John was one of my closest friends. He and I studied zoology together at Aberdeen between 1975 and 1979. We often did practical classes together and we went ice climbing in the Cairngorms. Towards the end of our time at university we diverged - him towards climbing and me towards academic study. He was much better than me at climbing and, I think he would have agreed, I was much better at the academic side. I also remember more than once having to phone the police when John and another friend of ours who was also into climbing were late back from various trips. None of these ever turned out to be a problem because John always turned up, usually amused by my sense of responsibility for him.
When I moved to BAS in 1979 (working at SMRU - Sea Mammal Research Unit) he came and stayed with me in advance of him joining BAS as a GA at Rothera. For him, this was the best job in the world. A triviality, but I still have a pair of his climbing socks which he accidentally left behind in my flat and which I was holding on to in order to give them back to him on his return - he never came back.
John was a very quiet and mild character but with a dry and wicked sense of humour. He was a very competent climber but perhaps a little too bold at times for his own good and, although we shall never know, maybe this was his undoing. His father worked for the UN, I think, and he'd spent most of his childhood in various countries around the world, many in Africa. I know he'd spent quite a lot of time in Malawi. As a result he never had a place to call home and, while he would never be sentimental about this, I thought this was a very substantial factor that contributed to his somewhat nomadic and carefree existence. I seem to remember he was educated at Keil School in Helensburgh but he spoke little of his past or his family.