Obituary: John Markham (1932-2016)
Wednesday, 25th May 2016
The sad death of Dr John Markham has deprived Hull and the East Riding of their best known historian. Through his many publications, talks and regular newspaper articles John probably did more than any of his contemporaries to make the history of the region, particularly that of the 19th and early 20th century, accessible to a wide section of the community. His great strengths were the high quality of his writing and the accuracy of his facts.
Born at Hedon in 1932, John was a proud native of Holderness; his father was from Hedon and his mother, whose autobiography he edited, was from Paull. Interested in history from an early age it was the distinguished local historian K.A. MacMahon of Hull University who encouraged John to pursue his passion for the subject when he was a student on the diploma course in Local Historical Studies at the University in the late 1960s. Ken MacMahon was initially supervisor for John’s M.A. thesis on parliamentary elections in East Yorkshire completed in 1976 and later published in part as one of the three booklets he wrote for the East Yorkshire Local History Society.
A former member of the executive committee of the East Yorkshire Local History Society and one of its vice-presidents, John was also a member of the executive committee of the Georgian Society for East Yorkshire. He was the president of Hedon and District Local History Society which he founded in 1971, and he was particularly proud when, along with fellow historian Dr Martin Craven, he was made an honorary freeman of Hedon in 2011.
John was a lecturer at the Hull College of Commerce, one of the institutions that merged to form Hull College of Higher Education, which later became the University of Humberside from where he was awarded a doctorate on the basis of his impressive list of publications. A prolific author he was responsible for almost 40 books and booklets, many relating to Hull, Beverley and Hedon, with topics ranging through inns, streets, politicians, ‘colourful characters’ and Roman Catholic churches. Most were published by Highgate Publications, the company he founded and ran. This company enabled many local historians to have their work published with John contributing much encouragement and editorial skills.
John’s regular column in the Hull Daily Mail was very popular, often linking recent events to the past and introducing much new research on the area. Local radio and television often called on his expertise. Most recently he appeared on BBC Look North speaking about links between Hedon and Shakespeare. Generous with his time and in sharing his knowledge, John will be much missed.