On Friday 1st March so many friends, relations and colleagues gathered in a village church just to the north of Bedford to say their last farewells to Bill. He and his family had lived in this tranquil area of East Anglia/East Midlands for almost 40 years after 'emigrating' from his beloved South Wales even though work would subsequently take Bill to a wide variety of other locations.
Anyone who knew anything about Bill would know that, alongside his family and work, his great loves were for golf and Welsh rugby. Hence it was totally fitting that his funeral would take place on St David's Day and that within a few days’ time he would be 'watching down' on Wales achieving another grand slam. The church service had distinctly Welsh traits, amongst other things, starting with “green green grass of home” and concluding with “we'll keep a welcome in the hillside”
Bill was born towards the end of the Second World War and lived firstly in Llwynypia in the Rhondda Valley before moving to the large mining town of Bargoed in the mid Rhymney Valley. It was a world of outdoor toilets and once a week baths in the living room and where a child's entertainment was largely in the street- playing 'kick the can' or football. An environment where his 'impish' nature and irrepressible storytelling was no doubt honed from retrieving balls and cans from neighbours' yards and gardens-and talking his way out of those situations.
At around the age of 8or 9, he was introduced to the game of golf and this was to have such a pronounced effect on the rest of his life. He developed very quickly and by his early/mid-teens had already become 'special'-winning 'scratch' competitions and gaining representative honours far earlier than his peers. At that time professional golf was not far away as a distinct possibility- and among notable successes was one against a young Tony Jacklin not long before the latter went on to win the highest of his honours. Five Bargoed club championships followed for Bill as well as several near misses in the Welsh Championship. More recent years have been spent enjoying his golf at the Bedford & County Club and with the Pengam Old Boys. It is not surprising ,with this kind of background and performance, that Bill would become a very significant contributor to the Institution's Locan Cup on behalf of the (old) East Midlands. He was still playing off a handicap of 10 just a few months ago, and had taken great delight in sharing his love of golf with his grandchildren.
In addition to his golf, and before marriage to his beloved Susan in August 1970, he was also a solid rugby player briefly representing both the Bargoed and Blackwood clubs, like his father had before him, having previously played at University & School.
Academically, Bill was fortunate to attend the prestigious Lewis Grammar School at Pengam. It was soon clear that his 'leanings' would be towards maths and sciences and in spite of having his golf clubs confiscated by the head master on more than one occasion (or maybe because of that) he obtained 8 O Levels and A-levels in pure and applied mathematics, physics and chemistry, also ending as Deputy Head of Lewis House.
At around that time Bill recalls he attended a careers fair in Pengam, where apparently, everyone decided to become a civil engineer after the key note speaker, himself an engineer, had arrived in a Jaguar! The only question would be -Cardiff or Swansea? Bill chose Cardiff and attended the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST) to study civil engineering, with specialism in structural engineering; he graduated from there with an honours degree, after a four- year course in 1968. In his formative years Bill spent most summers in Herefordshire on his Uncle's farm near Hay on Wye but while at university he took summer employment with the National Coal Board as an assistant engineer with a large civil engineering contractor building pre-stressed concrete reservoirs in the Rhondda valleys which today still feed Cardiff with water from the Brecon Beacons.
After graduation he joined the Borough Engineer's Dept at Newport County Borough Council, before becoming a chartered civil engineer in 1972. In 1974 he left the council for the Ministry of Transport and was seconded to the Welsh Office Roads division in Cardiff where he stayed until 1980 working on a variety of major road schemes, including the A470 Taff Vale trunk road through Aberfan which he described as the most difficult ever and the A40 Raglan to Abergavenny project. Roads that so many take for granted now.
In recognition of these efforts he was promoted and transferred to the Eastern Road Construction Unit at Bedford in 1980. This was a particularly big move for the family, and the start of the next phase of his life and career. At Bedford he was given a large portfolio of east/west trunk road schemes, including the highly contentious 45 mile long M1-A1 Link (Rugby to Huntingdon and subsequently the A14).Bill lead the team on what, at the time would become the country's longest running roads public inquiry. It would also give him significant exposure to a wide variety of issues and complexities (including the 'small' matter of land on which, allegedly, the battle of Naseby had been fought) and set him up for the remainder of his career.
More promotions (and postings) followed at a pace-in 1986 to the North West Regional Office of the Department of Transport in Manchester before a return to Bedford; this was followed in 1990 by Bill being made regional director for the West Midlands based in Birmingham and subsequently, as the Highways Agency was created in 1994, he gained the Midlands region and a chunk of the East, working out of Bedford & Birmingham. Five years later Bill was seconded by the Chief Executive onto the Agency's Board to manage the reorganisation of the Agency following which he opted to head the new Southeast Region from offices in Bedford and Dorking from 2002 to his retirement in 2005.
During his 15 years in the Senior Civil service, Bill also carried a national security role for Government and was a permanent member of the standing COBRA Committee where his specific role was to safeguard the national network of motorways from terrorist attack.
Retirement was short lived as a second career emerged almost immediately: he was approached by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate and appointed Inspector for controversial highway and transportation projects. Two years later that role was expanded when he was appointed a Commissioner with the National Infrastructure Planning Commission and in these roles he continued to serve until just last September when he submitted his final report on the proposed M4 south of Newport relief road to Welsh Ministers. In all, he dealt with 25 major controversial schemes in that period. He was used frequently in Wales, not because he was Welsh Speaking, but being a 'valley boy' he had no difficulty in pronouncing the place names!
But it isn’t the actual work Bill did that leaves his greatest legacy, but how he went about it. While always leading by example and with the highest integrity, one of his immense qualities was his ability to engage with others-at work and elsewhere. He always seemed to know everyone's name, their role and how many children they had! He was a member of both the Institution of Civil Engineers and Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation from an early age and was a strong supporter that colleagues should expand their own competences. Hence, not surprisingly, he became strongly involved in the (old) East Midlands section of CIHT- becoming Chairman in 1990/2000. One of his unfailing capabilities was to greet others with a smile , show them empathy and discuss their problems in an even manner-even if he knew there might be 'challenging' issues effecting them. Qualities he no doubt put to good use as a volunteer for the Samaritans whilst working for those long periods away from the family.
Bill loved his work and he loved his golf, but as was so clear over the last few months, these paled into insignificance compared to the love of his family. Indeed, so much of what Bill achieved over the years would not have been possible without the unwavering support of Susan, who brought up their children Sara and Richard whilst also working full time at Harrold Lower School, with Bill away for much of the time. It will be so disappointing to the family, including the five grandchildren, that they were deprived the opportunity to celebrate 50 years of marriage next year.
The world was a better place because of Bill Wadrup. The family will miss him hugely-as will so many individuals for whom he was simply known by a single name, “Bill”.
Gwyn Drake, East of England Chair, 2016/17