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The Reyrolle Story: 43 - Giant Comes Back To Life

After years of decline Tyneside's giant manufacturing firm Reyrolle shows signs of revival, asRobert Owen reports.

To purchase a copy of Robert's book The Reyrolle Story please click on http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reyrolle-Story-History-Co-Ltd/dp/1905295073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245678876&sr=1-1

Things got so bad during the seventies it could be suggested that the Directors and Management sought "divine" help. This was in the shape of the Rev. Peter Hutchings - a Chaplain from the Methodist Industrial Mission. He worked at Reyrolle two days per week and many former employees will remember his popular lunchtime discussions. At one of these meetings he recalls a manager saying to him "I would rather be anywhere but here today". When I asked why, he replied "Because I have to say who in my department is to be made redundant."

The Rev Hutchings work was so successful at Reyrolle that in 1977 he brought 16 of his colleagues - from various denominations - on a one-day work-experience training course.

The northeast's principal evening paper, the Evening Chronicle, made interesting reading on 12th February 1976. The headline on the industrial page read "Engineering Giant Comes Back to Life". The article that followed stated "the Hebburn electrical engineering giant, Reyrolle, has been in constant decline for a decade, but in the last couple of years a quiet transformation has been worked. Exports have shot up.... and the Company is recruiting again. Reyrolle is looking for about 100 skilled direct workers, but still pressing ahead with the run down of indirect jobs". It quoted Commercial Director, Dan Courts, as saying "The Company has reached the bottom of its long decline and is now well up the slope of the other side." Was this wishful thinking?

The March 1976 edition of the Reyrolle Circuit reported a strange daily visitor to the New Town Works. She arrives everyday at 8:30am and escorts Elsa with her tea trolley around part of the factory. As a result she is known to many people and never misses he monthly Shop Stewards meeting in No.2 Canteen. A good timekeeper cheerful in temperament and of impeccable behaviour, but who is she?

The answer is Tiny, a three year old terrier, owned by Norman Feargneve of the Toolroom. A story is told that Tiny was proposed as Chairman of the Shop Stewards Committee, but on counting the votes Vincent Fitzgerald just made it!

Managing Director Brian Tully wrote lead article in the February 1977 edition of the he Reyrolle Circuit; first lookmg back on 1976 to see what had been achieved and then lookmg to the future. He then provocatively asked employees, "Is this rubbish or do you agree?''The M concluded by inviting employees to write to him and leave their letters at the gate office.

Not many employees responded to the MD's invitation; those who did, expressed feelings of isolation, anonymity and the major need to improve morale and community spirit by greater worker involvement and better communications.

Brian Tully replied that, "Senior Managers are making conscious efforts towards promoting a feeling of identity among employees by being in The Works as often as possible, and via conferences and Open Days. The Works are being re-decorated, employment conditions improved and efforts will be made to strengthen communications and promote opportunities for involvement" he concluded.


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