SIR William McAlpine Bt, FRSE, FCILT – one of the most important figures in the history of railway preservation, and certainly one of the most loved – took his final journey behind steam.
The man, known at work as ‘Mr Bill’ and to so many as just Bill, has long been hailed a national hero for rescuing Flying Scotsman from the United States, for founding the Railway Heritage Trust and for helping countless heritage lines and preservation groups. He lost a three-month battle against sepsis in the Royal Berkshire Hospital at Reading on March 4.
His funeral was held at the 12th century parish church of St Mary the Virgin in Fawley, Buckinghamshire, near his home at Fawley Hill, on the afternoon of Saturday, March 24.
The funeral was limited to family members and close friends only, with a marquee outside as the church was too small for everyone. Two uniformed members of the Household Cavalry were also in attendance, as Sir William had served in the Life Guards for two years national service.
Eulogies were given firstly by Judy, Lady McAlpine, entitled “a very special man” and then by his son, Sir Andrew McAlpine, now the seventh baronet, entitled “father”, both praising the doctors and nursing staff of the Intensive Care Unit at Royal Berks for caring so well for Bill for the three months that he was there. It was clear that Sir William was not only tremendously effective in getting things done, but that he was loved and appreciated by the whole community of railwaymen. Finally, David Ward, the former British Rail InterCity Charter Trains Unit manager, described some of the contributions made by “the railway baronet” to railways.
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