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The Reyrolle Story: 46 - Decline Of Reyrolle

...One indicator that a company is in real trouble is said to be when it 'sacks' its apprentices on completion of their training. This happened at NEI Reyrolle in 1980 when it terminated the employment of numerous apprentices after their four year's training...

Robert Owen charts the rundown of a once-great Tyneside manufacturing concern.

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

In early 1980, NEI tragically lost its first Chairman and a Divisional Managing Director in two separate and unrelated road accidents. Chairman, Sir James Woodeson died on the 23rd January and just two days later popular FL (Ham) Hamilton had his life cut short in another accident. Hamilton was so well known in Reyrolle that 25 years after his death a laboratory in the Light Engineering Shop is still known as the Hamilton Lab.

One indicator that a company is in real trouble is said to be when it 'sacks' its apprentices on completion of their training. This happened at NEI Reyrolle in 1980 when it terminated the employment of numerous apprentices after their four year's training.

"Decline of Reyrolle -A Once Great Giant" read the headline in The Journal on 20th September 1980. It went on "a fall in orders and the economic recession has brought redundancies upon redundancies and left Reyrolle struggling for survival. Yesterday another 800 terminations were announced. After about 850 in 1979 the Company felt that it was pared down to a level that would make it competitive in the 80s. But things quickly began to go wrong."

"When orders designed to bridge the gap between the slump and the lucrative power station work ran out earlier this year, the writing was on the wall for Reyrolle's workers. Desperate efforts to find stop-gap orders for high voltage switchgear in substations have failed. Union officials put this down to 'managerial mishandling,'" so read the Journal.

1981 did, in fact, see an increase in orders but not before workforce numbers fell to a record low of 2,200. "A Better Year" was how Andrew Perkins described 1982 in his Annual Report. "Profitability was better and the higher level of activity has led to a modest increase of 20 in the number of employees at Hebburn" he reported.

Most people will remember 1982 for the Falklands War. Reyrolle photographer and well known fundraiser, Gordon McLeod, will remember it for raising 27,000 for the North of England Children's Cancer Charity. The money was raised by sponsored Reyrolle employees completing a well organised cycle ride from Tyneside to Leeds.

At the finishing line the cyclists were met and congratulated by national fundraiser and broadcaster Jimmy Saville.

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