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News > Lyonian News > From John Lyon to life in Florida

From John Lyon to life in Florida

John English, OL 1972 shares his achievements including career, his continued passion for golf and his life in travelling and settling in the USA
John English, OL 1972
John English, OL 1972

Having passed my Eleven Plus and the school’s entrance exam, I was lucky enough to start at John Lyon as a member of Red House and from the first day I thoroughly enjoyed myself at school. In fact, I probably had too much of a good time, playing lots of football and cricket and loving every minute as I represented Red House and the school too and won my house colours almost every year. A few years later, in the Sixth Form, a couple of my friends and I were keen to take up golf… This wasn’t among the school’s usual sporting options but after much discussion we were given permission to take ourselves off to Haste Hill to play golf every Wednesday. This was a first for the school!

Most of my classmates were heading for university. Not me, though! I wanted to become a Chartered Accountant but I couldn’t see the point of spending three years at university followed by another three as an ‘Articled Clerk’ to become qualified when I could simply sign up for four years of articles and achieve the same end. Neither the school nor my parents were keen on the idea. They thought I should go to university like everyone else. In the face of such daunting resistance, I stood firm and, I’m happy to say, eventually they came round to my way of thinking!

One very dear friend I met at school at the age of 11 was Nigel Chism and our friendship long outlasted our schooldays. In the year after leaving school, we enjoyed a couple of great trips around Scandinavia and to the South of France, and I am pleased to report that after 58 years we’re still in touch – and this year he will be coming to Florida so we can celebrate our 70th birthdays together!

I left John Lyon in 1972 with one of my A Level grades falling short of that required to sign Articles to become a Chartered Accountant. I re-sat the exam, achieved the grade and signed my 4-year articleship in April 1973 at the princely starting salary of £850 pounds per year. In 1977, I qualified as an ‘Associate’ Chartered Accountant and then in 1983 I became a Fellow and in 2015 a Life Member.

My relationship with John Lyon was just as strong after I left school: I frequented the old Lyonian bar and even played for the old boys’ football team and, having stopped playing golf while studying to qualify as a Chartered Accountant, I took it up again soon after I qualified and joined Moor Park Golf Club in 1983. It was there several years later that my links with the school were renewed when I met Andy Reed in the bar and he persuaded me to come and play with the Old Boys’ Golf Association. I’ll never forget walking into that first meeting (although the location’s a bit hazy – I think it was at Northwood GC) to be greeted by all those faces, familiar, if quite a bit older, that I’d been to school so many years earlier. I was very happy to see them all again and to get involved – and I played for several years and had a great time!

So, on to my career… It began, as I said, in 1973 with a small London-based firm, which, after several mergers, became part of Thornton Baker now Grant Thornton. Starting as a humble trainee, I progressed all the way to Senior Manager in Grant Thornton's London Office. Logically, the next objective would be to become a partner. But in 1987 I felt Grant Thornton was too big – I’d rather be a partner in a smaller practice where I could make a difference, than become just another partner at Grant Thornton. With that in mind, I joined Oury Clark in Slough and soon became a partner.

When I joined, Oury Clarke had three equity partners and about 20 staff. By the time I retired in 2005 we’d grown considerably, with eight equity partners, several more salaried partners and more than 100 employees. I was a General Practice Partner, responsible for audits, accounting, taxation, investment, and general business advice and for 17 years I was also Head of Human Resources.

In 1988 I married my dear wife Kim. The fact that Kim was born in Seattle, USA – although her family moved to the UK when she was young – has a lot to do with my current location! Because it wasn’t long after we were married that we decided that when the time eventually came, we would retire to the USA. So, we spent every vacation touring the USA to see where we wanted to end up. Florida won and in 1998 we bought a house at Grenelefe right in the heart of our favourite state – and, yes, it had 3 golf courses! In the years before we finally left the UK behind, we spent every vacation we could get in Florida. At the time of moving I’d already got my green card and I went on to become a US citizen in 2011.

So… having retired at the age of just 50, I was aware that I needed to qualify for Medicare when I reached 65 and that meant working part-time for at least 10 years. For the first 3 years, I was retained as a consultant for an old client in the golf industry and during that time we bought a recreational vehicle and began our extensive travels around the US and have now visited 48 states – with only North Dakota and Alaska left unvisited!

In all that time, my passion for golf was unabated and, although I’d helped run golf clubs in the past, I’d never actually worked for one. So, when my consultancy contract came to an end, I changed all that and started working part-time in the golf shop at Champions Gate Golf Club one of the best clubs in Orlando. Because I was only working two days a week, the job left me five days free, which I made full use of and managed to play most of the courses in and around Orlando.

When we moved out to Cocoa Beach in 2011 to enjoy the coast, it meant I had to leave the golf club, even though I was still two and a half years short of the necessary 10 years! I found, however, that there weren’t many part-time jobs available in Cocoa Beach in 2011. How would I make up my missing two and a half years’ work?

The answer came out of the blue one evening when a retired police officer friend, who was a Security Officer at Cape Canaveral Hospital said,

‘Why not come and work with me?’
‘But I know nothing about security,’ I replied.
His answer was,
‘You can talk to people, people respect you – and you have the build for it!’

That was good enough for me – and just a week later I was already on a course to get my licence – what an interesting time that was!

Although Cocoa Beach was great for a while, it had no real life about it – and the local golf course was 40 minutes away. So, with my 10 years done, we bought another RV and moved back to Central Florida where we enjoyed every minute of our time near Orlando, playing games and partying. But then it began to seem as though the whole world was moving to Florida – there are new homes springing up everywhere! So, four years ago, we left Orlando and moved to Ocala – about two hours north – and rarely look back. I’ve got the golf handicap down to five but these days I’d rather play pool than fight for a tee time at the golf club! We continue to party, to play all sorts of games, and we still travel at least twice a year (I’m not content unless I see mountains at least once a year!).

My life at John Lyon gave me a great grounding for me to achieve all that I have – and I look forward to reminiscing with my old schoolfriend Nigel later in the year!

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