Steel industry pays tribute to one of its founding sons

Sir Robert Scholey, Chairman British Steel Corporation
Sir Robert Scholey, Chairman British Steel Corporation

Sir Robert Scholey, a linchpin of Sheffield industry and former chairman of British Steel, has died aged 92.

It was during his chairmanship, in 1988, that the Corporation was privatised, becoming a public limited company.

Sir Robert was a familiar figure around Sheffield’s steelworks, wearing a distinctive black safety helmet, which led to his nickname, Black Bob.

This week former colleagues paid tribute to the man they hailed as a ‘colossus’ of the industry.

“He was a man of huge stature, who presided over enormous changes, from the early days of the British Steel Corporation to preparing it for privatisation,” said past Master Cutler Martin Howell.

A student at King Edward VII School, Sir Robert joined the steel industry in Rotherham at the age of 16.

Driven by ambition, he gained a place to study engineering at Sheffield University, attending classes four nights a week after a day in the machine shop.

During the Second World War he served with REME, then joined United Steel’s new engineering maintenance division.

He went on to become a manager at Samuel Fox’s Stocksbridge works and with Steel Peech & Tozer, and is credited with being the driving force behind development of the Templeborough melting shop (now the Magna centre), creating Europe’s biggest electric are furnace operation.

Sir Robert left Sheffield in 1972 to join BSC’s London office. He was also on the boards of the Channel Tunnel and the NHS, was made a CBE in 1982 and knighted in 1987.

He is survived by widow Joan, two daughters, two grandchildren and a great grandson.