TRIBUTES Keen boy scout went on to be an over­seas pi­o­neer in Kenya

South Wales Echo - - TRIBUTES -

JOHN Wilkins was an over­seas pi­o­neer who paved the way for in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment in Africa and South Amer­ica.

His achieve­ments, which earned him an OBE, have been com­mem­o­rated fol­low­ing his death at the age of 83.

Born in Barry, John was a keen boy scout with a par­tic­u­lar en­thu­si­asm for ca­noe­ing and dinghy sail­ing.

To­gether with friends, one of his many ad­ven­tures saw him pad­dle from Barry to We­ston-su­per-Mare and back in an open boat.

In 1957, he and two other scouts made the lo­cal pa­pers by row­ing from Barry to Wind­sor to join the St Ge­orge’s Day Scouts Pa­rade.

One of John’s first jobs saw him work­ing at the Gold­s­lands Farm in the Vale of Glam­or­gan.

In­spired by a strong in­ter­est in farm­ing, he went on to study at the SealeHayne Agri­cul­tural Col­lege in De­von.

In 1959, John mar­ried Janey (nee Lewis) of Ystrad My­nach, and joined the vet­eri­nary depart­ment of Kenya.

From there he be­came in­volved in a large-scale vac­ci­na­tion pro­grammes against rinder­pest, a se­ri­ous dis­ease of cat­tle.

Only 21 days af­ter ar­riv­ing in Kenya, the Welsh­man be­gan run­ning a camp pre­serv­ing a cat­tle-free zone to con­tain foot-and-mouth dis­ease.

He and his small team checked 23,000 cat­tle one by one be­fore the emer­gency was de­clared over.

To­gether with Janey, John later went on to as­sist in Kenya dur­ing the 1961 pre-in­de­pen­dence elec­tions.

Re­main­ing in the coun­try af­ter its in­de­pen­dence, John’s main task was to breed cat­tle that could cope with the heat and dis­eases of the trop­ics and al­low the poor­est farm­ers to in­crease their in­comes. The pair worked in Naivasha un­til 1974, along­side bring­ing up their three sons.

Dur­ing his ca­reer John also went on to study for an MSc at Read­ing Univer­sity be­fore work­ing for the Bri­tish Over­seas De­vel­op­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion in Bo­livia for 19 years.

He was awarded an OBE in 1991 for his ser­vices to in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment.

An ar­ti­cle pub­lished in a Bo­li­vian news­pa­per said about the team: “The ship was com­manded by Mr Wilkins, who is un­doubt­edly a Bri­tish gen­tle­man, cour­te­ous and op­ti­mistic in what­ever cir­cum­stances and, at the same time, pro­found, sharp and keen to iden­tify the cause of any prob­lem.”

Af­ter his re­tire­ment John re­turned to Read­ing where he be­came a keen gar­dener and mem­ber of the Bam­boo So­ci­ety.

A life­long his­tory en­thu­si­ast, he took a wealth of adult ed­u­ca­tion classes and helped sup­port Bo­li­vian stu­dents at Read­ing Univer­sity.

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