5th June 2023

Obituary: Peter Dann Wilson

Peter Wilson was a long-serving and highly regarded member of the Trading Standards profession with a passion for sailing.


By Chris Armstrong
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Peter gained a reputation as a very knowledgeable professional Officer who applied down-to-earth common sense and reasoning to solve any problem

Peter Dann Wilson was born in Chelmsford on 28 April 1928 to Ernest and Nellie Wilson. Peter’s father worked as an engineer and as a young man was involved in fitting the electrics on the Titanic; he sailed with the ship on her maiden voyage from Liverpool but disembarked at Southampton. If he had stayed aboard, we would probably not be paying our respects to our colleague and friend!

Peter went to Moulsham School, leaving at the age of 14 when he went on to the Mid Essex Technical College, where in his final year he became a House Captain and Prefect. He gained passes in seven subjects including woodwork and engineering with a credit in geography, leaving on 20 July 1945 at the age of 17.

This was the time of the Second World War and Peter was very keen on the military. He joined up as an Army cadet with the Essex Regiment in 1942 while still at college and on leaving served full-time. He served in India and was demobbed at Aldershot in March 1948. Peter used to tell a story about clearing mines from the beaches at Great Yarmouth – just to make sure they were safe to open to the public, ranks of soldiers were lined up with 20-inch bayonets and were marched along the beach prodding at the sand.

Peter joined Essex County Council in the Weights and Measures Department and in 1957 became Senior Inspector for Havering. He was appointed Chief Trading Standards Officer in 1977 and gained a reputation as a very knowledgeable professional Officer who applied down-to-earth common sense and reasoning to solve any problem. He always wanted to know whether a defendant knew if a breach of the law was intentional and wilful rather than an honest mistake; his question was always “Where’s the vice in it?”

He was well known for his hospitality and frank views on enforcement and advice issues, and was committed to ensuring that any cases were properly presented by him in the local court. One of his particular beliefs involved wearing his Essex Regimental tie which he was confident would be recognised by the Magistrates to ensure they knew he meant business.

Havering Weights and Measures and Trading Standards was one of the North East Region of the Greater London area known by the initials NELCOG and hosted may liaison meetings of Chief TSOs over the years because not only was the HQ in a beautiful location called Langton’s Cottage but was also very close to the NALGO (later UNISON) Club which had a very reasonably priced bar and food menu!

Peter was made a life member of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute for his service and contribution. He retired after 43 years of Service.

Passion for sailing

Peter loved sailing and was introduced to the sea by his father at the age of seven in a rowing boat and then progressed to a home-built Dabchick dinghy. He joined the Blackwater Sailing Club in 1951 as he wanted somewhere to sail with a friend who was already a member. He then sailed Sprites. At this time the BSC was just a wooden hut with a Nissan hut as a workshop. He sailed in many classes with many people but eventually bought a Sadler 29 called ‘Oboe’ which he sailed for many years with Marion Edwards.

Peter and Marion shared their lives while remaining both independent and single, and shared many common interests such as gardening and bird watching as well as sailing.

Peter Wilson at his beloved Blackwater Sailing Club

At the club, Peter was in charge of moorings and was beachmaster for 10 years from 1960. He became Honorary Warden, a role he held for more than 35 years. He was an expert with ropes and splicing and taught many cadets how to tie bowlines and other knots. He also looked after the club trophies – over 100 of them – and arranged all the engravings. With his expertise as a silversmith, he even made some of them such as the Bench Head Trophy.

His skills with woodworking also came in very handy and he made lots of furnishings and artifacts for the club such as bowls, doorstops and wooden eggs for the cadets at Easter. He was a regular helper at work parties and was often seen dishing out the pea and ham soup at lunchtimes, but he never had any himself. If asked why not, he would reply bluntly in his broad Essex accent – “because it gives me wind!”

Peter was a qualified Sailing Instructor and obtained his Yacht Master’s certificate in 1983. He was delighted to be awarded the RYA Community Award for Lifetime Commitment (the MBE of sailing) in 2006 which was presented to him by round the world sailor Dee Caffari at a star-studded reception in London. His certificate is displayed at the club.

The BSC was Peter’s life and he served on many committees at the club where he was delighted to be appointed an Honorary Flag Officer. He was often vocal on management committees, and not backward in voicing his opinion – but he was usually right! He was a true asset to the club – his knowledge of club history and traditions was extensive and his willingness to share that knowledge with his fellow members was a precious gift, right up to the end. He will be sadly missed.

Peter lived alone for most of his life but was cared for and helped by friends and occasionally colleagues. In latter years he was housebound. He passed away after a short stay in a care home. Many people have contributed to this celebratory obituary but the biggest thank you of all is to Peter for leaving such an interesting and full story to tell.

Peter’s passing, which was just days before his 95th birthday, was celebrated on 4 May at Chelmsford Crematorium and afterwards at the Sailing Club. Many friends and colleagues turned up give him a magnificent send off.

Compiled by Chris Armstrong from contributions by friends and colleagues.

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