James 'Joc' Willson

Joc Willson aged 17James (known as Joc) Olaf Campbell Willson (OD 1933) died on 28th March 2010 at the age of ninety.

The following obituary was written and provided by his son, Dr Tom Willson:

"Joc was born in Oxford in 1920 where his father Thomas Olaf Willson was the Director of Education for Oxfordshire. The family (he had three sisters and a brother) moved to Kidlington Mill on the Cherwell shortly afterwards, where he was taught to swim by being thrown in the mill pond! His father also linked a dynamo to the waterwheels, and they were able to produce enough electricity to light the Mill, quite an achievment in those days. Joc's mother Constance was a talented artist and calligrapher, and became a devout Catholic. When Joc was sent on errands into Oxford he would often go by canoe, though I'm not sure that he ever went to school by boat.

His sons often heard him speak of "Hum" and some of his other teachers, and he retained a great affection for the Dragon School. One of his old classmates Peter Savage died last year, and his cousin Anne Willson married Neil Wylie, brother of Shaun.

After leaving the Dragon School, Joc became pupil on the traing ship HMS Worcester (1934 -37). He served in the Merchant Navy prior to the outbreak of war, when he became a Signals Officer in the Royal Naval Reserve. He spent much of the war with the dangerous job of escorting convoys across the North Atlantic in adapted coastguard Cutters (his was HMS Sennen) which had been loaned by the United States. He was also at the Normandy Landings. After the war he trained as a laboratory scientific officer and worked at the MRC Environmental Physiology Unit in Oxford under Professor J Weiner. This unit subsequently moved to London in the 1960s.

Joc Willson 26-02-2010He married Rachel Coppock whose family lived on Cumnor Hill in 1955, and they had two sons Thomas and Justin, both of whom went on to study at Oxford. The family moved to St Albans in 1963, where he lived until he died. After retirement he developed a great interest in genealogy and was guardian of a large achive of family letters, in particular those from his maternal grandfather and his brothers two of whom were early pioneers in Wyoming and one was an army officer whom served with Roberts in Afghanistan. He had just completed a book about these Cowan ancestors shortly before he died, and we hope to publish this shortly.

His wife Rachel died in 2008 and he is survived by his two sons and eight grandchildren."

Joc's funeral will take place at St Peter's Church, St Peter's Street, St Albans (AL1 3HG) on Thursday 15th April at 11am followed by burial at the Hatfield Road Cemetery and lunch at St Peter's.

Dr Tom Willson, would be very interested to hear from any of Joc's contemporaries who might remember him. Any Old Dragons who might be interested in coming to the funeral would be very welcome indeed. Please contact the OD Office (01865 315414) for Dr Willson's contact details.