Tribute to War and Peace Museum’s Bill Leech

Bill Leech, founder and chairman of Oban's War and Peace Museum, who has died aged 82

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Tributes have been paid to Bill Leech, founder, curator and chairperson of Oban’s War and Peace Museum who has died aged 82.

With plans to commemorate his name in the museum, Mr Leech will be missed by many people and organisations in the town.

The eulogy at his funeral last week told how he was born in Bromley, Kent, and as a youngster loved to go to the coast to Swanage in Dorset to be beside the sea and that perhaps it was these visits which set the seed for his future career as a seafarer.

Starting as a cadet and ultimately Master Mariner serving with the British India Steam
Navigation Company, he travelled widely on cargo vessels around the
Mediterranean, Africa, Asia and Australia. His final years at sea were spent
happily involved in school cruising on what became his favourite ship, The Dunera
– a wonderful extracurricular opportunity for many children that the Scottish
educational authorities especially valued.

After 10 years at sea, he trained as a Port Health Inspector in the Port of London,
became a family man and moved away from the South East to Stoke-on-Trent. In
Staffordshire he developed his interest in narrowboats and canal preservation and
following another move, to Warwickshire, his varied career led him into working for
the RNLI, which he had admired and supported for many years. He excelled as
the Area Organiser of Fundraisers for the East Midlands region.

Those who met Bill found him to be a fount of knowledge in so many areas – a
testament to the boundless breadth of his interests. His particular area of
expertise covered all types of transport, civil engineering and industrial heritage –
but with a special interest in railways. He was also a very detailed and skilled
model-maker, not least in his own very charming 60s era model railway layout
depicting a fictional Yorkshire mill town.

He was also a fine draftsman and illustrator, delighting family and friends with his gifts of humorous cards, maps and cartoons.

He was naturally interested in others and seemed to easily find a point of
conversational common ground. This proved invaluable when, in retirement in
Oban, he became the town’s Auxiliary Superintendent for the Fishermen’s Mission
in 1997 – a position he held for nine years.

He also quickly developed an enduring association with Oban’s War & Peace Museum. A founder member, he worked tirelessly to develop the museum along with volunteers and later with the board and as curator for the last 11 years. He was still chairman of the board when he died.

He worked very hard to encourage school visits and this reflected his strong
conviction that young people should understand their local heritage and history.
He also promoted the museum to various community groups, using its artefacts to evoke memories and stimulate interest, highlighting the museum’s value to the town and its many visitors from different parts of the world.

Another of Bill’s keen interests was Oban Speakers’ Club, which he enjoyed
immensely both for friendships which it forged and for the opportunity to use his
fine public speaking skills. Bill was also a great music lover with a fine bass voice.
Throughout his life he lent his enthusiasm and musicality to countless choirs and
became an invaluable asset to Oban’s choral community. Singing was very much
an expression of his faith. He also enjoyed playing hymns on the piano and was
the regular accompanist at the Congregational Church where his wife Carol was the
minister for several years. His love of music no doubt influenced his son Owen’s
musical career of which both he and Carol were devoted and supportive followers.

Bill always appreciated all that was provided through our hospital in Oban and for nearly 10 years was one of the ‘paper-boys’ in the Royal Voluntary Service team. He was well-known in the hospital and appreciated by staff and patients for his care and interest in them. As his health declined and he himself received treatment and became a patient, he felt himself to be among friends.

Bill Leech, founder and chairman of Oban’s War and Peace Museum, who has died aged 82