John Linton (6 December 1910 - 4 March 2010)

IssueSeptember 2010
Comment by Eleanor Nesbitt

He was born into a solidly Anglican line of squires, parsons, professors and army officers, and spent happy school holidays in Oxford during and after the First World War.

In 1934, as a young graduate, he sailed to Trinidad to work as an oil refinery operator. Here he met people of Indian descent and found himself identifying with the disadvantaged.

Subsequently, during theological training in Birmingham, he abandoned plans to be a clergyman and instead became a prep school master. In 1939 he joined the Lincolnshire regiment and subsequently the Indian army: he reported on India’s political and economic situation.

Returning to England in 1946, he worked for the old India office and then as Indian programme organiser in the BBC world service.

John lost his first wife, Zoya, to cancer, and their son, Julian (born in Simla on the day the bomb fell on Hiroshima) died of cancer in 1966 as an undergraduate at Oxford.

John and Erica, his second wife, became Quakers and were appointed Quaker international affairs representatives for South Asia, based in New Delhi.

A later stint as Quaker international affairs representatives followed service as an Oxfam volunteer in Bihar and then research into Indo-Pakistan relations at the Gandhian Institute of Studies in Benares.

Back in Britain again, and by now convinced that no one religion has a monopoly of truth, John established in 1978 the Quaker Universalist Group (

Widowed again in 1981, John was active in retirement, speaking in America and the UK on Universalism, and – as an honorary life member – supporting the United Nations Association, and (until recent years) the Labour party and Ex-Services CND. He delighted in travelling and seeing his many friends.

Topics: Radical lives
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