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Monday, 06 July 2015

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Former Barrow shipyard chief’s legacy still in evidence today

TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Barrow shipyard boss who oversaw the start of the 1980s Trident contract.

Dr Rodney Leach died at Summerhill Nursing Home, Kendal, on March 23, aged 82.

His funeral will be held at Grasmere Church at 11am on Friday. The dad-of-four joined the shipyard, then VSEL, in 1985 as chief executive, aged 53, with a background as a nuclear physicist and former group director of shipping line P&O.

He retired prematurely in 1988, a decision he described in 1990 as “very traumatic”, after suffering a heart attack.

A spokesman for BAE Systems said: “We are sorry to hear of Dr Leach’s passing and our thoughts are with his family at this time.

“Dr Leach was the managing director after the privatisation of the Barrow shipyard and at the time of substantial investment in the site, including the opening of the Devonshire Dock Hall and the start of the Trident programme.

“He made a positive contribution to our rich history and his legacy is still in evidence today.”

Also chairman of Cammel Laird shipbuilders, Birkenhead, he led the team that set up an employee consortium which successfully bid to own the yards when they were privatised. The new company had major orders with the Ministry of Defence, the biggest of which was to build Trident nuclear submarines.

During his tenure, there was a major 12-and-a-half-week strike when unions voted for industrial action following a disagreement over flexible holidays.

Dr Leach’s family said: “He came from humble roots in Rochdale but grew up on the coast near Blackpool. After a grammar school education, he was the first of his family to go to university, obtaining a PhD at Birmingham. He married Eira in 1958 and they had four children, all surviving him.

“His career then saw him move into the nuclear energy industry. He finally came to Barrow after being in London with McKinsey and Co, management consultants, and the P&O Steamship Navigation Company. Some of the ships he managed were involved in the Falklands War.

“In retirement he remained in the Lake District. He was a committed and active Christian, generously involved in a number of local charitable organisations, among others. His friends and neighbours remember him as a true gentleman – kind, courteous and helpful.”

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