Dr. JOHN LEATHAM MBE
(England 1924-2003 / act: Athens)
Dr. John Leatham was a well-known British writer, translator and philhellene. He was born John Lawson Leatham on 1 July 1924 in England to a wealthy family, who were in banking since 1792, and taken over by Barclay & Co Ltd of London in 1906. He had a life of much character, richness and variety: head of the BBC World Service Greek language broadcasts, military service, leading an archeological underwater survey, a farmer, a political candidate in two general elections, involvement in clandestine operations in Albania.
Leatham graduated from Ampleforth College, near York, in 1942. On leaving Ampleforth he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) and became a temporary lieutenant in the RNVR between 1942 and 1946. Dr. Leatham's noteworthy service during World War II, included a period as liaison officer to the Royal Hellenic Navy, naval operations officer on the Dodecanese Islands, and assistant naval operations officer, Port Said, Egypt. His liason duties with the Royal Hellenic Navy led to his promotion as Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). In 1946 and 1947, Leatham served on Rhodes Island as Civil Affairs Officer for the British Military Administration of the Dodecanese Islands. In 1949 and 1950, he worked for MI6, and was involved in clandestine operations against the Hoxha regime in Communist Albania. By 1949 the United States and British intelligence organizations were working with King Zog and the mountainmen of his personal guard. They recruited Albanian refugees and émigrés from Egypt, Italy, and Greece; trained them in Cyprus, Malta, and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany); and infiltrated them into Albania. Guerrilla units entered Albania in 1950 and 1952, but Albanian security forces killed or captured all of them. Kim Philby, a Soviet double agent working as a liaison officer between the British intelligence service and the United States Central Intelligence Agency, had leaked details of the infiltration plan to Moscow, and the security breach claimed the lives of about 300 infiltrators.
Between 1951 and 1955 Leatham was resident in Greece, working in journalism, broadcasting and writing. In 1955 he led an archeological underwater survey of Crete. Between October 1955 and December 1956 he went to Clare College, Cambridge, on a county award, doing a degree course in History, interrupted after four terms. In 1957 Leatham was appointed head of the Greek-language service of the BBC World Servive. He held this position until 1961. For the 10 years between 1961 and 1970 he farmed in Buckinghamshire. He combined this with lecturing, broadcasting, writing, work for the National Farmers Union, for the local school, and other committee work. Leatham was the Conservative candidate in two general elections. In the October 1964 election at Loughborough in Leicestershire he gained 17,671 votes, 38.16% of the vote, in a three way vote. In the March 1966 general election at Wellingborough in Northamptoshire, in a straight two-party vote, he gained 22,472 votes or 47.63%, the Labour candidate winning with a majority of just 2,233.
From 1969 onwards Leatham lived in Greece. Until about 1990 he was a business consultant and representative of foreign companies, and a company director. By the late 1980s, he was increasingly occupied as a writer, translator, reviewer. He became Consultant to the President of The American College of Greece in Athens in 1994. He was an Honorary Member of the Anglo-Hellenic League. In about 1969-1970 he knew a future Ampleforth monk, Fr Colin Battell, Prior of Ampleforth.
Leatham, whose life and career were closely linked with all aspects of Greek life, culture, history and religion, passed away peacefully at his home in Filothei on 10 October 2003, after a long illness, surrounded by his family and life long friend Pavlos Yannas. He was buried on 13 October in a Greek Orthodox service at Athens First Cemetery. He was married to Maureen Kidd Leatham for nearly 50 years. The couple had five children: Mark, Oliver Nigel, Laura Elizabeth and Alice Julia. Quintin John Leatham predeceased them. He was baptised as an Orthodox Christian at Simonos Petra Monastery, Mount Athos, in April 1999, in the presence of ACG President John S. Bailey. At the time of his death, he was scholar in residence at the American College of Greece in Agia Paraskevi, an institution with which he had had a long and fruitful association. In July of 2003, President Bailey conferred on him a degree of doctor of humane letters in recognition of his many contributions to both the college and Greece. The Right Reverend Bishop Kallistos Ware of Diokleia conducted a memorial service at Oxford, England, on 22 November 2003. A similar event at The American College of Greece followed. His love of the Greek language and his profound understanding of its literary, historical and religious nuances brought him into close contact with many illustrious creative personalities of modern Greece, including Kimon Friar. Among numerous journalistic and scholarly activities, his involvement with the Anglo-Hellenic Review is well-known, as were his contributions to the Benaki Museum and other Greek cultural foundations.
With faith in the care of artworks demonstrated by The American College of Greece, Dr. John Leatham kindly donated to the ACG Art collection a fine selection of artworks that throw light on his own aristocratic lineage. This donation includes works by F.W. Burford
; Manolis Calliyannis
; Antonio Calvache
; Esmé Collings
; Keturah Collings
; Yannis Tsarouchis
; Yorgis Varlamos
; and other artists yet to be catalogued, including a rare icon
of Christian art.
[Megakles Rogakos 11/2004]
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