John Baylis, who died on 7th July 2022, a few days short of his 82nd birthday, was possibly the most influential character in the East Midlands waterways over a period spanning near half a century. He was an IWA trustee for thirty years, a deputy national chairman, and one of the most hard-working committee chairmen in IWA’s history during his eleven year stint as chairman of IWA’s Navigation, Technical & Amenity Committee. The hand of John Baylis was behind the early days of virtually every waterway restoration scheme in the East Midlands. He was one of Graham Palmer’s trusted friends from the early days of WRG. He served as a director on WRG’s board for forty years, and was WRG deputy chairman for most of that period.
John was born in Mansfield in 1940 and educated at Brunts Grammar School. He joined the Research Department of the Boots Pure Drug Company, initially making organic chemicals for testing as drugs and agricultural products. He stayed with the company all his working career, developing new medicinal drugs for worldwide use before a redundancy opportunity arose, and he took early retirement in 1994.
John became interested in the Chesterfield Canal through a friend in the mid-1960s and then took a hire boat holiday on the River Thames in 1968. John and his wife Christine joined IWA in 1969 after a holiday on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. In 1969 he joined the committee of the North Midlands Branch of IWA based at Sheffield and was harbour master of the Sheffield Rally in 1970. In 1972 they launched their first boat, a 36 foot Springer hull, which he fitted out, and cruised, much of the Midland Canals network. A second boat followed in 1976 and his third boat, a Les Allen 60 foot Trad with a Lister HR2 engine, in 1981. During that time John and Christine, who married in 1966, cruised most of inland waterway network, much of it many times, earning a near record number of IWA Silver Swords.