The Downpatrick and Co. Down Railway Society have a new president, with the election of John Wilson at their recent annual AGM.
Mr Wilson, from Newcastle Co. Down, succeeds the late WF Gillespie OBE, who sadly passed away in June of this year.
Mr Wilson said: “I regard this appointment as a great honour. I have enormous respect for the volunteers who run the activities associated with the society and who carry out our work. I first joined the Society in 2004, which was in the early stages of my retirement from my previous work as a civil engineer.
“As is traditional in Railway circles, I started right at the bottom, swinging a pick and wielding a shovel. My background in civil engineering was hard to conceal, so I progressed to surveying and similar duties, but still enjoyed the fun of working in the track laying team. I progressed slowly to being entrusted with driving our elderly JCB.
“Some years later I was elected to serve on the Board, and later served as Company Secretary, then Vice-chair. I was appointed chairman following the untimely death of our then serving chair, Michael Collins.”
John’s legacy to the DCDR is the successful construction of the railway’s three-quarter million pound Carriage Gallery, completed in 2012, which he took on the mantle of project managing following a successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
John Wilson added: “During the time that I worked with Michael Collins, we decided to fund-raise for the construction of our proposed public viewing Carriage Gallery. I must say that this fund-raising and subsequent supervision of the construction was quite demanding, and I hope that I did not tread on too many toes during that phase. The gallery itself is witness to the effort and hard work put in by all of those concerned.
“As time progressed, I decided to step back from my duties to enable younger and probably more able people to succeed. I did agree to serve as vice-President under the late Mr. Bill Gillespie, and I suppose this period was rewarding and should prepare me for the tasks ahead.”
“Again, my thanks to you all volunteers and members of the DCDR for the trust which they have placed in me, and in closing I will simply say that I will always be approachable, and will exert my best efforts in the pursuance of our mutually shared interests in this great Society,” said John.