Tribute to Wanstead businessman and community stalwart Alan Cornish

PUBLISHED: 13:57 05 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:57 05 March 2018

Alan Cornish died on February 14, aged 78.

Alan Cornish died on February 14, aged 78.


Played football with Bobby Moore, Liberal Party politician, environmental activist and successful businessman – these are just some of the highlights of the life of Alan Cornish, who has died at the age of 78.

Alan was a man of the community, always involved, a participant, not a spectator on life.

I first came across Alan as part of the Wanstead Park Community Project, established in 2005 by Stuart Monro, Alan and a number of others concerned about the state of the park.

The group was about the preservation and promotion of the history, ecology and archaelogy of the park.

Alan was passionate about the park. His understanding of the carefully balanced water system - that saw flows between the lakes - was second to none. In 1978, he co-authored, with James Berry, The Lake System of Wanstead Park & the Mystery of the Heronry Pond, that remains a key work to this day.

More recently he urged examination of the impact of the drainage system in neighbouring Northumberland Avenue on water being lost from the Heronry lake and highlighted the need to clear drains around the Lake House estate. He also arranged for repair of the overspill channel from the Basin lake on the golf course.

A keen historian, Alan wrote Tudors – Twenty-Eight Days, about the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary prior to the latter taking over as Queen. In 1982 Alan produced the first edition of Wanstead Park: A Chronicle, a detailed timeline of people and events connected with the park which has been updated and reprinted at intervals ever since.

Alan urged the re-establishment of the member-based Friends of Wanstead Park in 2009. He became the first chairman, remaining in position for the next four years before passing on to new blood.

Putting it politely Alan was forthright in his views. He could be blunt to the point of alienating people, who may have been in broad agreement with what he was proposing. However, he knew his stuff and some could mistake his passion for argumentativeness. He was, though, always committed to the welfare of the community in which he lived.

Alan played an active role in politics, becoming a lifelong Liberal supporter after he left the army at the age of 23 in 1963.

At one point he was employed by the Liberal Party, undertaking the role of driver for the then leader Jo Grimond.

Locally, Alan stood as a Liberal and later Liberal Democrat candidate for Redbridge Council. He also stood as a Liberal candidate for the Greater London Council.

In 1979, he contested the Parliamentary seat against the Tory incumbent of the time Patrick Jenkins. Alan was never elected but together with wife Janet was the bedrock of the Liberal cause in Wanstead.

Another successful piece of local activism saw Alan taking a lead role in the campaign to ensure that the M11 Link Road went under Wanstead in the cut and cover tunnel that now exists. He supported the Lister-Goldsmith tunnel option. Opposition to the desecration of Wanstead by the new road became a family affair, with son Neale becoming a direct action protester against the road.

Alan was brought up in Barking, going to South East Essex County Technical School.

He used to kick a football around the streets outside his house with the legendary Bobby Moore.

After leaving the army, Alan became involved in the travel business and as a transport consultant. He worked for a number of companies, including Hoverlloyd – in the early days of the development of the hovercraft. Alan took some particularly powerful pictures of the hovercraft from Goodwin Sands. Later he worked for Cosmos and Vingresor.

In 1980, Alan set up his own local travel business, Corona Holidays, which specialised in the Canary Islands. The company was sold some years ago.

Alan has suffered poor health for the past five years, being diagnosed with Parkinsons. He fought valiantly against his ill health, ably supported by his wife and family.

Alan Cornish is survived by his widow, Janet, and his sons Adrian and Neale.

His funeral takes place at 1pm on Thursday, March 8 at the City of London Cemetery, North Chapel. Reception from 2pm at Wanstead Cricket Club, Overton Drive, Wanstead.

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