In loving memory of John Cotton

by | Dec 6, 2023

It is with deep regret that Cottons Group announces the passing of John Cotton earlier this month. As we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual and dear friend, we are committed to honouring his legacy and ensuring that his memory continues to inspire us all.

The late John Cotton and the early years.

John, a Northampton lad, entered the profession along with his lifelong school friends, Jack Dove (formerly Dove Naish, now DNG Group) and Graham Billingham (formerly Towers Rockall, now Clifford Roberts). While his friends remained in Northampton to grow successful practices, John went to London to pursue his career. John had to grow up quickly, having lost his father at a young age. He assumed the mantle of the head of the family and financial provider, guiding and supporting his mother and brother. After a spell in London, where he must have enjoyed himself (he didn’t qualify!), he returned to set up the Daventry office of Dove Naish.

John Cotton

With his experience and, above all, social manner, he grew this little office into the biggest, most profitable office in Dove Naish at that time. Not being able to enter partnership (he wasn’t qualified—a barrier back then), John parted with Dove Naish and set out on his own as Cotton & Co in 1983. At his side, to add depth and strength in audit and tax, were Bill Dearns and Nick Warne, joining in 1985 and 1987, respectively. Both became Partners soon after. John continued to grow the business built upon a friendly and professional foundation. I joined the firm in 1989, rising to a partner in 1995. I was the newbie.

There were great early memories of the four of us sitting around John’s desk, he behind with Bill and Nick taking a corner and me stuck in front. Cottons grew from these humble beginnings with John keeping us all in check! Back in those days, John was involved with the “Clerk to the Commissioners” of HM Revenue and Customs, a sort of magistrates court where taxpayers and their representatives had to appear and make apologies and seek extensions for not keeping their tax affairs up to date. This panel met monthly. We all learned from John how to stand up and “sweet talk” the local magistrates, solicitors, laypeople and Revenue inspectors, to get our clients out of trouble. I recall some scary moments when the Clerks deliberated to either let you off the hook or hit you with a determination. Bit like the thumbs down at the colosseum. John was a natural at getting the right decision.

With the business beginning to open other offices and move into more technical areas, John felt he had done his time and decided to retire, taking a few personal client friends with him to work from home. This he did until recently, with these clients returning to Cottons under Lisa and Aneta’s guardianship.

An avid walker, pipe smoker and well-respected member of the community, John continued on through his semi-retirement. We bumped into each other on and off, but the trio of John, Bill, and Nick used to meet up annually for a gossip over lunch. Me being the newbie wasn’t invited!

He had three children, William, Joanna and James, and lived with Ann, his wife, in Badby for the last 30 years.

A true entrepreneur who laid the foundations of where the business has grown today. I’m sure he would be proud that his name still goes on as a top 100 Accountancy firm (89 in the UK) he started all those years ago.

From those who worked with him and still remain at Cottons, thank you for giving us the opportunities to grow our careers and build something that other staff, current, new and future will benefit from in years to come.

Kindly written by Richard Wilch, on behalf of the team at Cottons.

Linda, Nick, Lisa, Dave, Richard, Mark, Nicola, Dawn, Lynn, Will (In order of joining).


Ready to connect?

If you’re curious about how we can help you, please reach out: our team is very keen to hear from you.

Xero Platinum partner logo
ICAEW logo
ACCA logo
Quickbooks logo