Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

FG Wilson founder dies aged 84

Fred Wilson
Fred Wilson founded FG Wilson in 1966

One of Northern Ireland's leading industrialists has died at the age of 84.

Fred Wilson founded engineering firm FG Wilson in 1966. It began with just six employees but grew to become a global supplier of electrical generators.

He sold the Larne-based firm in 1995 and retired in 1999. Within a year, he had formed a new golf buggy business.

Last year, he was awarded an OBE for his contribution to entrepreneurship and engineering.

Mr Wilson left school at the age of 12. After a spell with the family firm and as an engineering apprentice, he worked as a scrap metal merchant.

He formed FG Wilson in 1966 at premises in Belfast. In the mid-1970s, the firm expanded into the Middle East.

The company entered the generating market, selling hundreds of sets to Saudi Arabia to supply electricity to Bedouin tribes in remote areas.

As the market in the Middle East dried up in the mid-1980s, the firm's fortunes were boosted by the miners' strike in Britain.

Mr Wilson brought in stand-by generators from the US to a base at Heathrow Airport, with turnover up ten-fold in a year.

In 1999, he sold the technology and patents of his products upon his retirement, but within a year he was designing and manufacturing a range of golf buggies.

FG Wilson managing director Mark Sweeney said the company were deeply saddened to learn of Mr Wilson's death.

"His vision and enterprise have left a strong legacy at this company," he said.

"On behalf of the management and staff of FG Wilson, I extend my deepest condolences to Fred's family."

The Employment and Learning Minister, Sir Reg Empey, also paid tribute to Mr Wilson.

Sir Reg said: "Throughout his professional career, Fred was a tireless champion of Northern Ireland's cause in the global marketplace.

"His vision and drive made FG Wilson not only a leader in the field of engineering but under his guidance, FG Wilson became a byword for best practice in workforce development and training," he said.

The father-of-four's funeral will be held on Thursday in Hillsborough, County Down.

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