Hastings Old Town pays tribute to popular John the Cobbler

The hearse carrying John's coffin outside his shop. Picture by Andrew Clifton SUS-181005-123351001
The hearse carrying John's coffin outside his shop. Picture by Andrew Clifton SUS-181005-123351001

Hundreds of people paid their respects to one of the Old Town’s much-loved characters.

John Napier, affectionately known as John the Cobbler, passed away after a long battle with cancer.

A funeral procession was held through the Old Town, winding its way through George Street into High Street, with friends, family and the public at large turning out to pay tribute.

John, 68, moved to Hastings more than 20 years ago to open up his cobbler’s shop in the Old Town.

Dick Edwards, chairman of Hastings Old Town Residents’ Association, said: “The death of this wonderful character is widely mourned.

“John was an example to us all showing how to deal with ill health and adversity.

“Sickness tried repeatedly to pull him down. Every time he would stoically endure.

“John was a worker and worked all of his life, six days every week.

“As a child he was brought up in an orphanage. He never lost his Scottish roots and his dry sense of humour.”

Old Town stalwart Ian Porter said: “John, a cheery person with a Glaswegian accent, sporting a goatie beard, first appeared in the High Street some 25 years ago, seeking premises to open his cobbler’s shop. How lucky it was for us that he chose Hastings Old Town.

“Nothing was ever too much trouble for John who would always take on too much work, from patching a fisherman’s wellies to repairs to high class shoes.

“He could never say no, and would be in the shop from 8am or earlier every day trying to catch up with work before opening the shop at 9am.

“John could always be relied on to sell tickets for various Old Town events, to display posters and generally get involved in everything that went on.

“We will all miss walking past his shop, yelling ‘Morning, John’ through his ever-open door, or dropping in for a chat. Our thoughts are with his wife Sandra.”

Video by Stephen Clifton