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The Reyrolle Story: Twenty-Three - Damaging Comments

Robert Owen, continuing his hsitory of the giant engineering firm Reyrolles, tells of a Board of Trade investigation concerning share dealing.

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George Wansborough was the new Chairman in 1946 and it wasn't long before he brought an unwanted shadow over the Board Room. It all started because he was also a Director of the large electrical manufacturers Morphy-Richards. This presented a much confused picture when inter-company share dealing took place, and the trouble reached a climax in 1946 when the Board of Trade (B.O.T) was called in to investigate. The B.O.T Inquiry found that nothing illegal had taken place but described the actions of Wansborough as "unethical".

At the next Board of Directors meeting, George Wansborough stepped down as Chairman but remained a member of the Board. Sir Claude Gibb became the new Chairman.

The unsavoury episode did not end there. On the 17th May 1949, the Manchester Evening News carried damaging comments about the Report which criticised Reyrolle. After taking legal advice, the Board of Directors issued a writ against the newspaper claiming damages for libel. On the 7th December the Evening News carried a profuse apology and agreed to pay all costs. The unpleasant affair finally ended when George Wansborough resigned from the Reyrolle Board.

1951 was "Festival of Britain Year" and saw Reyrolle showcasing its products at a national exhibition on the South Bank in London. Unfortunately, it was also the year of a terrible mining tragedy when 85 miners lost their lives at Easington Colliery just south of Sunderland. The connection with Reyrolle was that they supplied the underground switchgear at the colliery. Fortunately it was proved that the Company's products were in no way connected with the explosion which caused the disaster. A few weeks later the coal-infested switchgear came back to Hebburn for cleaning and renovation. Some fitters from the "NN" Department went home looking like miners before the time of pit baths!


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