My Life with The


by John Sparks

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It is with great sadness that I inform you that my friend and the stable manager
at Whitbread, John Lawless passed away on ( Wednesday 8th January 2014 )

John's funeral took place at the Crematorium, Ockendon Road, Corbets Tey,
Ockendon Road, Upminster, RM14 2UY,on Tuesday 28th January 2014

Click on this link for the story and more photos of John's funeral

John Henry Lawless

The life of much-loved John Lawless, 67, was marked by 200 relatives and friends at the South Essex Crematorium, where his hearse was taken by horses Comet, Harvey, Boy, Edward, Henry and William, after setting out from the Harwood Hall Livery Stables.

The Hornchurch man, who was the official coachman for 22 years, had a special connection with the animals as they draw the Lord Mayor’s coach every November.

John’s son David, 37, has now taken up the reins and drove the hearse to the funeral himself.

He said: “I was very pleased that we fulfilled his wishes for the funeral by having the six magnificent shires that he wanted. It was a fitting farewell.”

The late John Lawless driving the Lord Mayor of London's coach in his role as official coachman
John was just 25 when he first drove the Lord Mayor’s coach in 1971 – which made him the youngest person to do so.

His two decades of service meant he became the longest-serving coachman.

John was also the head horseman at the Whitbread and Co Brewery, London, for 25 years.

David, who lives in Cambridgeshire with his wife Elspeth and sons Ben, seven, and Toby, six, added: “I am proud to be following in his footsteps.”

Coachman David Lawless with the Shire horses at the crematorium

Elspeth, 47, met David through knowing John from the horse circuit. She knew John for about 30 years.

She said: “He was very cheerful. If he was in a room he was the life and soul of the party, which was shown by how many people were there at the funeral.”

As well as David and his grandchildren, John leaves behind a widow Vivien and daughter Sarah

By John Sparks

In 1964, as an 18 year old, I was working as a stableman at the Whitbread’s Garrett Street stables when John joined, also as an 18 year old. We were put on the same shift looking after 22 of the 36 shires.
In the Christmas of 1965 four Shetland ponies were appearing in Cinderella at the London Palladium, they were stabled with us and were being looked after by two young ladies one of them was named Vivien. Over the months John with his good looks, charm and ability to make a nice cup of tea soon won her over (or at least that’s what he told to me!) they were married a few years later.

John became a horse driver in 1967 driving shires around London delivering beer, the year also saw the first year of his involvement in Lord Mayors Show as a walking groom. In 1971 on the retirement of Jack Strickland, John took over the role as the Lord Mayor Of London’s Coachman, a role that he retained for the next 22 years and is still, to my knowledge the longest serving coachman, he cherished and was extremely proud of his involvement in the show.
In 1984 he had the pleasure of driving it for the first lady Mayoress in the 800 year history of the City, In 2013 his son David drove the second lady Mayoress.
John became stable manager in 1975 and suggested replacing all the blacks and bays with grey shires, for which Whitbread are now famous.
1991 saw the closure of the Garrett Street stable and the move out of London to the Hop Farm in Kent. John was heavily involved in the design of the stable complex.
May 1993 I had the pleasure of accompanying John on his last job with for Whitbread, the wedding of Sam Whitbread’s daughter at his Southill Estate in Bedfordshire.

The horse world as lost a great horseman, but above all I have lost a great friend, of over 50 years and I will miss him!

R I P John!


David Lawless driving the hearse that carried his father John Lawless.

It was a great tribute to a great horsman.

R.I.P John