11 November 2021
Members of the IWMA were saddened to hear of the death of founding member Paul Warbrick, whose battle with a long-standing illness finally ended on October 21, 2021. Paul Graham […]
Members of the IWMA were saddened to hear of the death of founding member Paul Warbrick, whose battle with a long-standing illness finally ended on October 21, 2021.
Paul Graham Warbrick (81), who lived in Stockton Heath, Warrington, was among the first group of British wire and cable company bosses who got together to form the IWMA just over 50 years ago.
Paul ran several companies in the wire and cable industry but, remarkably, had never intended to join the industry in the first place. In his youth a keen sportsman, linguist and scientist, his life was supposed to go in an entirely different direction.
“He was originally set to study agriculture and become a farmer,” explained his son, Simon, who took over the running of the central family enterprise – wire and cable agency business Warbrick International – from his father in 2019.
“My great grandfather, who started the engineering business, had a farm and my grandfather also had a smallholding. Dad loved animal husbandry, so he wanted to study farming. But my grandfather died suddenly aged 41, and since my father’s brother and sister weren’t involved in the family business, dad became head of the company – Warbrick Engineering Specialties – at the age of 17.”
After taking a couple of years to “get his arms around” the wire and cable business, he found his place in an industry that was increasingly buoyant and, with the help of experienced salesmen and staff, started taking on agency contracts for manufacturers of wire and cable machinery around the world.
As a man who travelled extensively to find new business, he realised the value of an organisation dedicated to bringing cable makers and industries together and became a major figure of the IWMA’s early years. His love of sports led him to create the IWMA golf tournament and the Warbrick golf trophy.
“He was a fair man,” said Simon. “His staff liked him and so did the companies they worked for. He was a man who made hard decisions and kept moving ahead.”
Warbrick had an eye for a shrewd business deal: his company bought in to cable industry electronic equipment maker HW Electronics in 1965; then added Larmuth Engineering, Knutsford, Cheshire in 1981, and Dean Bros reels in Nottingham a couple of years later. In 1988, Larmuth and Dean Brothers were sold to the Pentre Group, with Paul Warbrick as a shareholder and group sales and marketing director.
“He had approached Larmuth to make machinery for a new contract, but the boss of Larmuth wanted out, so Warbrick bought the company,” Simon explained.
Warbrick International’s working method was twofold: one side operated as an agent for overseas manufacturers of specialised wire and cable machinery, while the other produced engineering products for wire and cable production through the two subsidiaries.
As the industry faltered in the early 1990s, Warbrick set out on a new venture: gardening. Always a keen gardener, he set up Stone and Wood in 2001 to do for the gardening industry what Warbrick International had been doing for wire and cable: find the best products from around the world then act as a sales agency for the manufacturer.
That company closed in 2007 when the Cheshire site was sold, and Warbrick International moved on.
This left the core business still within the family after 75 years, and gave Paul time to indulge other interests. “He was a fine clay pigeon shooter and game fisherman, and a highly-accomplished artist,” explained Simon.
Paul also enjoyed the company of his family and particularly his grandchildren – Simon’s daughters, Frances and Ellen; and his daughter Caroline’s two sons, Oliver and George – and his great granddaughter Soffia, Oliver’s daughter.
In his final decade he confounded doctors by surviving a disease for 10 years that was supposed to end his life within months.
“It was a combination of new drugs and sheer determination,” said Simon. “Only in the final six months of his life did his health start to fail.
“Even then, he confounded us all. I brought my daughters over from France to see him for what we thought might be the final time a few months ago – and not long afterwards he got up and started walking around again!
“I know it’s a bit of a cliché to say it, but my father truly was a force of nature. He went into everything he did at full speed and gave it everything. If he liked you, he really liked you, and he was generous when it mattered.”
Paul Warbrick was married to his wife Margaret at All Saints Church, Daresbury, Warrington and will be a funeral service at 12.30pm on November 19, 2021, to which friends and colleagues are invited. Paul will be interred in a private family ceremony following the service.