Warm tribute paid to popular businessman

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 30 May 2018

BARRIE Miller, one of the men who helped turn  the Humber Bank into a dynamic industrial area, has died at the age of 81.

As site director of the  huge Courtaulds fibres site in Grimsby he was in charge of almost 2,400 people at one point, easily the largest workforce in the area.

But his greatest legacy has to be the Tencel factory, now owned by  the Austrian chemical giant Lenzing.

Courtaulds had developed this new environmentally friendly cellulose fibre, using a small pilot unit  at Grimsby and in the 1990s it announced plans to build a large manufacturing site  to serve the UK and Europe.

The company was being actively wooed by other towns  where Courtaulds had factories and indeed from across the Channel in France, but Barrie Miller persuaded the main board to base it  in Grimsby, bringing  more than 200 badly needed  jobs to the Bank.

At the time Tencel was taking  the fashion world by storm. Everyone was talking about this exciting new fibre and  Marks & Spencer devoted a large part of their flagship Marble Arch store in London to Tencel clothing. Its uses today are  mainly industrial.

Barrie, pictured, was born in Grimsby, the second of three boys,  and grew up in the Scartho area of town. He  attended  Scartho Junior School and Wintringham Boys Grammar School before being called up by the RAF for National  Service.

His first job was with the Yorkshire Electricity Board (YEB). He joined Courtaulds as a young man, first in accounts and then in work study where he was involved with  project planning. He later took over the Personnel department (now better known as Human Resources) from Cliff Boswell.

Unknown to him, the  board had clearly spotted his talents because in the early 1980s he was invited  to take over from Hector McKenzie, who was retiring as site director. It came as a total surprise, but he accepted.

Courtaulds Grimsby produced two main fibres, viscose or fibro made from woodpulp and Courtelle which had an acrylic base.

For almost 40 years there was hardly a person in Britain who did not possess some item of clothing made from either of the two Grimsby fibres.

Although a popular figure who had time for everyone, Barrie ran a tight ship and could be a formidable negotiator especially when dealing with suppliers and contract companies.

He won the undying gratitude of many people when he persuaded Courtaulds to extend its final salary pension scheme to the shop floor workforce. After his retirement in 1999, workers would come up and thank him for helping to give them a secure retirement.

He travelled widely for the company, especially to Mobile in Alabama where Courtaulds already had a Tencel factory and later to South Korea where it was planning to build an Asian plant, although that didn’t materialise.

Sadly, Courtaulds later ran into financial problems and, to his dismay,  the group was eventually split up and sold.

Away from work, he was an active member of Grimsby Rotary Club and a keen gardener and snooker player.

He leaves a wife, Helen, and a son and four  daughters. The funeral service will be held at Grimsby Crematorium on Friday, June 8 at 1pm.

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