Chef John led a fascinating life on ocean waves

Leyland chef John Werrill on the Camargo V yacht in the early 1960s, when he was 24
Leyland chef John Werrill on the Camargo V yacht in the early 1960s, when he was 24

Leyland-born John Werrill travelled the world on cruise liners and yachts during his successful career as a prestigious chef, leading a life that most can only dream.

He had ‘sea blood in his veins’ and ‘followed the sun’ around the globe, cooking fantastic meals for the rich and famous before finally settling in Hawaii.

His brother Frank, who lives in Northlands, Leyland, has shared John’s fascinating story with the Guardian, which came to a sad end

“John went to St James Junior School and then Worden High School, where he was the top of the class,” Frank said.

“He was very well educated, and he was very ambitious it was always his dream to travel to America.

“He went to Blackpool Technology College where he trained as a chef, and once he passed all of his exams he joined the Merchant Navy as a chef when he was 18.”

After sharpening his skills in the schools, hotels and restaurants of Europe, John decided the world should be his oyster.

Frank added: “He spent a long time on cruise ships after that withcompanies like P&O, Orient and Viking Star, then he started in the yachting world. He was the head chef on private yachts, and I did four and a half years with him on a yacht called Camargo V.

“I was a bedding steward and joined him in Gibraltar.

“After that we followed the sun, around the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

“They were very happy years. I’ll never forget that.”

John was also very artistic, enjoying writing and drawing in his spare time, and he even penned an autobiography called ‘Get a Life’, described as a “rarely seen glimpse into the fairy tale kitchens of the rich and famous.”

The ‘about the author’ blurb reads: “For some reason, never to be fathomed out, John has sea water in his veins, and perhaps the salt enhances the flavours of the life he decided to lead.”

In his book, John also talks about his childhood in Leyland, where he attended St James’ Church and sang in the choir.

He grew up with Frank and their sister Brenda, who worked in the cotton mills, and also remembers his father Leonard Bradshaw Werrill coming home from work at Leyland Motors, and his mother Louise looking after the family home in Fox Lane.

John felt pressured by his father to follow in his footsteps at Motors, but knew from an early age he would get itchy feet if he stayed in one place for too long.

Frank says: “His ambition was to get to the very top, and his work on the yachts took him to America. It’s unbelievable what he achieved.”

John finally retired to “the tranquil calm of Hawaii”, in 1985, where he met his partner, Pauline Hiu.

He spoke regularly to Frank on the phone, although the last time they saw each other was in 2001.

John was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago, and his journey ended at the age of 69.

Frank said: “He’s been cremated and half of his ashes are staying in Hawaii, while half are coming back to his home in Leyland so he can be buried with our mum and dad at St James’ Church.

“I miss him so much. He was a brilliant chef and he did so much with his life.”

- To read an extract from John’s book about his time in Leyland, see next week’s Guardian, which is out on Tuesday.