Gary Rycroft column: Memories of solicitor who died in war

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Last Sunday being Remembrance Sunday reminded me of a local solicitor who died in the First World War (1914-18).

His name was John Bullough Douthwaite. Born in Kendal in 1879, he spent much of his life in Lancaster. His father Amos was a master stone mason who became the epitome of the Victorian self made man, building houses first on Earl St, Skerton in the 1880’s and in the 1890’s was part of a consortium that built on the Moorlands Estate after it was bought from the executors of Henry Gregson. Later still Amos began development of Haverbreaks. Amos’ legacy to Lancaster is all around us and indeed streets on Moorlands were named by him after Scottish places he was fond of visiting on his annual cycling holiday!

As was common with builders of the time Amos lived with his wife, 3 daughters and son John in houses that he built before moving on to the next project; and for a few years at the end of 1890’s the Douthwaites resided in the house which I now live in on Belle Vue Terrace, Greaves. At that time John was a student at Lancaster Royal Grammar School. After that he went to Pembroke College Cambridge, following which he was articled to a solicitor in Preston before opening his own firm on Sun Street, Lancaster.

Unlike your columnist John was a talented sportsman. He was particularly good at golf and represented Lancashire and indeed at some point after getting married, he gave up his legal practice in Lancaster for a job at a Golf Club near Bishops Stortford. At the outbreak of war in 1914, he joined up and by 1916 was in East Africa. Like many soldiers in that often over looked theatre of war, John did not die in battle but of disease. In his case malaria, on 15th July 1916. He had kept in touch with his family in Lancaster up to the last and after his death The Lancaster Guardian published his final letter to one of his sisters. In it he reassured her that the mosquitos where he was camping were not malarial. He left a widow but no children. His name however remains both on the cenotaph in Lancaster and the Roll of Honour at The Law Society Building in Chancery Lane, London.