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News > OS News > Obituary: Jonathan Douglas (SHb, 70-75)

Obituary: Jonathan Douglas (SHb, 70-75)

22 Sep 2022
Written by Jennifer Law
OS News

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Jonathan Douglas MBE (known to all as Jo) (SHb, 70-75) at the age of 65 after a long struggle with prostate cancer.

Jo's Brother Stephen Douglas (SH, 67-72) writes: 

Jo arrived in SHb in September 1970 and very quickly made an impression on the cricket field, in music and drama as well as winning an academic scholarship in his first summer term to help his parents with the school fees. At under fourteen and under fifteen levels his bowling performances were prodigious with his ability to spin the ball both ways bamboozling entire batting lineups.  He went on to spend three summers in the first XI, and Wisden highlights his contribution to the College’s very successful 1975 season, recording his batting average of 25.54 (HS 83) as significantly higher than his bowling average of 14.09 (22 wickets), the sign of a first-rate all-rounder.

In further reflection of Jo’s time at the College, his close friend and contemporary, John Brigden (GH,SuH, 66-75), adds:

“Insouciance appeared to characterise his approach to school. He must have worked hard but everything he did appeared effortless.  On his arrival into senior school in 1970 from St Aubyns he was shaving and playing for the Ist Squash team, quite possibly at the same time.  As a Rugby player he was good enough to captain the 2nd XV and was definitely what the French call a piano player (back) rather than a piano shifter (forward)

He had great charm and people warmed to him . Able to listen to a tune and then play it in his own inimitable style surrounded by a spellbound audience whether at a party or in the Common Room . Break time was always too short and in order to speed up the process butter and marmite were smeared on bread before toasting .

We are the sum of all our experiences and I would not have taken part in the school play nor sung in the Choir if it hadn’t been for his encouragement.

He was M Castel- Benac in Pagnol’s “Topaze” where DAH said “he found little difficulty in presenting a crooked appearance “. In our final year he was Claggart in Melville’s “Billy Budd “ to much critical acclaim “ a convincing petty tyrant and convincing too in those moments when one thought that something of Billy’s goodness had stirred the embers of his humanity.” Two roles that could not have been more different to him in real life .

As regards sport, it was on the Cricket field that he really shone. There we’re some very good players in our year group and many of them played for the Ist XI early. He scored a very fine maiden century for the Past and Present X1 whilst still a Senior Colt .

He was in the Ten Club, the Choral Society , the Jazz Club , the Literary Society and the Cercle Français . His talk on the life and works of Andre Gide attracted a large audience including some non - linguists .

Nobody had a bad word to say about Jo. He was an enigma, kind, thoughtful, talented, funny, and so very modest about his achievements.  In his Head of House report he wrote about “ the tolerance and self- respect engendered in the House which will enable the leavers to lead a profitable and fulfilling life.“  He goes on to say that he will leave behind treasured memories.

That he will.”

Henry Matthews (GH,RPH, 66-75), another contemporary, writes:

°My immediate memories are him sat behind various pianos effortlessly knocking out great tunes in his own style. His approach to cricket was much like his approach to everything else. He saw it as a means of expression and an art rather than a sport. He was a gifted and talented batter with a huge amount of natural ability, a Gower rather than a Gatting . The rest of us required hours of coaching - he didn't!  He was also a more than useful leg break bowler.”

After school, Jo went up to Queen Mary College in London to study English literature where he starred in a number of drama productions, including the title roles in Macbeth and A Man for All Seasons. A post graduate teaching diploma at Bristol University followed, but Jo decided the teaching profession was not for him and he set off for the Far East where he spent several years as an itinerant musician, playing in an assortment of louche establishments from Tokyo, to Singapore and Hong Kong and developing his skills as a songwriter as well as piano virtuoso.  Jo released a number of recordings including ‘Mama San’ which topped the Hong Kong hit parade, (before being banned by the Government on grounds of lewdness!).

Jo decided to settle down in Hong Kong where he married Pearl and became a wonderfully loving father to his sons, Cameron and Jamie. Jo had found a position as radio announcer, producer and interviewer with the Hong Kong broadcaster, RTHK, which suited his skills and personality perfectly.  During this phase of his life, Jo was awarded an MBE for promoting the arts in Hong Kong, and his obituary in the South China Morning Post included the following passages:

“Jonathan Douglas, well-known Hong Kong broadcaster, actor, musician, theatre producer and director, died peacefully in London on August 26 after a protracted battle with cancer.

For 30 years he presented classical music on RTHK Radio 4, which he joined in 1986. The high quality of his programmes played an important part in developing Hong Kong as a leading Asian centre for music and the arts. His signature show, Artbeat, kept its finger on the pulse of the Hong Kong cultural scene.

A consummate broadcaster with a soft, lyrical voice, Douglas, who was born in London in 1957, was for many years responsible for gently waking up Hong Kong with Morning Call, a seamless mix of classical music, interviews, reviews and arts news.

He was both a good listener and an intelligent and empathetic interviewer, able to coax his interviewees into giving that little bit extra. He interviewed many great names in classical music, such as Isaac Stern, Joshua Bell and Tan Dun,as well as Governor Chris Patten. Thirty of these interviews have been preserved in a book published in 2005 by Joint Publishing (Hong Kong)

Douglas was also an excellent actor, giving sensitive and original interpretations of classic roles such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Clov in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame.  In 2011, he and his two musician sons took their show The Douglas Trio to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.”

After retiring from RTHK at the age of 60, Jo embarked on a second career by enrolling in the prestigious Mountview drama school in London, competing with candidates a third of his age, and successfully completing the MA course. Despite his cancer having taken hold by this stage, Jo obtained an agent and auditioned for a number of film roles. A month before his death, Jo, Cameron and Jamie headlined at the Spice of Life music venue in Soho.

Jo is survived by his wife and two sons.

Stephen Douglas (SH, 67-72)

All within The Stortfordian Foundation send sincerest condolances to Jo's Family and friends 

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