Tributes to Northamptonshire man known as ‘The Film Man’

John Earl of Wellingborough
John Earl of Wellingborough

A man who was born and bred in Wellingborough and affectionately known by many as ‘The Film Man’ has died.

Life was for living and up until a month before he died at the age of 87, John Earl was still actively involved in his passion for preserving archive film.

His interest for amateur film and the social history it contains dates back more than 50 years to when he bought his first movie camera and projector to document family life and local events.

It was after he was handed a reel of amateur film that was destined for landfill that he began his quest to collect and preserve archive film.

He realised the film he had been given was amateur footage that had been taken in the county and that if this was lost, or any other similar film, it could never be replaced.

When he started screening films in local churches and village halls with presentations he described as being ‘the nearest thing to a living time machine’ the collection started to grow.

He wanted to form a cine film group and the shows, along with appeals in the then Evening Telegraph, eventually led to the formation of the Northamptonshire 9.5 Group, which later became the Northamptonshire Film Archive Trust and moved to Wellingborough Museum seven years ago.

This is where the collection of film and equipment, originally kept in his garage and garden shed, now has a permanent home.

Mr Earl served in the RAF during the 1940s and remained a staunch member of the RAF Association.

Although his day job was as a foreman at the Wellingborough Steam Laundry, it was the family and other hobbies that fulfilled his life.

Mr Earl was married to Mary and had three children, Jane, Russell and Tom.

He was grandfather to seven children and great-grandather to seven children.

Apart from his love of film he was a keen footballer.

He started Wellingborough Amateurs football team then later joined Wellingborough United, playing until the age of 47.

On retiring from that game he founded West Street Methodist table tennis team which played in the Wellingborough & District League.

Mr Earl’s son-in-law Pete Austin said: “Just as the archive films remain a constant reminder of the past the accomplishments of John Earl will linger long in the memories of all who knew him.”

The funeral service is taking place at midday on Wednesday, February 3, at the Alma Street Wesleyan Reform Church in Wellingborough followed by committal at Kettering Crematorium.

Flowers or donations to Marie Curie are welcome and can be sent to Chambers and Brighty in Wellingborough.