John Bate was born in 1919 in Finchley, London, the eldest child of four. On leaving school he worked in Birmingham Public Library, and upon call-up at the beginning of the Second World War registered as a conscientious objector, and was put to work potato picking in Wales. While posted to a non-combatant unit he edited, with Derek Stanford, a semi-clandestine magazine called X-6, and later its successor, Oasis, which ran from 1942 until 1944.
In 1945 John converted to Roman Catholicism, and married Peggie Banks, a teacher. He followed a correspondence course in librarianship as the couple moved from Cornwall to the Highlands, and finally to Dundee, where he took a degree course at the University of St Andrews, followed by a year at teacher training college. In 1964 he was appointed Tutor Librarian at the newly opened Napier College of Science and Technology in Edinburgh. As head of the library services unit, he was in charge of an expanding department able to anticipate the future needs of the growing college, such as with the introduction of early digital searching techniques. He retired in 1984 and was awarded an MBE.
From 1982 John had actively supported efforts to establish the Scottish Poetry Library, which opened in 1984; in 1981 he had brought out a collection of twenty poems: Damaged Beauty Needs a New Design. He produced more than half a dozen pamphlets in various formats during the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, and later another small collection. Simon Bate said in his obituary of his father that he was ‘a private man who reserved expression of his deepest self to his poetry’.
In 1985 John and Peggie retired to Oxford, and moved north in 2000 to live in Berwick-upon-Tweed. John Bate died in 2015.