Greeves, John Ernest (1910–87), civil servant, was born 9 October 1910 at Grange, Co. Tyrone, fourth son of Robert Douglas Greeves (1867–1950) and Sarah Louisa Greeves (1876–1924) (née Hobson). Educated at Moy primary school and Dungannon Royal School, he sat the Northern Ireland civil service examination in 1928 and embarked on thirty-six years of service at the Ministry of Labour and National Insurance. Enjoying steady promotion, he became manager of Ballymena and Downpatrick local offices and deputy manager at the Belfast exchange. After the second world war he dealt mainly with industrial relations and employment and training services, including the training of disabled persons. In June 1956 he succeeded Robert Steele as assistant secretary in the ministry, and following the retirement of William Nicholson McWilliam (1897–1987) in September 1962, he was appointed permanent secretary.
As the most senior civil servant in the Ministry of Labour he frequently accompanied the minister on official visits to local labour offices and factories. He also devoted a great deal of energy to attracting new businesses to Northern Ireland and in November 1962 he accompanied the prime minister, Lord Brookeborough (qv), and other members of the cabinet during important negotiations with the British government on the Hall committee report. In a reshuffle of the posts held by three senior civil servants (August 1964) he was appointed permanent secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs. The switch in personnel was closely linked to recent changes in ministerial functions, which had been announced by the prime minister, Terence O'Neill (qv). During his time at the Ministry of Home Affairs, the civil rights movement gathered momentum and he was thus involved in numerous attempts to stabilise an increasingly volatile political climate. In October 1968, for example, he was nominated along with Harold Black (qv) to represent the government in negotiations with QUB students with regard to their civil rights protest on Linen Hall St. He retired in 1970 at the age of 60.
Born into a quaker family, he attended All Souls non-subscribing church in Belfast. He was a keen rugby player and represented Dungannon, City of Derry, and the civil service rugby club at senior level. He was also a member of the junior Ulster squad. Awarded the CB in 1966, his other interests included reading and amateur dramatics. He died 6 January 1987 at his Belfast home.
He married (1942) Hilde Alexandra, daughter of Edward Hulbig, of Coburg, Bavaria; they had a son, Peter John, and a daughter, Helga Louisa.