Sadly No Longer; Wrightbus

Somebody, once said ‘A week is a long time in politics’ Indeed I think it was actually the man described in certain circles as the Queens favourite Prime Minister. A certain pipe smoking and quietly spoken Yorkshireman called Harold Wilson. How do I know this gem of wisdom because back in 2013, my brother Chris and myself took our mum as a birthday treat to see the amazing Helen Mirren in the stage version of The Queen.

So, just what the hell has that got to do with the sad and frankly tragic demise of the iconic Northern Irish Bus builder Wrightbus. Tragically it was announced on the BBC national news that this bastion of the British engineering manufacturing Industry had sadly gone into administration. The human consequence was the absolute obliteration of the Ballymena economy, the implications of this demise are truly sad for many reasons. Many of us who have spent our lives in this great industry have at some point been to the factory and met the powerhouse behind the Company himself Sir William Wright. It must be heart breaking for him to have watched the business he built fall to dust around him, and in so doing decimate the lives of the 1,200 staff who have worked for him.

Events took on a somewhat more sad turn when four days after the announcement former employees arrived at the church where Jeff Wright one of the owners sons held a service at his church. A church, where it is reputed that some 15 million quid had been donated while seemingly the financial results had started to turn in the wrong direction. I remember vividly the last time that I visited the factory talking to a young apprentice. He was about 18 and I was chatting to him about his life and work . He was really passionate about his future life and opportunities, that this great Company could offer him. I am sad about how his short life as an employee has been curtailed so soon. One can only hope that somehow a late deal may be cut. But, in my experience such miracles are rare. So, in reflection Wrightbus have left their legacy, they might be remembered for the Boris Bus, but that will not do them justice, they built great buses for Companies around the world and I sincerely hope that history will judge them as a force for good.

Written by Austin Birks

September 23, 2019

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