Train driver and union official;
Born July 23, 1920; Died July 24, 2013.
Norman Wright, who has died aged 93, spent his life championing the cause of others and endeavouring to improve life for his fellow citizens.
A former engine cleaner who began working on the railways before the advent of British Rail, he was a man of principle, never afraid to stick up for himself or challenge any perceived injustice. As a result he became a diligent, long-serving union official and a dedicated supporter of his community in Aberdeen where his views were valued on the local health and trades councils.
Aberdeen born and bred, he attended the city's Kittybrewster and Sunnybank Schools before joining A & R Milne Booksellers in Union Street at the age of 14, earning eight shillings a week. He later moved, for a massive pay rise to 12 shillings, to the local printers and lithographers Taylor & Henderson.
Although employed as a message boy he also learned how to operate the printing machines, a skill and responsibility he thought deserved a higher wage.
He asked for an extra shilling but the pay rise was refused, which prompted his first stand against management when, on a point of principle, he gave a week's notice and left. That ability to hold firm in the face of injustice, defined his attitude throughout his working life.
After leaving the printing firm, Mr Wright, who was an accomplished footballer, played for the juvenile football club North End FC for two seasons. He also signed for Banks O' Dee FC in Aberdeen.
In 1939, he joined the railway company London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) as an engine cleaner in Aberdeen, just as the Second World War was on the horizon. Being in a reserved occupation, he was unable to enlist, despite his attempts to do so when war was declared.
After a brief posting to York as a loco fireman, he was sent to Fraserburgh, a thriving north-east port which was also the target of German bombers. The move prompted another stand against management when he discovered that the engine shed had not been blacked out. He refused to work until it was protected.
He joined the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (Aslef) in 1940, developing a keen interest in conditions of service and enhancing his knowledge of union activities while back working in Aberdeen. He was elected assistant secretary of his local branch in 1944 and by 1947 had qualified as a steam engine driver and become branch chairman at Kittybrewster depot.
When the depot closed and most staff were transferred to the city's Ferryhill depot, he became chairman of the two amalgamated branches, a position he held until retiring.
Over the years he witnessed the birth of British Rail in 1948, followed by the Beeching cuts of the 1960s when swathes of the railway network and many stations were closed. It was a cost-cutting exercise that he said destroyed railways for many years.
Mr Wright attended national Aslefconferences throughout the UK and abroad and was part of a delegation to Russia. When Aslef celebrated its centenary in 1980, he was given the honour of chairing the annual conference that year.
During his rail and union career he was also heavily involved in initiatives to help others in his local community and city . He sat on both Aberdeen Local Health Council, serving as chairman in 1978, and on the local Industrial Tribunal where he represented the trades unions. After retiring in 1984 he chaired a group undertaking a study of the NHS, taking the views of a range of health personnel including consultants, doctors and ancillary staff. He was also chairman of the Labour Party's Mastrick branch in Aberdeen and a member of the executive and vice-president for many years of Aberdeen's Trades Council.
Mostly self-taught, he was intelligent, eloquent and sociable, a proud man who could hold his own in any situation. He was fortunate to have long and contented partnership with his wife Nan. They met at the start of the war and celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last year.
She survives him along with their son Bill, daughter Norma and three grandchildren.
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