In Memoriam: John Ishmael (BVSc, 1963; MVSc 1966; PhD 1971)

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John Ishmael

(b) 1939, (q) 1963, Died 19 March 2022

John Ishmael was born on 17th December 1939, in Ormskirk, near Wigan and was the youngest of five children born to George William and Vera Jane Ishmael.  When he was quite young, the family moved to Gathurst Farm, in Orrell, also near Wigan.  His father, George, ran a retail milk business selling farm milk to local households. In addition to his dairy farming background, he spent a lot of time learning about arable farming from his Uncle Tom at Fernyknoll Farm near Rainford.

John attended Upholland Grammar School from September 1951 and he was always proud of the fact that several family members also went on to attend the same school (or Winstanley College as it is now known). It was at Upholland Grammar that he first developed his fondness for rugby, playing for the school team and he remained an avid follower of rugby union and the international matches. It was also during his school years that he first met his wife to be, Elizabeth Fairhurst, on a school trip to Vienna.

At school, John excelled in the sciences and, after completing his A levels in Chemistry, Biology and Physics, was admitted to the University of Liverpool in 1958. He was to meet some of his closest and lifelong friends during his time as a veterinary student and loved his time on the main campus and at the Veterinary Field Station at Leahurst.  During the summer holidays when he returned home, he would bump into Elizabeth again, who was then working as a nurse.

John graduated in July 1963, and he took his first job in a small animal practice in West Bridgford, in Nottingham. He was very happy there but was soon offered a position back at Liverpool University as a veterinary teacher and researcher.  John and Elizabeth were married on 10th March 1964. John continued to work and study at the University of Liverpool, specialising in veterinary pathology. He also enjoyed caring for his many patients by working regularly as a locum veterinarian during this time, filling in for his friends and colleagues when he could and maintaining his ties to veterinary practice.

John received his Master’s degree in 1966 and completed his PhD in March 1971.  By then, he had started a new job as a pathologist for the Swiss pharmaceutical company Ciba-Geigy, based at Stamford Lodge, in Wilmslow.  It was for this reason that John and Elizabeth moved to Knutsford in May 1970, with their three small children, Jane, John & Ruth. The house was within the parish of St Cross Church, Knutsford. John and Elizabeth became regular members there and were an integral part of the church community for the next 50 years. John was an expert at ringing the church bell and had a very scholarly approach and great knack for ringing it correctly with seemingly no effort whatsoever.

John moved on to a post as a senior pathologist at the ICI Central Toxicology Laboratories (CTL) at Alderley Park near Macclesfield. He became the Section Head of Pathology at ICI and was widely respected for his expert knowledge of pathology. He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, and an examiner in veterinary pathology for the Royal College of Pathologists for many years. He published many scientific research papers and was an active member of the British Society of Toxicological Pathology. He was highly respected as a scientist, with an international reputation that caused him to travel all over the world. When he formally retired in 2001, he formed his own pathology consulting company which he named “Cranford Path” and continued to work according to his own schedule. He was always happy to be consulted on an informal basis; eager to look down a microscope at tissue sections and provide a diagnosis (and prognosis) if asked. He never missed an opportunity to meet up with his colleagues from CTL and was an active member of the University of Liverpool Veterinary Alumni Association, serving as the Association Treasurer for many years. As the family historian and authority on dates, he could tell you exactly what happened and when. For example, who had attended each reunion of his Liverpool graduation class since 1963, the exact location of the reunion, the date, the organiser, and the plan for when the next one was going to be held.

However, to focus only on John's professional life misses out on who the man really was. John was interested in everything and everyone. Somehow, he always found time to help others and did what needed to be done with a smile, never complaining and always could see the positive side of everything. He was involved for many years with the local branch of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

John was, at heart, a family man, a highly engaged member of the local community, and a well-respected and senior Freemason. John and Elizabeth enjoyed a long and happy retirement, they took every opportunity to travel and plan family holidays. He enjoyed crown green bowling and indoor bowling, was an avid reader and enjoyed walking and gardening. He was an active and long-standing member of his local Probus club. He enjoyed listening to live music and visiting the local cinema with his children and grandchildren to keep up to date with the most recent releases. John was a lifelong learner with a sense of adventure. He loved history, visiting museums; he went to night school to get his GCSE in German, learned how to swim as an adult, had a skiing lesson to mark his 60th birthday.

John was a true gentleman, an observer and a listener considering all ramifications of a topic. In conversation, or discussion, he took a genuine interest to what others had to say, allowing them to share their opinions before he shared his. He had a great sense of humour, was always ready to see the positive side of a problem.  He was described by one of his oldest friends as the epitome of down-to-earth common-sense, and a man to go to with problems to get a wise, thoughtful hearing. He was wise and understanding, he felt for other people, and it was a privilege to know him.

He is survived by Elizabeth, Jane, John, and Ruth and ten grandchildren.

Harvey Locke (BVSc 1969)