John Thackray

Former Chairman and stalwart member of the New Forest Ramblers' Group John Thackray passed away on 6 November, 2020.

John Thackray was born in Stafford in 1936, the eldest son of Wilfred and Mary Thackray.

His two brothers Arnold and George followed. His mother Mary had said she would like girls.

The family moved to East Didsbury about three months after John's birth because Wilfred qualified as an accountant and the company he worked for said they couldn't afford to pay his increased salary.

His mother had been a teacher before marrying Wilfred.

Primary School education was at Beaver Road School, an easy distance from home. John must have enjoyed his days there because not a dozen years ago he tried to make contact with the boys and girls he knew there and managed to find some of them much to his delight.

He also contacted the school and visited, driving up from Christchurch to do so. The headteacher introduced him to the pupils and they were thrilled and fascinated to hear and see when the headteacher produced the “naughty” book for the time John was a pupil and found his name in it! From Beaver Road John went on to William Hulme Grammar School which was a fair distance away from home and also had school on Saturdays too which was not at all popular in John's book.

He went to Manchester University (UMIST) and studied engineering, obtaining an Honours degree, a Masters in later years .

After going to the Netherlands with the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Education, he worked for Taylor Woodrow on the first Hinkley Point Power Station and then in 1960 with Halcrow on the construction of the flagship BHS store in Oxford Street. He then worked for the County Borough of Oldham on engineering projects. Following this in 1964 he started as a senior engineer with the newly created Mersey & Weaver River Board working on flood alleviation schemes and other projects.

In 1968 John joined the Yorkshire Rivers Authority, then known as the Yorkshire Ouse and Hull River Authority working on the proposed Farndale Reservoir, the Ouse/Derwent tidal barrier and many other projects.

Then in 1974 he moved to the newly formed Severn Trent Water Authority. Initially as their Assistant Director of Resource Planning responsible for forecasting and water demand management – where broad thinking across the whole team was key to meeting the challenges facing the water industry in the mid-1980s. When Severn Trent reorganised he was promoted to Assistant Director of Finance where he became renowned for his original and sometimes radical thinking and refusal to be deterred by obstacles. His team's ground-breaking work on the award-winning Malvern & Mansfield Study of Domestic Water Usage in 1978, revolutionised our understanding of water usage. John also championed fairer water charges, he promoted the voluntary installation of water meters and ensured Severn Trent was at the forefront of new developments in these and associated areas.

When the water industry was privatised in England and Wales in 1989, John established his own consultancy, advising on water charges and related topics at home and abroad.

He worked on a wide variety of projects in Zaire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Russia, Tanzania and Nepal as well as advising UK government ministers on water policy matters.

Whilst at Severn Trent he became involved with the fledgling Water Aid Charity. He championed direct contributions from employees' salaries – resulting in a firm foundation for the charity. He was a stalwart supporter for almost 40 years, visiting their projects and assisting where possible.

John wrote and presented papers to conferences and symposiums in many parts of the world and was always known for his forward thinking.

He was a keen walker, being Chairman of the local New Forest Ramblers' Group and leading many walks for them as well as for HF Holidays. He was also a member of Christchurch Sailing Club, enthusiastically sailing first his Mirror and then Scow dinghy in local waters. He sailed in the Tall Ship Sir Winston Churchill as part of his 60th birthday year celebrations as well as climbing the more difficult non-tourist route, and nearly perishing on Mount Kilimanjaro.

John had three children, Peter, Mary and James, with his first wife Barbara and two grandchildren, Elizabeth and Robert.He is survived by his second wife, Christine who said: "He is missed every day but lives on in our hearts."

The funeral was held at Hinton Park Woodland Burial Ground. Donations if wished to: Reaching the Unreached. or New Forest & District