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John William Hughes: The driving force behind Belfast's War Memorial museum in Talbot Street

John William Hughes, who has died aged 74, was the mastermind behind the setting up of the War Memorial Gallery in Talbot Street, Belfast.

The gallery curator, Ciaran Doran, said: "John recruited staff to create a museum that would illustrate the wartime role of Northern Ireland and the terrible loss of life here during the Blitz.

"His title was the secretary of the museum, but he was really so much more than that."

Hughes was also responsible for the restoration of the graves of the unknown during the war and commissioned seven monographs to tell the province's story during the Second World War.

"This Northern Ireland War Memorial is John's memorial, too," said C T Hogg, chairman of the board of trustees.

A native of Newry and an old boy of Portora Royal School, John joined the Civil Service in 1957 and worked with various bodies, including the Department of Agriculture, studying part-time for a degree in economics at Queen's University.

While at QUB he joined the Officer Training Corps and commanded the infantry sub-unit with a TA commission from the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Later he commanded the Officer Training Corps.

When the North Irish Militia was formed in 1967 he was second-in-command of B Company and he was also a Belfast area commissioner in the St John Ambulance for 10 years from 1992, and for a spell honorary colonel of 4R Irish.

He was awarded an OBE in 1997 after 40 years of public service, during which time he was also a Knight of Justice in the Order of St John and a member of the Royal British Legion.

The funeral service took place in the Church of St Philip and St James in Holywood. John Hughes, who is survived by his wife of 44 years Helga, Caroline and her husband, and grandson George. He was buried in Rossorry Parish cemetery.

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