Tributes paid to Southampton ships' masseur to the famous John Dempsey, 94

LIFETIME AT SEA: John Dempsey began his career on ships aged 14.

LIFETIME AT SEA: John Dempsey began his career on ships aged 14.

First published in News
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Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

HE sailed around the world, massaging the rich and famous.

From Bing Crosby to Noel Coward and David Niven – he pampered them all in a career of more than 30 years on board Cunard ships.

Now tributes are being paid to Southampton masseur John Dempsey, who has died at the age of 94.

John’s life at sea began when he was offered a job as a porter in 1934, aged just 14.

He then sailed troops across the Atlantic during the Second World War, but by 1946 he had established himself as a masseur.

He wrote about the celebrities he met and befriended in his book I’ve Seen Them All Naked, published in 1992.

After decades on ships including the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, the great-grandfather-of-six ran the Turkish baths, pool and massage department of the Bermudiana Hotel, in Bermuda, before returning to the UK in 1964.

In 1978 the dad-of-two opened his own massage and chiropody business, John Dempsey Chiropodist, in Shirley, which he ran until his retirement in 1988.

John is also known for his artwork and during his retirement he was a member of Southampton Art Society, Totton Art Society and Romsey Art Group.

He lost his wife Olive four years ago, after 68 years of marriage. His daughter Susan Galton, 67, from Shirley, said: “He could always tell a good story and when he walked into a room everyone would know he was there. He was very forthright. He was a force to be reckoned with. He will leave a big hole in the family and will be missed.”

Friends and family gathered at the East Crematorium in Bassett Green Road on April 4 to pay their respects to John, who died on March 14.

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