Sir William Wright, the innovator and visionary who transformed a general coachbuilding business in Co. Antrim into the UK’s second largest bus manufacturer, died peacefully on July 24, aged 94. ALAN MILLAR tells the story of the deeply principled man who built Wrightbus.

Sir William Wright in 2016, launching the StreetAir electric range.

Mere words only begin to describe Sir William Wright, who over a long lifetime transformed a commercial vehicle coachbuilder in rural Co. Antrim into the UK’s second largest bus manufacturer, and also became a prominent public figure in Northern Ireland.

Delivering the eulogy at a memorial service hours after his father was buried privately, former Wrights Group owner Jeff Wright — now a Presbyterian pastor — described Sir William as “a storyteller, a creator, an inventor and an adventurer”.

“He was a genius, and he was a traveller and a wind-up merchant. He loved a good gag. He was always curious and so very kind-hearted and generous in all his ways.

But always, always absolutely the boss.”

Sir William combined steely determination and courage with good humour, had a mischievous glint in the eye, and a ready smile which often erupted into full-blown laughter. His ability to relate to people was a major ingredient of the company’s success in winning and retaining customers.

Want to read more?

This is a premium article and requires an active subscription.

Existing subscriber? Sign in now

No subscription?

Pick one of our introductory offers