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Ron Eager 1925-2009 PDF Print E-mail
People
Written by John Eager   
Monday, 10 August 2009 00:00

Ron Eager will be best remembered among the Ledbury community as a successful entrepreneur and businessman, having established Eager Electrical with his wife, Margaret, and making the acquisition of W.J. Lacy from his father-in-law, William Lacy. However, to those that knew and loved him he will be best remembered as a caring and loving man; selfless in his devotion to family; hard-working, decent and honest.

Ron Eager at his 80th birthday party

Ron at his 80th birthday party

 

Born to Henry and Lilly May in 1925, Ron started life in Albion Square in Dalston, London, with his elder siblings Lil and Edward. Winston Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer; Malcolm Campbell had set the new land speed record at 150 mph and John Logie Baird had transmitted the first recognizable human features by television. There were over a million and a half radio sets in Britain, but no National Grid, no electrical goods on the market and despite rising living standards the country was in a deep depression.

Ron Eager

Ron as a young man

The political turmoil in Europe in the 1930s brought war to London and at the age of just 13 Ron had no choice but to leave school and work for his father, Henry. They dismantled the bottling machinery at Schweppes in London and reinstalled it in Colwall, Herefordshire. Schweppes’ relocation to Colwall would be the start of Ron’s association with the area and of his love for Herefordshire and Ledbury in particular.

Ron

Ron in the armed forces

Cruelly the war had taken Ron’s brother Edward, his wife and unborn child during the Blitz. The loss of his brother deeply affected him, but Ron was soon called up for National Service to take his own part in the war. As a corporal in the 16th Parachute Regiment Ron spent a nervous summer in 1945 camped on a runway in India awaiting the orders to invade Japan. The losses would have been tremendous and the paratroopers knew it. But the orders never came; the A bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered. Ron remained in India after the war seeing action in the bloody turmoil that led up to the independence and partition of India in 1947.

Back in England and living in Colwall Green, Ron attended Gloucester Technical College where he obtained his City and Guilds in Electrical Engineering. He worked for the MEB in Ledbury installing the first electricity supplies to many of the country areas surrounding the town. This often consisted of little more than a few electric lights and a single electric socket. During this time Ron enjoyed motorcycling and took his Norton bike over to the continent to follow the Grand Prix motor racing in Europe.


Ron Eager (left)

Ron (left)


In the early 1950s Ron had become an active trade unionist, attending meetings with Jock Byrne and Frank Chapple. He came close to being elected to the regional executive of the Electrical Trades Union – so close that he would later joke that he should have been made a peer of the realm and not Lord Chapple, his electoral adversary, who became a life peer in the House of Lords in 1985. However, Ron’s relationship with trade unionism turned sour after being locked out of a union meeting. He had just been made the manager of the MEB’s Newent branch and the workers had objected to his presence. The ‘us’ or ‘them’ mentality of the unions turned Ron’s political thinking on its head and he was never to look back again.

The most dramatic change in Ron’s life came in 1955 when he met 18 year old Margaret Lacy. They were married in 1956 and together they went on to establish one of most successful independent high street businesses in the West Midlands.

Ron and Margaret Eager

Newly weds Ron and Margaret

But life in business began as a struggle. A business partnership went bad and dissolved leaving the newly weds nearly broke. They struggled to obtain finance, but eventually succeeded and bought the shop premises which had been Bradley’s. Eager Electrical was born in 1957. Ron continued to travel the countryside as an electrical contractor doing electrical installations for farms, farm machinery, factories and rural houses. Eager Electrical was both retail shop and workshop. The workshop at the back employed half a dozen women making the electrical units for advertising signs for a local company called Adglow. Ron designed, patented and produced his own flashing fluorescent advertising sign.

Meanwhile the front of the shop sold available electrical goods – which were few and far between. Kettles, irons, hand-wringer washing machines and cast iron cookers were all expensive items. A kettle could cost a couple of weeks’ wages, while luxury items such as refrigerators were available only ‘on allocation’ to the shop.

The consumer revolution was still to arrive in Britain, but as it did over the next two decades, Eager Electrical was perfectly placed to be at the centre of it in Ledbury. Supply for consumer goods had finally caught up with the nation’s demand. The workshop was reduced in size to give way to a larger retail area dominated by an array of kitchen appliances. In the late 1970s Ron and Margaret acquired WJ Lacy. Ron managed Lacy’s, which had moved on from its wireless and gramophone days and was now the main local retailer for televisions, hifis and later videos. In 1986 the two businesses merged and in 1990 Ron retired due to ill health. His job was done. A successful family business had been established and children raised and educated - the eldest of whom, Martin, had been groomed to take over the business and run it. It was neither mere jest nor envious disparagement that some local people referred to the business as the ‘Eager Empire’.

Ron could take pride not only in his business acumen, but also his family. His eldest son Martin had loyally followed him in the business and would later represent Ledbury on the Town Council. Ron was especially proud of his daughter, Gillian, who had been the last Head Girl of the Ledbury Grammar School and had graduated from Exeter University with a degree in law and then qualified as a solicitor. Ron’s youngest son John gained a Master of Arts from Southampton University and in 2005 Ron and Margaret helped set up Ice Bytes with John and his Japanese wife Shoko in the shop where Eager Electrical had first traded from.

Ron Eager

Ron sailing

During the boom years Ron pursued his favourite hobby and became an able and experienced yachtsman, firstly in Cardigan Bay and later in the Balearic Sea off Menorca. The beautiful island of Menorca became Ron and Margaret’s second home for thirty years. Widely read Ron was always interested in history, exploration and science. In his own mind he saw himself as an inventor and would wile away evenings in his workshop cutting, drilling, welding and bending materials to his creative will to the accompaniment of his favoured music on Classic FM.

Ron was always active in the community. At the end of the 1960s it was Ron who persuaded the town to decorate the streets with lights at Christmas time. For over a decade the strings for the lights were assembled and put up by Eager Electrical. Ron was a longstanding member of the Chambers of Commerce and the Rotary Club and was elected president of the latter in 1976-77. In the same busy year Ron was also made president of the Radio Industries Club.

Ron lived a full and meaningful life. Self educated, multi-talented, industrious and intelligent he even hypothesized his own unique theory on the events that led up to extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Ron speculated the existence of a second moon whose orbit decayed bringing devastation to the planet. It came so close to the Earth that its gravity caused a massive water spout that swept around the planet at greater and greater velocity ripping up the ocean floors and exterminating most animal life in the process.

Such an intriguing theory offers us an insight into Ron’s vivid imagination and his ability to think big and beyond the popular picture. An inventor and academic he may have wished to have been, but the reality his own life, down-to-earth and steadfast, allowed him to build his own personal ‘empire’; to cultivate a family of three children and five grandchildren and to indulge himself in the adventures and pleasures of foreign travel and high culture.

Ron is survived by his wife Margaret who cared for him at home through his final illness. This year Ron and Margaret would have celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary. Throughout their long and happy marriage they were constant companions and devoted to each.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 May 2010 08:41
 
 

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