Man who revived famous Wrekin beacon dies aged 90

John Wall - a former magistrate and Territorial Army officer who started a successful campaign to revive the famous beacon on The Wrekin - has died aged 90.

John Wall.
John Wall.

Mr Wall's idea was taken up by Telford & Wrekin Council and received a wave of public support as a project to mark the advent of the new millennium.

As a result, a modern version of the 'friendly light' so fondly remembered by generations of Salopians was turned on at the stroke of midnight as December 31, 1999 turned to January 1, 2000.

In a variety of public roles, Mr Wall was at one time Shropshire's longest-serving magistrate and was awarded a military MBE in the 1987 New Year's Honours which was presented to him by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

His funeral is at Emstrey Crematorium, Shrewsbury, on Friday, December 10 at 11.30am.

Mr Wall had first suggested reviving the Wrekin Beacon – a flashing light near the summit to warn aircraft which was erected during the war and became a friendly sign of home for returning Salopians – for the golden anniversary of VE Day in 1995. While receiving support, the idea ran out of time.

“It missed VE Day, but then I thought with the new unitary authority coming about in Wrekin it would be a good idea if they could mark its inauguration and they would be looking for some symbol to say ‘we’re here,’” recalled Mr Wall, from Shrewsbury - a retired BT external planning officer and a former Major in a TA signals unit.

John, left, with a small test beacon on The Wrekin in 1998, accompanied by Michael Barker and Phil Hipkiss.

His approach to the council set in train a process which saw a light – actually two lights – returning to the 1,335ft landmark at no cost to the public purse. The council encouraged the owners of the Wrekin telecommunications mast to install the beacon as part of a revamp of the mast.

In the event, Mr Wall complained that it was not bright enough - a pale imitation of the much-loved original which had been turned off in the mid-1960s. He was therefore pleased when, in August 2012, the lights were replaced and upgraded, which saw the flashing beacon become a steady light and much brighter - meeting Civil Aviation Authority specifications.

The revived beacon in 2007 – John complained it was not bright enough, and it was upgraded and made brighter in 2012.

A former chairman of Shrewsbury magistrates, he served in the Royal Signals for 37 years before retiring in 1987, having spent the previous 20 years with 35 Signal Regiment (Volunteers). He was the oldest serving TA officer in the regiment, having joined the Royal Signals as a national serviceman in 1949.

On completion of two years' technician service in Catterick and Germany, he was posted into the Army emergency reserve.

Volunteering in 1955, he was recalled to the colours in 1956 for the Suez operation, rejoined the Army emergency reserve as a sergeant technician in 1957 and served until the reserve and TA was disbanded on reorganisation of the Reserve Army in 1967.

He joined 35 Signal Regiment (Volunteers) on its formation in 1967.

Mr Wall was elected to Shrewsbury Borough Council at the age of 30 in 1962, serving for six years as a councillor for Coton Hill ward.

He became a magistrate in 1963. Among other roles, he served as a member of Shropshire Railway Society, the Shropshire Probation Committee and the Royal Signals Association, being president of the Shrewsbury branch, and was chairman of the Morris Hall Trustees. He had also been a flood warden and a manager of five schools, including his old schools – the Lancasterian and Shrewsbury Technical College.

He was a founder member of the local SDP and a keen bowler for many years at the Greenfields club.

He was husband of Philomena and father to Pamela, Martin and the late Gillian.

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