Born in Dumfries Scotland, raised in Kingston, Ontario. He was brought back to the UK much against his will, interrupting his schooling.
John was a free spirit and an observer of people with a strong moral code and restless feet.
He and I had two sons together and remained friends after we parted. He was lucky to find a woman who shared his passion for travel. Andi is unwell at the moment and couldn’t be here, but I’m glad to call Andi a friend now.
John didn’t talk much about his achievements and they didn’t bring him great wealth, but they were pretty impressive.
He was stubborn, capable, determined and indefatigable and we loved him.
On Sunday morning, the 18th of July, John Tweedie passed away peacefully, after 6 years of debilitating illness that he faced bravely, objectively, independently, and with his focus on others, as had been his way all his life. He was the very best of us: selfless, positive, humane, and enormously funny. In his proudest role, as Grandfather to Eliott, Rosie and Lucy, with effortless warmth he was able to share his curiosity of the world around us and pass on so much.
He used to joke (I think it was a joke) with my brother and I that he was going to have to take us back to Jewsons, if only he could find the receipt.
His journey was incredible, from very humble beginnings and leaving school at 13, to achieving engineering excellence and inventing systems later used all over the world to reline lateral pipes robotically without having to dig them up. Several patents came out of this and it was a source of not only bursting pride but also deep admiration for his humour that one of these patents was colloquially referred to as the ‘Tweedie Willy’, as the operator had to stand over the system to operate what was essentially a giant condom which would inflate and then go down the pipe. What a legend.
He did dangerous jobs all his life and lost a number of colleagues on the way. One incident saw him single handedly retrieve the bodies of two men drowned in a flooded pipe after it was decided after a risk assessment by authorities that it was too dangerous – that absolutely was the mark of the man, and this selflessness in the face of anything at all permeated all aspects of his life.
My dad was lucky enough to meet his match in adventurous spirit in Andi in 2012 and went on a Lonely Planet round the world trip, opting for the least comfortable option of really roughing it, backpacking everywhere and staying with families along the way rather than hotels. Something that fascinated him was the human ability to create something from little, against the odds, despite the pain. He saw this in the architecture and the people he encountered. He watched for hours in China, as over the road from them, a hundred or so men with no machinery and no safety gear worked high up, rapidly adding levels to a new building. He told of a man older than him, pain etched into his face, climbing high in trees to fetch Pineapples, just getting on with it.
A book that my brother and I got him about 30 years ago – ‘Deep Time’ by David Darling fascinated him and came up frequently in his thinking, right to the end. It followed a single sub-atomic particle that is at one point part of a person, and then a little later, part of a space station. If energy is preserved, where does the sum of our experience and learning go? Well, dad, your energy will resonate forever with us.
Alex Tweedie (#2 son)