Retired executive and wool textile consultant,
Peter Bell, completed a Diploma in Combing &
Spinning at Bradford Technical College in 1954,
when he was awarded the Harlow Memorial
Medal and also won second prize in the Textile
Institute Fancy Yarn Competition. He later became
an evening course lecturer and City & Guilds
examiner in Woollen and Worsted Raw Materials.
Peter’s professional career began and ended in Bradford, a stone’s throw from where he studied Textiles, although international travel and connections were to play a significant part in the intervening years and left a lasting impression of his years as a student.
Peter was Vice - President of the Students’ Union
and also Editor of the magazine The Collegian.
His appeal for contributions in the 1953/4 Student
Union Handbook suggested an early interest in
distant parts: “If you have had an interesting
vacation – in Portugal, on the Norfolk Broads, at
Blackpool, then permit us to travel by way of your
pen to these devious places.”
Yet Peter could explore the globe via his classmates. “There were only 6 of us on the Combers’ course and I was the only Englishman. The language was an initial problem and my notes were a useful aid but soon their English improved. We were a great team: Francisco Alçada from Portugal; Akgūn Ertem from Turkey; Photis Demas from Greece; Michael Dana an Italian Egyptian, and Costa Ermenedis from Istanbul; while other course students came from as far as New Zealand. In the 2nd year vacation I went to Portugal for 5 weeks to stay with Francisco. Fran, Akgūn, and Mike used to come home watch football and What’s My Line? on TV. Fran and Akgūn have kept in touch and a few years ago we all went to Malta for a reunion with our wives. This has continued with the next generation as our children have exchanged visits.”
After National Service as a Sergeant in the RAOC, Peter joined Robt. Jowitt & Sons Ltd as a management trainee in 1956. He became a Director in 1963 and Managing Director in 1967. In 1974 he became Director of Raw Wool Services at the International Wool Secretariat, which entailed travelling the world explaining new developments in wool metrology. This continued when in 1983 he was seconded to the Australian Wool Corporation to be their European Director. Returning to Ilkley in 1985 as Director of Technical Services for AWC, he resigned in 1989, frustrated with wool politics.
Consultancy for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and British Wool Marketing Board then followed. In 1992 Peter became a Non-Executive Member of Airedale Health Authority, and later the same year was appointed the first Chairman of Airedale NHS Trust, serving until 1998. He returned to Robt. Jowitt & Sons as consultant until sadly the firm, established in 1775, closed down operations in 2007 as trade contracted.
Peter has also penned a couple of monographs about local textile history: The History of the Woolcombers’ Mutual 1933 -1994 and The Rise, Fall & Reincarnation of the Yorkshire Woolcombers’ Association, 1899 – 1904.
Photograph by Shelagh Ward