Obituary: Ronald Hesselden, engineer

Ronald Hesselden, who has died at 97, was a design engineer who in 1952 co-founded the Holset Engineering Company in Huddersfield, a firm which became a global leader in the manufacture of turbo chargers and fan drives.

Ronald Hesselden

He progressed from works manager at the firm’s inception to works director and ultimately managing director during the 1970s.

Born near Halifax on Christmas Day, 1922, he had a genetic condition known as butterfly skin, which caused blistering at the slightest touch. At the time of his death, he was the oldest person in the UK known to be living with the condition. It impacted on his life and ambitions, but he did not let it stop him pursuing a career in engineering.

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He completed his apprenticeship at David Brown Tractors in Meltham before working at English Electric in Stafford and then Rowntrees of York. It was there that he helped design the first Polo Mint machine and a machine for placing chocolates into plastic moulded trays.

In 1949 he was recruited by Paul Croset, an engineering entrepreneur, as a design draughtsman with a view to establishing the Holset company. Mr Hesselden was instrumental in helping to develop its international reputation and at its peak it employed some 1,500 local people. His exuberant personality, product knowledge and leadership qualities made him the obvious choice to lead delegations and union negotiations, and his work in setting up manufacturing plants took him all over the world. He remained with the firm for the rest of his career.

In retirement, he served as a magistrate for 15 years and was chair of the bench and a commissioner for taxes. He was deputy chair of Salendine Nook School and a governor at both Huddersfield Technical college and Huddersfield Polytechnic.

A keen cricketer, crown green bowler and golfer, he was also a talented artist.

His wife, Una, whom he married in 1946, died last year and he is survived by one child, four grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

His daughter, Ann, died in 2016.