Flying high after college life


St Paul’s – My Story

All of our alumni have a tale to tell, but in his 90th birthday year, John H Evans will be reliving his memories in his latest book which is due out in time for Christmas.

Having completed his National Service in the Royal Airforce, John’s mother suggested a career in teaching. John was successful in his application for a place at St Paul’s College in Cheltenham, an outstanding institution for the training of male teachers. After five years of successful teaching John resigned and began his training as an airline pilot.

John’s adventurous spirit led him to take to the skies as a commercial pilot, a career which has led him around the world, with passengers including Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. His entrepreneurial spirit and energy led him to start four UK regional airlines and operate a fifth as Chief Executive in Grenada, Caribbean.

It is all a far cry from his childhood in a village growing up in the valleys of the Rhondda, in Wales. Memories of a bomber pilot from the same village, who went missing later in the war, inspired him to fly, with the search for his childhood hero taking him far and wide.

“I’ve lived and flown all over the world and had many adventures. It wasn’t what I had set out to do when I first came to Cheltenham, but it’s where I ended up, and I wanted to put it all in a book.” Only Angels Have Wings chronicles his story which was published in 2011. John has a passion for putting pen to paper, and still writes his books in longhand.

His incredible journey continues, with a second book, “We Sang and Whistled Then”, which will be published this winter. “In my youth our gang of boys left the cinema (we called it the pictures then) and would break into song with ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ or similar. If any of us forgot the words we would whistle, hence the title of my new book.” The book is about the golden age of popular music (1925-1955), with an introduction by Michael Bagshaw, Professor of Aviation Medicine at King’s College, London.

During John’s flying career he became a British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Examiner and as a consequence, he was able to test professional pilots as well as train others to fly. So, teaching has always remained a fundamental part of John’s story. In his preface, Professor Bagshaw writes, “Many scholarly books and articles have been written about the 1939-1945 second world war, describing and discussing the politics and the battles and the eventual outcomes. But this is the first book to be published which seamlessly intertwines both themes, each enhancing the understanding of the other.”

John added: “Writing the books is something I’ve enjoyed very much and has brought back so many memories of the people, places and music which have played a part in my life. It’s all a long time ago now of course, but I have fond memories of the college, and even though I didn’t continue to teach, it is an important part of my story.”

Note: St Paul’s College, which is now Francis Close Hall, was a predecessor of the University of Gloucestershire, and along with St Mary’s – based at The Park – was a leading provider of teacher training.