Selkirk engineer brains behind Queen’s unique jubilee beacon

James Maybury with the crystal which lit the beacon by the queen,during the diamond jubilee celebrations
James Maybury with the crystal which lit the beacon by the queen,during the diamond jubilee celebrations

AS millions around the world watched the Queen place the giant diamond-shaped crystal into its holder to light the last of thousands of diamond jubilee beacons around the country, Selkirk engineer James Maybury was watching from the wings of the stage to make sure everything went without a hitch, writes Mark Entwistle.

Design engineer James, who has lived and worked in the town for the past 12 years, has his own manufacturing workshop and has carried out projects for various large events and conferences over the years. This includes helping install the electronic voting system used by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament and equipment used by the G20 summit of world leaders.

And when the company engaged to manufacture the thousands of gas-powered jubilee beacons could not keep up with demand, James’ Selkirk-based workshop – Fountain Designs – was commissioned to produce an extra 100.

These included the beacons used at such prestigious locations as Edinburgh Castle and at the famous Treetops safari lodge in Kenya.

The latter was where the young Princess Elizabeth had been staying when she learned of the death of her father, King George VI, in 1952.

“When the original supplier of gas beacons could no longer keep up with the unexpectedly high orders, we were approached and asked if we could supply to those still wanting them,” James, the son of a former Jedburgh minister, told TheSouthern.

“At this point it was only six weeks to the event and that is normally not enough time to design a new product let alone put it into production and ship in quantity.

“So we went into partnership with 21cc fireworks who supplied the gas system and dealt with the web and phone orders, and became the new official supplier.

“The products were made, painted and assembled by a team specially brought together and with T & R Keddie [local blacksmiths and agricultural engineers] doing part of the manufacture – and thanks go to them for coping with numbers changing several times as orders came in.

“The beacons were then shipped out a week in advance to all over Scotland, England and Ireland, and the one that was sent to Kenya.”

As well as the beacons, there was the famous podium, which James had to design and manufacture for the creative event and design firm, Night Train Productions.

“The Queen placed the crystal into the podium basket, which was weight activated and was designed to move down by itself. This then activated the lighting of the giant beacon at the end of the Mall,”explained James.

“I had about five weeks to come up with a design for the podium and once made, a video of it was sent to Buckingham Palace for approval.”

James was actually on stage at the end of the concert for the lighting of the beacon by the Queen, but says he wasn’t nervous.

“I was reasonably relaxed about it working. And it was a great concert – seeing Annie Lennox was brilliant!”