Presidential thoughts: John Wates retires from KLS after 56 years!

John Wates OBE has just stepped down as our President after 56 years as a volunteer (in various guises) with us. 

Words cannot really convey the enormity of the contribution that John has made to KLS and the communities in Battersea. We are truly thankful for everything that John has given to us over the decades. We would not be here without him. Thank you John. 

Though it’s sad to see John retire, we’re delighted that another KLS legend, Margaret Robson, our Vice-President and former Chair of Trustees, has agreed to take on the mantle. 

John wrote a brief summary of his time at KLS, for our recent Annual General Meeting on 6th October. Here it is for you to enjoy too: 

“I first became involved in the Katherine Low Settlement when I was an Article Clerk at the Solicitors, Oswald Hickson Collier and Co. My principal, John Payne, was very keen that the youngsters at the firm should have some broader experience. I used to come down to the Settlement and act as what then called a Poor Man’s Lawyer. We worked alongside the Citizens Advice Bureau which was housed at Katherine Low. Many years later John Payne left a substantial legacy to the Settlement in his will.

I was invited to join the committee and served on it until we left for France in 1972. When I returned to England after my five year stint in France I re-joined the committee. Eventually I was invited to become the chairman and chaired the committee for about 15 years.

When I first got to know the Settlement it was run by the Warden Jack Davis. It had the Youth Club and worked with older people. There were residents who contributed to the running of the Settlement. It gradually developed into a Community Action Centre much influenced by Sarah Rackham.

Finance was always a problem and we had to sell the Baird Hall and even the grand piano! But the quality of the work was maintained and recognised and many Trusts and Foundations supported its work alongside the Wates Foundation. We were also very grateful to the Francis Holland School for its support, now, of course, joined by Thomas’s.

I have been delighted to see the transformation of the Settlement into a powerful Community Hub. The strength of Aaron’s leadership along with the committee, chaired by Ben Thomas was demonstrated by the extraordinary work done during the recent pandemic restrictions.

I have been associated with the Settlement for more than 50 years and have never seen it better placed in its mission to strengthen the local community.”

Thank you again John. We will miss you.  

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