Community saddened by passing of Wrightbus stalwart

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The Ballymena community has been saddened by the passing of Jack Kernohan MBE, a well known and respected figure in both local life and industry.

Jack died peacefully after a period of illness on Sunday morning, September 6, less than two weeks after being presented with the Member of the British Empire (MBE) by the Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim on behalf of HRH The Queen at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

He was awarded the honour in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June for services to the bus industry and specifically in the marketing and sales development of low floor easy access buses during a career spanning over 40 years with renowned coach building firm Wrightbus.

Due to Jack’s illness, his son Rodney with the valued assistance of Robin Swann MLA and Steven Montgomery, Deputy Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim, arranged for Jack to be awarded with his MBE at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital in August.

On behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim Joan Christie came to the Royal Victoria Hospital to award Jack with his honour.

Less than two weeks later, Jack passed away.

Jack, who wrote and published his memoirs in ‘The Wright Way’, to mark the 60th Anniversary of the company in 2010, rose through the ranks from Workshop Foreman through to Production Manager until switching to the sales side of the business in 1970 when he was appointed Sales Manager.

He became Sales Director in 1988, a position he held until his retirement in 2005 at the age of 68.

In his memoirs, Jack reminisced on his 50 years’ experience working for Wrightbus.

His 272 page, full colour hardback publication demonstrates the knock-backs Jack experienced in his early days where he continued to lobby councils and bus operators to where he eventually won the ‘hearts and minds’ of those within the industry.

Throughout his long career, Jack was dedicated to improving public transport, in particular regarding ease of access to vehicles, taking his lobby around Great Britain.

He campaigned for bus operators and councils across the country to improve public transport by lowering kerb access and introducing low floor buses.

The low-floor chassis design Jack fought so hard to introduce is used today by Transport for London’s recently commissioned ‘New Bus for London’, built by Wrightbus. Wrightbus’s successful vehicle design allows the company to export low-floor buses to others countries around the world.

Wrightbus founder, Dr William Wright CBE said: “We are all deeply saddened at the loss of Jack. He was a great character, with a mischievous spirit, well liked and respected by everyone who knew him.

“With over 40 years of service to the company, he was a key figure in the growth and development of the business during that period.

“Even after he retired, he maintained a keen interest and strong links with the company and his many friends in the industry.

“Everyone in the company would wish to extend their deepest condolences to Jack’s family.”

Jack Kernohan MBE is survived by his loving and devoted wife Martha, son Rodney, daughter Lynda, and wider family circle, and remembered by the management and staff of Wrightbus and the British & Irish bus & coachbuilding industry.