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Thursday, October 16, 2014

John Steeksma

(* Some years ago, I mentioned an artist contributing illustrations to The Pillar-Box magazine. The information came from The FictionMags Index, a huge project that I have been involved with for many years. The title is self-explanatory—the FictionMag chums index fiction that appeared in magazines and have indexed some 85,000 issues to date. One was The Pillar-Box
    It was in this index that Colin Steeksma stumbled across a short story written by a relative, John Steeksma. I suggested that Colin write a little piece about his fiction-writing relative and I'm pleased to present the following. A huge thanks to Colin for writing a very interesting portrait of his grandfather and for digging out photographs.)

John Steeksma

John Steeksma was born on Monday March 6, 1886 at Hull (Kingston-upon-Hull) in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England He was the first child of seven born to Karel Steeksma and his wife Annie Chatham.

In 1901 at age 15 John worked as a meat importer's assistant, likely to his father who imported poultry. In 1903 he passed an examination to join the Post Office and much later became the Secretary of the Postal and Telegraph Clerks Association. John married Ethel Playfoot in 1911, at which time he took the role of head of the Steeksma household, his father having died in 1907. John lived in Hull with his wife, widowed mother and four of his siblings, Caroline, Albert, Annie and Grace. His two younger brothers, Ernest and Reinder had moved out.

In 1913 John and Ethel had a daughter Mona Kathleen. John enlisted in the First World War at the age of 28 as a private in the Corps of Royal Engineers, entering France on 21 September 1915. During a campaign at Salonika he was gassed, wounded and contracted tuberculosis of the knee, after which in September 1916 he was medically discharged. He suffered from gastric and leg problems for the rest of his life.

In 1918 John and Ethel had another child, a son Bryan (my father). in 1920 in his role as the Secretary of the Postal and Telegraph Clerks Association, John was part of a War Memorial Sub Committee that created a plaque commemorating the postal service workers who served and died in the war. The plaque was hung in the Hull Post Office and added to for subsequent wars however, the building being vacated in 1997, the memorial tablets were transferred to the reception area in the new East District Delivery Office, St Peter's Lane, Drypool which opened in 1997.

John and Ethel separated in 1933 and Ethel passed away from cancer in 1954.

John "posing like a poet" outside the family home, 40 Peel Street, Hull, in 1913

John was the author of three books, namely Working the Mind in 1932, The Writing Way in 1933 and Philosophical Inquiry in 1935, all published by Pittman & Sons.

John also wrote daily diaries and notes on his writing which are still in our family today and which form both a common-man's history of life though two wars and the aftermath, as well as chronicling his personal struggles with life and writing. John was a committed thinker and intellectual, a fan of George Bernard Shaw, an active member of the Hull Fabian Society and corresponded with some of the other well-known thinkers of the day such as C. E. M. Joad.

As John grew older his leg and stomach worsened and his mind deteriorated more than he could bear, so he chose to end his own life on September 19, 1960, overdosing himself with sleeping pills at he age of 74 at the home of his daughter Mona.

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