Philip Harrison: Fakenham telephone engineer’s Royal connections

Tracing telephone faults at Sandringham House were among the duties of retired engineer, Philip Harrison, who has died aged 84.

For almost 20 years of his 42-year career with British Telecom, he was a special faults investigation officer, based at Fakenham. And he resolved telephone problems for the Royal family on the Queen's estate and at the west Norfolk home of the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

Born in west Lynn, Philip Arthur Harrison had joined the GPO (General Post Office) at the age of 16 after leaving King Edward VII School at King's Lynn.

He tested the telephones at Sandringham and was promoted to Fakenham, where he recalled one particularly challenging task in the 1950s which involved walking five miles through the snow to repair Thursford telephone exchange. And in 1978, he was called out to repair the coastguard telephone at Wells on the night of the town's flood.

After National Service in the Royal Signals, he returned to Post Office Telephones, where he also worked at RAF Raynham and nearby Sculthorpe.

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He had the reputation among colleagues of always being able to fix faults and was awarded the ISM (Imperial Service Medal) before he retired in July 1987.

He had joined Fakenham Baptist Church when he moved to the town and was fabric steward and then the long-serving secretary. He had a good hymn singing voice and was a keen pianist, also playing the organ at services. He helped by playing at Foulsham just a few weeks ago.

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For many years, he took part in the Norfolk Churches Trust's annual bicycle ride. He was also a keen swimmer – in the pool and in the sea. He completed 'swimathon' charity events at North Walsham and was a regular at the Dereham pool and in the past 21 years swam a remarkable total of 647 miles.

He is survived by his wife, Kath, who retired from Fakenham High School in 1986, and a sister, Beryl, who lives in Lynn. He leaves three children, Anne, Geoffrey and Pauline, and five grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at Mintlyn Crematorium, King's Lynn, on Wednesday, August 10 at 10am followed by a thanksgiving service at Fakenham Baptist Community Church at noon.

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