Life
4 Oct 2018 12:51pm

Beyond the try line

John Carter has been contributing to his community for over half a century. He tells Peter Taylor-Whiffen about his inspiration, ambition, and love for Bath rugby

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Caption: Photography by Richard Ansett

When I was articled,” recalls Carter, “my mum and dad said: ‘By the time you retire, you should have made a contribution to the community in which you reside.’”

As a founding trustee, then chairman and honorary CEO of Bath Cancer Unit Support Group, Carter’s contribution has helped give his community one of the most advanced pieces of disease-detecting equipment in the country – and saved countless lives.

“When we started in 1985, Bath Royal United Hospital had a somewhat rudimentary cancer facility,” he says. “We raised £600,000 to buy a linear accelerator, then funded a second one, and recently raised £1.2m for a Positron PET-CT scanner. It’s made cancer treatment one of RUH’s three core activities, and this scanner is currently the only one in Britain being used on everyday patients.”

Now 73, Carter stepped down from the charity last year but continues to use his vast accountancy expertise to help good causes. His business, Make Your Figures Count, which he founded with his accountant wife Sue 10 years ago, is committed to helping charities reduce their financial reporting costs.

“We help a lot of local organisations at lower rates than they would normally pay,” he says.

Carter uses the skills he honed over a near 60-year career that began at Bath accountants Keith Moore & Co (“for the princely sum of £2 10s a week”) and a succession of private companies, before setting up his own practice, Carter & Humphrey Chartered Accountants, in 1988. Selling the business 20 years later enabled him to focus on his fundraising, and his other lifelong passion – rugby.

“I had played as a boy and have always loved watching Bath, but in 1980 I began to do reports for the hospital radio, which then developed into commentaries.”

Carter has described many a Bath victory in the intervening 38 years, but none as special as watching Bath become champions of Europe by beating French side Brive in the 1998 Heineken Cup final. “To be there not only watching, but being involved – that was special,” he says.

He has become part of the fabric of the club but says: “Essentially I’m still just a fan. Commentating is a privilege but I just love watching the team.”

He has made other community contributions, too, as an accountancy tutor at the University of Bristol and the National Association of Specialist Dental Accountants and Lawyers.

His charity work earned him an MBE in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List, which astonished him. “I find it amazing someone should have considered what I have undertaken to be worthy of nomination,” he says. And he is modest about his contribution: “I’m no different to thousands of people across the country who have served their communities, helped others, contributed, for 50 years. It’s just something we do.”