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Obituary: Peter Wright – fuel industry mainstay retired to Highcliffe

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FORMER oil industry director and chair of the Council of the Motor Research Industry Peter Wright has died at the age of 98.

A resident of Highcliffe, Peter retired to the area in 2006 where he soon joined the Arts Society at New Milton and attended many lectures at the Red House in Christchurch.

Born in South Africa in September 1923, much of Peter’s early life was spent overseas as his father worked in international telegraph systems. By the time his brother Michael arrived in 1929 they were living in Sri Lanka.

Peter Wright
Peter Wright

The family returned to Essex in 1932 and after school Peter started an apprenticeship at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, which he completed in 1944. He also studied for a degree in engineering at Woolwich Polytechnic.

After joining the Institution of Mechanical Engineers as a student in 1942, Peter later became a fellow and a member of its council. Earlier this year he celebrated 80 years of membership.

During his apprenticeship and studies, Peter also served in the Home Guard as a gunner on an early rocket-type anti-aircraft gun battery on Blackheath Common.

He married Stella Ahlquist in August 1947 and their daughter Heather was born in 1950.

At the end of his apprenticeship Peter was offered a scholarship by the Regent Oil Company to undertake research at Birmingham University into the development of additives to improve the combustion of diesel fuels and their impact on engine cylinders.

After receiving his PhD Peter remained with Regent Oil as a test engineer in King’s Langley and then Trafford Park, Manchester.

His next role was with the US company Lubrizol – which was world leader in the development and production of additives in the oil industry and now biofuels. Starting in 1954 as a test engineer, Peter became general manager in 1964 and director of Lubrizol UK in 1972.

By the time of his retirement in 1985, he had been at the helm for 21 years. He was also a Fellow of the Institute of Petroleum and a very active member on its many technical committees, including presenting a paper at the Congress in Moscow in 1971.

For many years Peter was an advisor to the Royal Navy on fuels and lubricants, and from 1978-85 he was a member of the Council of the Motor Research Industry (MIRA), becoming its chair between 1982 and 1985. He oversaw the opening by its president, Prince Michael of Kent, of a new computerised engine test laboratory near Nuneaton.

In 1978 their first grandchild Christine was born, followed by Michael in 1982. Peter and Stella spent many happy years living in the village of Quarndon in Derbyshire. Stella died in 2002.

In 2006, Peter moved to Highcliffe at the age of 82 to be closer to daughter Heather, son-in-law Robin and his grand-daughter Christine.

Living in a flat in Daniel’s Lodge in Montagu Road, he made many friends locally and enjoyed adult education classes at Greyfriars in Ringwood, the Arts Society at New Milton and all the lectures at the Red House in Christchurch. He also loved seeing Christine perform with Total Voice, the choir she runs, and was thrilled to become a great-grandfather to Thomas and Archie.

Peter enjoyed many coach holidays and visits to his brother Michael in Devon.

He moved to Highcliffe Nursing Home when he was 97.

Those wanting to donate in his memory can give to Oakhaven Hospice c/o Hinton Park Woodland Burial Ground.

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