John Thomas Mountain

People May 15, 2022

I was reading through some 1940s editions of the Bicester Advertiser, as I seem to do a lot these days, when I came across the obituary for a person whose name was familiar to me but who I didn’t really know much about. Mr John Thomas Mountain, who died on 9th January 1940, aged 72, turned out to be quite an interesting character.

Some older residents may remember Mountains chemist shop, in Sheep Street. In latter years it was run by Miss Dorothy Mountain, but the business was originally taken over from Sandiland’s chemist shop by her father, John Mountain, in 1902.

Exterior of Mountain's chemist shop in Sheep Street, 1967.
Exterior of Mountain's chemist shop in Sheep Street, 1967.

John had been born in Lincolnshire in 1868 and trained as a pharmaceutical chemist in the late 1880s. Over the years he instructed all five of his daughters in the business, but only Dorothy stayed on permanently and eventually took over when his health began to decline. He was noted for having a “courteous bearing and kind attention to the minor ills and ailments about which it was his lot to encounter” and soon earned the respect and patronage of a large clientele.

Outside work he was quite the sportsman and became involved in many things. As a young athlete he had won many trophies in his native district, and he also played football, cricket and hockey for Bicester and Caversham. Ever ready to assist in anything which would promote the interests of youth in Bicester, he was one of the people who advocated the need of a sports ground for the town, and when the scheme was eventually launched he was appointed a trustee of Bicester Sports Association.

He was also a founder of the Bicester Social Club and held the position of chairman for several years. Affectionately known as "J.T.", he was always involved in the activities of the club, only retiring when his declining health forced him to. As a keen horticulturalist he was a member of the Horticultural Committee of the Bicester Show. He became a member of the Bicester Urban District Council in 1911 and was appointed chairman in 1918. He was a member of both the Bicester Feoffees and the Chamber of Commerce, and belonged to the Bicester Choral Society.

Burroughes and Watts Cup world record holders. L-R: John Mountain, Harcourt Smith, Harry Wadley, G.H. Sibbring. 1920s.
Burroughes and Watts Cup world record holders. L-R: John Mountain, Harcourt Smith, Harry Wadley, G.H. Sibbring. 1920s.

But, apart from his business, it was as a rifleman that he was best known. It was mainly due to him that Bicester and the county gained fame in rifle shooting circles. In 1905 rifle shooting was introduced to the district by Mr Hugh Graham, of Bucknell Manor, and Mr Mountain was one of the first to join the club which was formed. His disability - the loss of an eye as a result of an accident - made it difficult for him at first, as he had to fire left-handed. He was discouraged by this but eventually became one of the best shots in the country. He represented Great Britain in the Dewar Trophy competition against the United States in 1912, and won.

After the war he was chosen on five further occasions, but only in 1926 did Great Britain enjoy their next success. He was the only person to hold two winning medals in this international competition. Amongst other notable achievements in 1926 he won the championship gold medal at Lowestoft, the veteran's gold medal, and the Bell trophy. In 1924, when representing Oxfordshire in the National Cup competition, he was the first man in the world to make a "possible" shooting through the ranges at 25, 50 and 100 yards, and he was awarded a world record. He was part of Bicester’s record holding team in the Burroughes and Watts Cup competition. He gained six Lord Lieutenants' gold medals at the County meeting and was one of three representatives from the Bicester club who were, at one time, in the international team.

All in all, a very remarkable man.