THE curtain has come down on the life of one of Saddleworth Players’ most respected performers and members.
A memorial to John Gillespie, who died in December 2018, takes place at St Chad’s Church, Uppermill on Saturday, February 9 at 12 noon.
His contribution to the Players and Saddleworth life in general has been celebrated at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph during the current production of Playhouse Creatures.
John, who lived in Uppermill and was a former headteacher at Counthill School, was one of the founder members of Saddleworth Concert Society.
He also taught at Gordonstoun in Scotland – one-time alma mater of Prince Charles – and at the International School in Nigeria.
June Holmes knew John for nearly 50 years and appeared in the first player he did for the group, A Servant of Two Masters.
“John had a walk on part as a porter,” she recalled. “He had to carry a trunk across the back of the stage, and literally and virtually upstaged the rest of the cast.
“There followed a plethora of plays in which he played all sorts of different roles – comedy, character, tragedy – all accomplished with style, commitment and conviction.”
John gave his last performance only three years ago in Ronald Harwood’s the Handyman.
Away from the stage, John loved nothing better than walking Saddleworth’s hills and valleys, introducing outdoor pursuits at Counthill.
“As one might expect,” added June, “he was interested in school productions and made a splendid Fagin for the production of ‘Oliver.’
Later, after he retired, he would go into the local primary schools delivering dramatic readings of poems.”
John served the theatre as chairman for many years, did several stints on the production committee as well as acting and directing plays.
“I don’t think John ever became ‘an old man,’ added June.
“I saw him a few weeks before his death, walking through Uppermill, a little stooped and using a stick, but his mind and attitudes were as sharp as ever.
“I feel blessed to have known him in so many different roles, in the theatre and in life, and he will be sorely missed.”