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Sir Robert Scholey, a former chairman of British Steel, has died at his Much Hadham home

By Herts & Essex Observer  |  Posted: January 14, 2014

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A FORMER chairman of British Steel who was once the subject of picket protests in the village’s High Street has died at his home in Much Hadham at the age of 92.

Sir Robert Scholey was known as ‘Black Bob’ because of his habit of wearing a black protective helmet around the steelworks in Sheffield.

He and his wife, Lady Joan, had lived in a property on the High Street since 1972. He died in his sleep on Sunday, January 12.

Sir Robert was deputy chairman of the now defunct British Steel from 1976 until 1986, when he succeeded Sir Robert Haslam as chairman.

It was in 1988, during his chairmanship, that the company, which was formed in 1967 as a nationalised industry, the British Steel Corporation, was converted to a public limited company and privatised.

British Steel became defunct in 1999 when it merged with a Dutch company to form Corus Group, which itself was taken over in 2007 by Indian operator Tata Steel.

A neighbour recalled: “Back in the British Steel days he was chauffeured off early every morning, and there were pickets during the closures in the High Street outside.”

Sir Robert was on the board of the Channel Tunnel and once famously annoyed then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A spell on the NHS board followed and he annoyed other politicians.

Sir Robert was born in Sheffield and attended the town’s King Edward VII School.

He started his career with Steel, Peech and Tozer, a steel company based in Sheffield.

Shortly after all the private steel companies were nationalised in the late 1960s, he was put in charge of the Welsh division of British Steel. He was called up to British Steel’s London headquarters in 1972, was managing director of the strip mills division and joined British Steel’s board of directors in 1973.

Sir Robert was made deputy chairman and chief executive in 1976, and was made its chairman in 1986. He retired from British Steel in 1992.

Sir Robert was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1982 and was knighted in 1987.

He and his wife had two daughters, Frances and Rachel, two grandchildren, James and Kate, and a great grandson, Isaac.

Sir Robert’s son-in-law Philip Hirst paid tribute. “He was both a steel man and a Yorkshireman through and through (even though) he lived down here for 40 years,” said Mr Hirst. “He was a straight talking Yorkshireman, he was generous to people with his time and all sorts of things, he had a huge breadth of knowledge. One of his great loves was opera and one of his heroes was Napoleon, he loved travelling and had a big love of history.”

Details of his funeral arrangements are to be confirmed.

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