Obituary – John Bromley Oliver

January 29, 1932 – January 10, 2021

It is announced, with very great sadness, the passing of John Bromley Oliver after a short illness.

Known to many across the Algarve and the Alentejo, he was a larger-than-life character who never said no to any challenge.

His life was a constant evolution from which he carried forward such a knowledge and enthusiasm. You could not help but be taken along for the ride.

Educated at Malvern, he served National Service in the Royal Artillery, later following the family tradition with the TA (Territorial Army).

He played rugby, blaming this for many of his later aches and pains.

He apprenticed in fine carpentry at the family firm of Shapland & Petter in Barnstaple, working on many fine buildings across UK and in the cabins of great liners at Harland and Wolff (Belfast) and John Brown’s Shipyard (Clydebank). The skills he learned were used in every venture after.

He married his first wife Judy with whom he had two daughters. At this time, he got involved in rally driving over Exmoor and for Ford. They later divorced.

In the early 60s, he embarked on a new venture with second wife Heather, creating the well-known entertainment venue The Lobster Pot at Instow, and hosting many famous names in jazz, folk and world music as well as Liverpool poets and author Henry Williamson. The Friday the 13th open stage event (where anyone could perform) launched many new talents.

He was heavily involved with Appledore and Instow Lifeboat Stations and coastguard and with friend John Stag ran a water ski school. He and Heather had three children.

The 1980s saw him divorce again. He then went to work for the National Trust at Montacute. Here he married his third wife Penny (later divorced). They started a small coffee shop at Sherborne, the Flower Barrow, and he later expanded into larger premises creating what is still known today as Oliver’s of Sherborne.

He also started his event catering business which travelled the length and breadth of England, for balloon and tall ships festivals, to agricultural shows and motor racing.

Following an accident, he returned to North Devon, creating with artist friend Ken Sprague the North Devon Arts Group.

He later met Jeanette and embarked on a new venture in renewable energy with a teaching unit which toured schools and colleges across the Westcountry.

They relocated to Portugal and married in Gibraltar in 2006.

John, with his trusty camera, became well known across the Algarve and Alentejo. He also appeared with The Algarveans theatre group and alongside Jeanette in shows at Lagos and the Pink Palace (little private theatre).

He was embraced by the Portuguese, documenting social history as well as the local election campaign, local events and becoming a father figure with the Bombeiros and special firefighting teams, the Canarinhos.

Not one to sit down, his love of horticulture became another business venture by supplying specialist veg and edible flowers to Vila Joya in Albufeira.

Despite Covid closures, he was still optimistic and continued planning this year’s planting.

In the end, his heart got too tired to keep up with him. He passed away quietly at Beja hospital.

He leaves his widow Jeanette, five children and five grandchildren of whom he was immensely proud. In 2020, he became a great grandfather twice.