Sir William Wright is remembered as ‘the genius who followed his dreams’.


William Wright was an innovator and a genius who followed his dreams, his son told mourners.

Pastor Jeff Wright said his father had stood up against terrorism and given most of his life to trying to improve Northern Ireland.

Earlier in Ballymena, hundreds of Wright Bus employees held a guard of honor outside the factory in tribute to founder Sir William.

Tributes have poured in following the 94-year-old’s death over the weekend.

Sir William founded the firm in Co Antrim with his father Robert after the Second World War. He also served as a Unionist Councilor till 2005.

It was the first UK company to produce an electric bus.

Some people dream of making a change while others stay awake and do it. My father was one of those who stayed awake and did it.

At a service of thanksgiving for his life at Greenpasture Church in Ballymena, Mr Wright paid tribute to his father.

He said: “My father was many things to many people, but to us he was a father, he was a grandfather and a great grandfather.

“And yet we all knew who he was.

“Dad was a storyteller, a leader, a creator and an inventor.

“He was an adventurer and a genius.”

Mr Wright explained how his father and grandfather had started the firm which was to become a global success.

He said: “It was at his father’s house on Gordon Street that Dad and his father Robert built the now famous tin shed.

“Dad had the ability to see and dream and understand where the market and technology was going.

Sir William Wright died at the weekend (Niall Carson/PA) / PA Wire

“He read at least 20-30 industry magazines every week and had the courage of his convictions to act on those ideas and those dreams.

“We have a saying here in greener pastures, some people dream of making a change while others stay awake and do it.

“My father was one of those people who stayed up and did it.”

Mr Wright told how his father entered politics at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

He said that he loved his country.

“He became a councilor in Ballymena, then he was elected as a member of Stormont.

“He gave so much of his life to the betterment of Northern Ireland and to the people of the town.

“But then as a family we had to deal with death threats from the IRA, and I remember as a young man lying awake at night, worrying, watching and not coming home. He waited until he was killed. Next door.

“Here I see him showing the courage of his convictions and standing up against terrorism and never being afraid to stand up for what he believes in.”

Employees stand outside the Wright Bus factory in Ballymena, as they watch the motorcade pass by (Liam McBurney/PA) / PA Wire

He added: “Dad never cared much about money, it was never his motivation.

“It was always product development and innovation that gave it its thrill.

“That’s why Wright Bus became known for its market-leading innovation.

“The first aluminum coach, the first low-floor bus in the UK. It also saw the future need for clean energy for buses in London before London.

“He built the first zero-emission vehicle in the UK, then the first battery-electric bus, and the world’s first double-decker hydrogen bus.

“The primary aim of all this was to recognize Wright Bus as a leader not only in the British bus industry, but in Europe and the Far East and the world.”

Earlier in the day, Wright Bus management and staff stood together to pay their respects as Sir William’s funeral procession passed by.

About 900 workers lined the streets as the cartage passed by one of the company’s zero-emission buses.

Employees form a guard of honor for Sir William Wright’s funeral (Liam McBurney/PA) / PA Wire

Joe Bamford, executive chairman of Wright Bus, praised Sir William’s legacy, saying he created the platform for a business that now leads the world.

Chief executive Buta Atwal said the guard of honor was a “fitting tribute” to a man who put Right Bus on the map.

“Everyone here at Wright Bus is saddened by Sir William’s death but was determined to offer his condolences,” he said.

“The Guard of Honor was our way of thanking him for what he did for this business and this entire region, and we hope the family will recognize that we will never forget the legacy he left behind. has left.”

Sir William, a father-of-three, grandfather and great-grandfather, was buried after a private family service.

Wright Bus employs more than 1,000 people at its factory in Ballymena.

Wright Bus built London’s Routemaster double-decker – known as the “Boris Bus” – which was ordered by the Prime Minister when he was mayor and chairman of Transport for London, the capital’s public transport operator.

However, it ran into financial difficulties in recent years and was bought by English industrialist Mr Bamford in 2019.

Stormont Economy Minister Gordon Lyons and North Antrim MP Ian Paisley were among those who expressed their sadness at Sir William’s death at the weekend.

Mr Paisley described him as a “typical businessman”, adding: “We will never see his like again.”