Former sheriff of Berwick Major John Stephenson BEM dies

John Stephenson, who died aged 85, was a father and grandfather who served in Singapore and the Middle East

Former sheriff of Berwick Major John Stephenson BEM
Former sheriff of Berwick Major John Stephenson BEM

A former sheriff of a border town and recipient of the British Empire Medal has died aged 85.

John Stephenson, who was in the Army, serving deputy mayor of Berwick and former leader of its now defunct borough council, died at the weekend following illness.

John was born in County Wicklow in Ireland and after going to school in his home country, joined the Irish Guards in 1947.

He then joined the British Army as a private soldier working his way up to the rank of major.

John served in the Royal Army Service Corp from 1948 to 1951 and the Royal Army Pay Corp from 1951 to 1989.

While serving in Edinburgh in 1954 he met future wife Christine Ogilvie, proposing by Mons Meg.

Together they would have five children, three sons and two daughters, and 11 grandchildren.

John saw active service the following year during the troubles in Malaya against Communist insurgents, also serving in Singapore, Sharjah and Hong Kong.

He took early retirement in 1989 to focus on a new pharmaceutical dispensary in Dunbar, East Lothian with Christine, who was the pharmacist.

John visited Nepal as Gurkha Pension officer, to set up the Gurkha Pension Scheme.

During his service he was awarded the British Empire Medal by the Queen in 1963 for meritorious service for his work on the installation of a research and development costing system at the fighting vehicles research and development establishment Chobhan.

John was approached to stand in local council elections and was keen to give something back for the opportunities he received in the army, serving on district and regional councils in East Lothian and becoming the leader of a Conservative opposition group in the 1990s.

After moving to Berwick he became involved in town politics and was Sheriff of Berwick from 2004 to 2005 and leader of the now defunct Berwick Borough council from 2005 until 2007.

John joined Berwick Town Council last year and was selected deputy mayor earlier in 2014.

Away from politics, John was passionate about horse racing, winning many races, and was a scratch golfer, winning numerous cups and medals around the world, reaching the final of a 128 player tournament at the age of 82 and racking up 18 hole in ones.

He also played rugby with Wanderers RFC in Edinburgh and with the Army, and won races in cross country running.

John furthermore performed with the Army Drama Society in Germany.

He met the last five prime ministers and was invited to 10 Downing Street with Christine last year to meet David Cameron.

John died on Saturday following a period of illness. A minute’s silence was held in his memory at a town council meeting on Monday.

Berwick mayor Isabel Hunter said: “Coun Stephenson joined the council in May 2013, and immediately showed commitment and dedication to the task; as chair of the finance and resources committee and latterly as deputy mayor, he was clearly determined to help make a difference, and despite his increasing frailty made sure he attended every meeting he could.

“We will miss his wise words, experience and humour, and his conscientious attention to detail.”


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