Arcs, Sparks and Engineers - final Reyrolle magazine published to honour company legend Alan Wright

Friends of the editor of a magazine devoted to a South Tyneside industrial institution, have made sure that a final edition was published – one year after his passing.
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Alan Wright died in November 2020 in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital aged 81.

He joined the electrical giants Reyrolle in Hebburn in 1956 and went on to hold a variety of positions there. He also graduated in electrical engineering with research degrees from both Newcastle Polytechnic and the University of Newcastle.

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Reyrolle became a major employer in the town from 1901. In its heyday it employed more than 12,000 workers, producing an array of electrical components and switchgear for power stations.

Home time for workers at Reyrolle in 1969.Home time for workers at Reyrolle in 1969.
Home time for workers at Reyrolle in 1969.

Alan was a long-standing advocate of efficient energy use, saying: “Many non-engineers who have ‘discovered’ energy conservation (in the last 60 years), seem ignorant of the fact that true engineers, whether concerned with research, design, construction or production, have always been concerned with the efficient use of the resources available to them.”

He was also a writer. One of his books, published in 2001, was called Arcs Sparks and Engineers: a History of Reyrolle. It commemorated the firm’s centenary in Hebburn, although Reyrolle was bought out in 1998 and eventually became part of Siemens.

He also produced around 70 issues of the Reyrolle Heritage Trust’s quarterly magazine, also called Arcs, Sparks and Engineers.

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These were of huge interest on South Tyneside, even years after the company had gone. Alan ended his last piece with “To be continued…” Sadly that was not to be.

Reyrolle legend Alan Wright; 1939-2020.Reyrolle legend Alan Wright; 1939-2020.
Reyrolle legend Alan Wright; 1939-2020.

Former colleagues including Ian Burdon have now put together a special memorial edition in his honour.

Ian said: “I picked up the reins to complete the final edition. The book he wrote involved a large amount of research work and was of interest to the thousands and thousands who worked at Reyrolle.

“Alan was a very intelligent, dry man with a wonderful turn of phrase, but highly respected in his field.

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“He was a highly qualified engineer who spent most of his working life at the company. He was passionately interested in the company’s history. They were one of the foremost switchgear manufacturers in the world; ahead of the rest.

A drawing of the former Reyrolle factory in Hebburn.A drawing of the former Reyrolle factory in Hebburn.
A drawing of the former Reyrolle factory in Hebburn.

The magazine is on sale from The Word in South Shields’ Market Place, priced £5.

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