John Ellison - Peaceful Warrior

31st Dec 2015

“I would like people to be able to say that I made them laugh and gave people good memories. As the saying goes « You can't do anything about the length of your life but you can do something about it's width and depth » and this is what I hope to achieve in sharing my passion for life with those around me”

I first heard of John Ellison via a mutual friend. I was sitting at a table in a house we’d rented for a job down in London when his phone rang. I could tell straight away by his expression it wasn’t good news and by the time he hung up his cheeks were streaked with tears. Later that evening he explained to me who John was and that he’d just found out that the pain he’d been experiencing in his leg was Cancer and it was terminal!

A couple of months later I heard that John had set up a charity, it was called CAC and within the first couple of months John raised not only awareness, but £10,000 through selling T-Shirts!

Later that year I actually got to meet John for the first time at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival (KMFF) Like many I’d been inspired by what John was doing and had come up with an idea of running a weekend photo seminar which would be completely free, all we asked was if they enjoyed and benefited from the weekend then they could make a donation, however small to CAC. John loved the idea and wanted to meet up and have a chat about it.

We met at CAC’s small stand which was housed inside the larger Marmot tent. John was busy selling T-Shirts, Hoodies and Boxer shorts when I arrived. He strode across, beaming his huge signature grin fixed firmly in place, his hand outstretched and then gave me the first of many hugs that day. When I think of John that’s how I’ll always remember him Smiling and upbeat. “lets find somewhere a bit less busy” he said. If you spent any time with John you quickly realised just how popular he was with people, all people. Everyone wanted to talk to John, tell him their stories and John always wanted to listen, he always had time, he made time.

So trying to find a quiet spot on one of the biggest and busiest weekends on the climbing Calender was always going to prove tricky, but after a few false starts stopping to “say Hi” along the way, we finally made it into a small coffee shop away from the crowds and hid ourselves in the back.

Talking with John was never difficult, he had a way of immediately putting you at ease. By the time our “low fat Mocochino’s” arrived it was like we’d known each other a lifetime. I told him about my Mum and Brother both succumbing to the ravages of Cancer and how it had effected me, I think he could feel my pain, within just a few minutes the tears were rolling down both our cheeks, what a site we must have been to the onlooker, but it didn’t matter to either of us.

Over the last couple of years I’ve regularly  spoken to and seen John at  climbing comps and festivals around the UK. He’d always regail with such enthusiasm the places he’d been, and all the amazing and generous people who he’d met and even the honours that had been bestowed on him, most recently the Arco Rock Legends Ambassador award. He always seemed so surprised by the latter!

I saw john for the last time just a couple of weeks ago, his health had taken a turn for the worse and he’d had to have an emergency Kidney operation. He was looking thin and frail, but he was still smiling and welcomed us into the CAC headquarters that he was so proud of. He sat behind his desk pointing out the photos and signs on the office wall, everything had a story, he was like a King on his thrown, he was so proud of all that CAC stood for. When I left I gave John a hug. He reached out his hand and I took it in both of mine. I think he sensed how I felt, I didn't want to let go, let him go! "Its alright" he said and smiled.

Whenever I spoke with John I couldn’t help telling him how inspiring I, and others found him. He’d always shake his head and say he wasn’t anything special, no different to you or I. There were no airs or graces from John. I never heard him complain. Very occasionally if pressed he might admit to feeling a little “under the weather” but that was about all you’d get from him. Early December I managed to strain my back and ended up flat out and in bed, I told this to John and he said “hope your doing ok now and not feeling in too much pain” when I asked him how he was he said “Not been so good of late, but hey ho, that’s the way it goes”

          John died peacefully in his sleep on December 27th, 2015.