The history of the John James Bristol Foundation must begin with the philanthropy of its Founder, John James.
John was greatly influenced by William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, who wrote.
‘The man who would give money away is compelled to do a great deal of hard thinking. Is his gift going to do harm or good? Money has tremendous power and can do either. The responsibility of the would-be giver is great. If he is a decent man, he cannot escape it. I find a similar difficulty in lending money. Is it going to help the borrower or land him in a worse position next week?’
Countless private individual acts of generosity preceded the much publicised personal gift of £12,000 in 1963 from John and Mollie, his first wife. This money was given to meet the cost of a Bristol Old Folks’ Festival the organisation of which was undertaken by the Bristol Evening Post. This Festival proved to be a great success.
However, in April 1964 John received the numbing news of the death of his third daughter, Dawn, in an accident. This news resulted in his and his family’s unanimous decision to set up the Dawn James Trust through which Dawn’s share of the family’s wealth could be devoted entirely to charity centred on Bristol.
Perhaps it was as a result of this decision that the successful Festival Week was able to continue and grow in complexity. Outings were added and all the expenses and organisation for the week were supported and paid for by the Dawn James Trust. The final Festival week was held in 1996 when records show 12,700 pensioners enjoyed a coach trip to places such as Barnstaple and Ilfracombe, Swanage, Worcester and Wye Valley, Weymouth, Sidmouth and Seaton, Windsor and Marlborough and Weston-super-Mare.
Perhaps it is for this Festival Week that John James is best known in Bristol, but his generosity both personally and through the Charitable Trusts is much wider than this.
The John James Bristol Foundation was formed to work alongside the Dawn James Trust in December 1983, and in September 1998 it was decided that the two trusts should be merged to form, what is today, the John James Bristol Foundation. All the assets and commitments of the Dawn James Trust were transferred to the John James Bristol Foundation at that time.
In line with John’s own sentiments, the current trustees of the Foundation continue with the emphasis on Bristol residents, and the main areas of interest are education, health and the elderly.