Tribute paid to Lancaster author

John Pepper.
John Pepper.

An award-winning Lancaster author has died, aged 75, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.

John Pepper wrote many stories and received national recognition during his early career as a journalist.

Right up until his passing John worked as a counsellor and psychotherapist for the police, teaching, company services, and privately.

“He was quite a well known man in the area,” said close friend Fiona Ormerod.

“Walking around the city, he was regularly greeted by people who’s lives he had touched, in one way or another.”

John’s books include ‘How to be Happy’, ‘The Good God Guide’ (a collection of cartoons on religions around the world) and ‘Cockley Beck: a Celebration of Lakeland in Winter’, which was hailed as a nature classic.

Besides being an author, John taught meditation, healing and expressive arts at Lancaster’s Adult College and on university summer schools, for many years in the public and private sectors.

“The core of John’s life was meditation,” said Fiona.

“For 37 years he studied in the UK under one of Tibet’s great spiritual teachers, Lama Akong Tulku Rinpoche.

“He was a very organised man, he even arranged his own funeral which was a small, private gathering with close friends.”

John was born in Doncaster, son of a one-time Windmill can-can dancer and an army sergeant who, after the war, went into business, dealing in antiques.

The family later moved to Southampton where John left school at 16 to pursue a career in journalism.

He went on to work in television in Bristol, and in London, contributing features to the New Statesman and the national Guardian and sub-editing with the BBC World Service.

He also worked in Turkey, Australia and the US, where he was elected a Fellow at the World Press Institute.

He came to Lancaster in 1987.

In mid-life, he took time out to focus on his writing, spending nine winters in a tiny cottage in one of the more remote areas of Lakeland.

Each of his books was, he said: “a quest for that which is meaningful in life.”

His work won awards from the Arts Council, Northern Arts and elsewhere.

The literary work that had most impact on John’s life was, he claimed, ‘Camus’ The Rebel.’

“I have always seen myself as one,” he said.

His work as an occasional illustrator saw his cartoons appearing in a variety of newspapers, magazines and books, and also being used in a number of TV programmes.

John’s cartoon work began at 16 when he was an apprentice journalist on the Southampton daily paper, the Echo.

His artwork appeared in the same paper, the old Listener, under the editorship of Anthony Howard.

He used to draw a weekly strip cartoon, ‘Vox Pop’, about the daft world of television, as well as drawing for a variety of specialist magazines and greetings cards.

Others books he had written include ‘Cry Downriver’, ‘Seeing the Light: The Art of Becoming Beautiful,’ and ‘A Man’s Tale.’

On his website John described himself as “an author of half a dozen very different books ranging from a love letter for a drowned soulmate to a practical primer on happiness.”

He described his passions as “spirituality, nature, literature, contemporary art, authenticity and, not least, silence: the power of.”

John’s manuscripts are being left to Lancashire County Archives, for literary research.

Donations in John’s memory can be made payable to 
Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (telephone 0208 360 1119) and sent via Co-Op Funeral Care, 5 George Street, Lancaster.