four years he was Transport Manager for West Devon & Cornwall Farmers Ltd. From 1983-86, he was Clerk to Bude and Stratton Town Council.
He was a member of the area’s Youth and Adult Training Team from 1986-96 and subsequently has “been self-employed in many, various occupations and tasks”.
He has been a Magistrate on the North Devon Bench since 1990.
Proposing him as President, Bill Oke, a lifelong friend, said: “He has had a worthy and sometimes colourful career. He is a community man, a man always willing to help or to give advice. A man always ready to go that extra mile.
“He is sincere – and he can be wonderfully hilarious. He is conscientious, likewise he is caring.
“He will, I know, fly the OSA flag with enthusiasm throughout the coming year.”