Industrial historian receives civic honour

It was an extremely proud moment for 89-year-old Ray Hooley when he was presented with Lincoln’s top accolade in a glittering ceremony at the city’s Guildhall.

The one-time information officer and librarian for the former engineering company Ruston & Hornsby – who is credited with saving the city’s industrial history for future generations – was clearly delighted when he was presented with the Lincoln Civic Award by the city’s Mayor Councillor Yvonne Bodger.

Admiring the striking silver award, made by the late Lincoln Silversmith Derek Birch, Mr Hooley said: “I have seen this (silver award) before, but to actually hold it is great, after holding pieces of rusty metal!”

Mr Hooley was nominated for the accolade by his daughter Kerry Blackbourn.  When he first learned that he was to receive the honour he said he was “flattered, overwhelmed and very grateful.”

Since 1960 Mr Hooley has devoted thousands of hours of his own time to bringing Lincoln’s industrial past back to the city. His outstanding efforts have seen the return and restoration of machinery and vehicles, including three Ruston-built cars from Australia, Glasgow and Devon.

He donated the traction engine “Sylvie” to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, as well as many oil and gas engines, Hornsby traction engines from Tasmania and Canada, a World War One tank and a 1909 steam excavator.

But his major achievement has been the saving, maintaining and preserving the Ruston archives (1860 to 1990).

Mr Hooley has provided a valued service to people worldwide keen to know more about Ruston-built machinery – and that continues to today.

In his acceptance speech, he revealed that he is often working at his computer until one o’clock into the morning, responding to enquiries from around the world!

Lincoln Civic Award Trustees’ Chairman Henry Ruddock said: “It is well known that Lincoln was at the forefront of Engineering development from the middle of the nineteenth century.

“This continues today with several innovative companies working in Lincoln and the Lincoln School of Engineering. Next Friday (May 5), we also have the start of the Spark Engineering Festival in Lincoln Cathedral.

“The archives of the famous companies, Marshalls, Robey, Clayton and of course Ruston – now Siemens – included hand drawings of everything from aeroplanes built during the first world war to components of traction engines, early internal combustion engines and agricultural machinery.

“They also included any items relating to the people who worked in those businesses.  The archives are a history of engineering development and social history, in miniature.

“There is no question that these are valuable as a resource and as learning materials. There is also no question that the Ruston archives would not have survived without Ray’s dogged persistence in rescuing them, “many from skips” housing them, researching them and trying over many years to get people to take an interest in them.”

The permanent preservation of the vast Ruston & Hornsby archive was secured in 2012, thanks to a partnership between Siemens, Lincolnshire County Council and the University of Lincoln.

Photographs were rehoused in Lincolnshire Archives and films relocated to the Media Archive for England, based at the University of Lincoln.

Lincolnshire County Council won a £98,100 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which allowed work to begin on digitising this massive collection. Volunteers are in the process of putting it online – preserving it forever.

“This is an internationally important archive. It would not exist without Ray’s intervention and tireless work over many years. Hopefully, through the presentation of the Civic Award, many more people will appreciate Ray’s achievement and his massive contribution has been appropriately acknowledged.”

The eighteen-month archiving project involves up to 150,000 photographic negatives, 150 reels of cine film and the recorded memories of former Ruston & Hornsby (which became part of Siemens in 2003).

Earlier this month a Lincolnshire County Council spokesman said its latest statistics show that about 93,512 negatives (out of an estimated of about 106,500) have been scanned.  In addition, 2,791 glass slides and glass negatives have been copied.

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