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Charles Ian Ridgway, Life President of the MMMA

A well-respected champion of the metalforming machinery sector, Charles Ian Ridgway has died aged 87. Mr Ridgway, who went by his middle name of Ian, was Chairman of Group Rhodes, a company he grew from the management buy-out of Joseph Rhodes Limited in 1984.

He was a passionate advocate of metalforming technologies, and for many years a very active member of the British Power Press Manufacturers Association, of which his company, Joseph Rhodes had been one of the founding members in 1947.

In 1974 he became the association’s Chairman, holding the post for 6 years. During this time the association opened its doors to European companies associated with metalforming press manufacture, and changed its name to the Metalforming Machinery Makers Association (MMMA).

On the international stage, Mr Ridgway became chair of the European Power Press Manufacturing Panel, hosting meetings in no fewer than nine countries in a drive to establish a European standard for the sector. This work formed the basis of the CE mark developed for mechanical and Hydraulic Presses and Press Brakes.

In the late 1980’s Group Rhodes represented the UK on the working group that set the subsequent Annex 4 regulations of the Machinery Directive. In 1989 Mr Ridgway was successful in lobbying the Minister of State for Trade, Lord Trefgarne (later president of the Institution of Incorporated Engineers) to establish a UK regulatory body to assess companies to the new standard.

In recognition of Mr. Ridgway’s services to the metalforming industry, the ultimate accolade that his professional association could bestow was occasioned at an Annual General Meeting lunch in Birmingham in 2011 at which he was invited to become the Life President of the MMMA.

Mr Ridgway’s connection to Joseph Rhodes goes back to 1910 when his father, Harry joined the firm as an office boy, working his way through the company to become Managing Director in 1946. In 1955 Ian Ridgway began his own apprenticeship on the shop floor after carrying out his national service with the RASC in 1952-4 at the time of the Suez crisis.

He gained an HND in Engineering from Wakefield Technical College and progressed to the drawing office, before rising through the ranks to Assistant Works Manager and General Manager. 

In 1967 he took a seat on the board as Commercial Director and in 1969 became Company Secretary. Mr Ridgway became the first Sales Director of Rhodes Interform in 1976 and its Managing Director in 1978.

In 1984, when the business and its subsidiaries were threatened with liquidation by owners Hanson Trust Plc., he acquired the company in a management buyout. Support was received from the West Yorkshire Enterprise Board and Wakefield MDC. Mr. Ridgway subsequently made several acquisitions in the specialist machinery sector, developing the company known today as Group Rhodes.

In 2008 he was presented with a long-service award for 53 years with the company by Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham. Outside the company, Mr Ridgway’s industrial activities were not solely restricted to the MMMA. He sat for several years on the Manufacturing Technology Association’s (MTA) exhibition committee, and chaired the local branch of the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF). Away from the engineering sector, he became Chairman of the Wakefield Chamber of Commerce and a staunch supporter of Wakefield Cathedral.

Speaking about his father, the company’s current CEO Mark Ridgway OBE said “Dad enjoyed the industry in which he worked, but he was also very much a family man, very generous, loving and supportive, and always encouraging his children to play to our strengths’

“He was also a man of great conviction who believed in his own abilities and had great focus and attention to detail. He tried to instil that same confidence in others and was a great mentor and guide to colleagues past and present."

He is survived by his wife of 60 years Heather, children Mark and Jacqui, three grandchildren and one great granddaughter.The funeral will take place at Wakefield Cathedral on July 29 at 11am, where Mr. Ridgway was a choral scholar in his younger years.