A DIRECTOR at Blackwell’s book sellers who loved Charlbury and immersed himself in its life and culture has died.

John Merriman, 81, passed away on April 19 at his home in the town after a battle with cancer.

He worked at Blackwell’s, Oxford, for 34 years, rising from a clerk in the periodicals department to director.

But it was for his community work in Charlbury and his love of real ale that he was best known.

He was chairman of Charlbury Town Council and many of its committees and was chairman of the North Oxfordshire branch of Camra.

Mr Merriman, who was born in Didsbury, Manchester, was forced to give up a place at Cambridge University to support his mother when his father died. After completing National service, where he was posted to Singapore, he went to study at a library school in Newcastle until his break came in 1956.

After placing an advert in a national publishers’ magazine looking for work, Richard Blackwell, of the Oxford bookstore, contacted him.

Mr Merriman moved to Oxford and started work as a clerk in the periodical department, before becoming department director in 1968.

During his first 10 years, he helped expand the division from a turnover of £2m to more than £17m. He retired in 1990.

He moved to Charlbury in 1959 and lived there until his death.

He was on the town council for 12 years, including a stint as chairman, and was chairman of the street fair committee, which ran the annual Charlbury Street Fair.

Mr Merriman was also instrumental in raising funds for a pavilion and children’s play area at Nine Acres Recreation Ground.

His hobbies included rambling and amateur dramatics.

He was a founding member of Charlbury Amateur Dramatic Society, where he took starring roles in productions, often as judges or vicars.

Daughter Natasha Merriman, 42, said: “I think Charlbury was his greatest love, that or real ale.

“He really believed in the community and getting involved in things, and he was interested in life and people.

“I will remember him as a gentleman and a really lovely person to go for a pint with.

“He was the kind of person who would start a conversation with someone else in the bar. He was very easy to talk to.”

Mr Merriman leaves his wife, Ina, five children and four grandchildren.