ONE of the last leading figures of Sunderland’s shipbuilding heritage has passed away.
George Parker was the man who oversaw the merger of Austin and Pickersgill and Sunderland Shipbuilders to create North East Shipbuilders Ltd in the mid-1980s.
“Shipbuilding ran in his blood,” said his second wife, Joyce.
“All he wanted was to build ships and for politicians to keep their noses out of his industry.”
George joined Austin and Pickersgill in 1984, helping to secure orders for barges from Dutch firm Smit International and two ships for German owner Egon Oldendorff.
The decision to merge Austin and Pickersgill and Sunderland Shipbuilders to create North East Shipbuilders came in April 1986, at which point new managing director Mr Parker played a pivotal role in securing an order for 25 Ro-Ro Ferries from a Danish company ,which gave the new business the healthiest order book in the world.
George was destined for a career in shipbuilding from birth.
Born in Dundee, the six slipways of the city’s yard were visible from his bedroom window, and he followed his father and grandfather into the industry.
He started as a ship’s draughtsman with Alexander Stephen’s, of Linthouse and took a BSc in naval architecture at Glasgow University, moving to Lithgow’s at Port Glasgow in 1955, where he was assistant general manager before joining John Brown’s Clydebank shipyard, where he oversaw construction of the QEII.
He crossed the border into England in 1968 and held a series of high-profile posts across the North East, including Smiths Dock on Teesside and Swan Hunter on the Tyne before moving to Wearside.
He left North East Shipbuilders in February 1987 and spent a short time working for PZ Trading, owned by Peter Zacchi – the man who had ordered the Danish Ro-Ro Ferries from A&P – before retiring to the South West.
It was not the QEII of which he had the fondest memories, but the Vistafjord, built under his direction at Swan Hunters in the 1970s for the Norwegian Amerika Line, bought by Cunard in the 1990s and renamed the Caronia and later sold to Saga and again renamed as Saga Ruby.
Mr Parker, who was 82 when he died on April 27, leaves behind wife Joyce, as well as his children Carolyn, Cameron and Alan from his first marriage to Elizabeth (who died in 1986), and step-daughter Melanie, along with seven grandchildren.
A funeral service was being held at Weston-super-Mare Crematorium at 1pm today. Family flowers only. Donations, if desired, to Prostate Cancer Charity c/o George Williams Funeral Directors, Penn Farm, Redcliffe St, Cheddar, Somerset BS27 3PF.