Obituary: John Osborne



Obituary: John Osborne


Friend and colleague David Willis remembers John Osborne, former Managing Director of Pilot Pen (UK), who passed away on 24 May, 2010.


John Osborne was a friend, colleague and businessman. In the early 1970s, John was elected Chairman of the Kent branch of the Stationers Association, and I was his Vice Chair and Treasurer, and this was the start of a friendship that lasted for over 40 years. Like most long friendships it waxed and waned over the years, but always stood the test of time and I am still stunned by his unexpected and early passing.


Summers of Rochester was the most influential member of the Kent branch of the Stationers Association and had previously occupied most of the committee roles. John and I were seen as mavericks and we quite enjoyed being controversial and winding up the older, more senior members.


John joined Summers of Rochester as an apprentice and, like me, spent some time at the London School of Printing where the Stationers Association ran classes for young men and women who were keen to learn about their chosen profession. Lessons on Imperial paper sizes had to be learned by rote. Large Post, Crown, Double Crown and a thousand other sizes and their cut size derivatives had to be remembered. Not for us the easier Din sizes that started in the early 1960s but did not come into common usage until much later.


John was always an ambitious guy and had joined Bic as a territory salesman after leaving Summers and taking several jobs with smaller dealers, including a short spell with Drakes Office Supplies in Blackheath. In those days John drove an Austin Maxi, while I had to make do with a Ford Anglia supplied by my employer Trade Loose Leaf. Boy was I envious! Eventually John decided that writing instruments was his forte and he used his knowledge and huge trade experience to great effect becoming one of the leading team at Bic in those days. We even managed to sail a few Bic windsurfers off the Kent coast at little or no cost to ourselves. Great fun.


Finally John secured a position with Pilot which at that time was part of the burgeoning Japanese influence in the writing instrument category. John quickly fitted in and with his knowledge of the product coupled with the experience gained at retail he was soon putting counter top merchandiser units together that the customers knew would greatly assist the display and sales. Eventually becoming Managing Director, he remained friendly with his mentor and former boss at Pilot.


John moved home from Kent to be nearer his office base in Slough and latterly Bourne End in Buckinghamshire; at one time living in a home on the Thames with its own mooring and a power cruiser to match. Together with his wife Jan, their children Richard, Craig and Lisa, John made a new life in Caversham and was devoted to his family, home, and garden. A self confessed "workaholic", John spent a great deal of his time travelling and working, and built great long lasting relationships with many of the key players within our industry.


David Willis on John Osborne, a friend, who will be greatly missed, not least by his wife Jan and his family.