Funeral today for founding father of Sunderland building firm

Albie Thompson of Thompson Builders who died in July 2013
Albie Thompson of Thompson Builders who died in July 2013
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A FUNERAL service is being held today for one of the Sunderland business community’s best-known faces.

Albie Thompson, who created A Thompson and Sons, later Thompson Building Centres, died last week.

The 86-year-old was born and bred in Hendon and lived in the area all of his life.

A pupil at Hendon Board School, Albie demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingess to work hard from an early age.

“Dad was born in Robson Terrace and used to play football in Hendon Burn,” said daughter Anne Ganley.

“From the age of nine, he used to go down Hendon Road trying to get work from the shops.”

When he was a little older, Albie bought himself a bike and started down the road to what would become his career, collecting scrap from Hendon beach and coal from Dawdon.

In the days when Sunderland was still a world centre for shipbuilding and mining, scrap collection from the beaches close to the mouth of the Wear was big business and Albie decided it was time to let other people do the legwork.

“The shipyards were thriving, the collieries were thriving, so he bought his first wagon from the River Wear Commissioners and decided to buy from the top 20 scrappers,” said Anne.

By now, Albie was married to Lily and had a young family to support.

Husband and wife played an equal role in the business, with Lily trading scrap from the back yard of the family home in Page Street while Albie was out and about.

Albie acquired his first yard, overlooking Hendon Beach, and set about expanding the business in new directions – still with Lily’s help.

“Mum would chop sticks for kindling and Dad would deliver the coal as well as Mum buying the scrap,” said Anne.

“He would deliver all round the garths and if there was a little old lady who had nothing and needed a bag of coal, he would make sure she was looked after.”

Gradually the scrap business began to dominate: “The scrap began overtaking the coal – he was buying from all the shipyards and selling to the likes of British Steel and Associated Lead in Newcastle and delivering to the docks.”

Albie’s eye for a business opportunity saw him open what was to become Thompson Building Services as the recession hit, and eventually he handed the reins over to Anne.

As well as Anne, Albie leaves sons John and Albie and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“You had the businessman, the husband, the father, the grandfather and a character who was really a well-loved part of the community,” said Anne.

A funeral service is being held today at St Ignatius Church, Hendon, from 1pm.