CBE for Durham man who heads the Met Office

The Northern Echo: CBE recipient John Hirst, Durham-born chief executive of the Met Office CBE recipient John Hirst, Durham-born chief executive of the Met Office

THE New Year appears to have a favourable outlook for the North-East man who oversees the national weather service.

John Hirst, from County Durham, receives a CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours, to mark a successful six-year stint as chief executive of the Met Office.

It follows a working lifetime in corporate management for the economics graduate, whose CV includes 19 years with ICI at Wilton, on Teesside, during which he was chief executive of two of the chemical giant’s global businesses.

Although not a meteorological expert, his business acumen has helped to cement the Met Office as a leading world science service organisation.

Although the Met Office is based in Exeter in Devon, with a workforce of less than 1,900, Mr Hirst is a world traveller for an organisation considered, along with its Japanese counterpart, as the top two global meteorological services.

His role means he is the UK’s permanent representative on the World Meteorological Organisation and its European equivalents at the forefront of forecasting weather and climatic trends.

He grew up in Durham, and was a pupil at Belmont Juniors and later the city’s Johnston School, before going on to study at Leeds University.

Prior to moving to the Met Office, he was group CEO for global electronics distribution company Farnell, during which he was once invited to ring the famous New York Stock Exchange bell to close business for the day in New York, an event witnessed by an estimated world-wide business audience of 35-million.

Mr Hirst, who is to stand down from the Met Office next year, is proud to have helped to maintain its reputation as a world-leading ‘brand’.

“It’s a jewel in the British crown. I would say we’re the best in the world by a street as a weather and climate forecasting service.

“It’s a phenomenally complicated business, processing more transactions a day than the whole of the British banking industry, locating information from round the world about the earth’s atmosphere and publishing 4.5m forecasts a day.

“In a survey of 43,500 geo-science research institutes the Met Office came out number one in the world.”

News of his honour has come at a difficult time for the Hirst family, as his mother, Shirley, a former chairman of Durham Rural District Council and Belmont Parish Council, died aged 82, after an illness shortly before Christmas.

Her funeral takes place at St Mary Magdalene Church, in Belmont, Durham, on Thursday, January 2.

Mr Hirst is not the first member of his family to be honoured as his father Ray received an MBE, for services to the coal industry and local government.


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