BALLYMENA’S globally recognised engineer and industrialist, Sir William Wright CBE, was honoured in his home town on Friday when he was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Mid and East Antrim.
The award pays tribute to individuals or organisations who have made an outstanding contribution to public life.
The businessman and co-founder of Wrightbus was honoured at a special ceremony in front of family, friends, colleagues and special guests.
Councillors proposed and agreed the award in recognition of Sir William’s contribution to global business and the local economy.
Sir William Wright CBE said: “To receive the Freedom of the Borough is a great honour, particularly as it is bestowed from my birthplace, the area where my business is based, and a place I am proud to call home.
“Over my lifetime I have had the privilege to take part in some memorable occasions and this event sits alongside the best of them.”
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Lindsay Millar said the occasion was befitting as the work Sir William had carried out in the local economy was inspirational: “I am delighted to see so many people here today to recognise the outstanding work that Sir William has carried out over his illustrious career.
“His contribution to global business and the local economy is exceptional. An entrepreneur and pioneer in his field, Sir William, despite his worldwide success, has never forgotten his strong ties to Ballymena.
“His vision and dedication has put our borough firmly on the map as an area of manufacturing excellence and innovation.”
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council agreed to bestow the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Mid and East Antrim on the Wrightbus founder in February 2018. It followed a motion proposed by the previous Mayor, Councillor Paul Reid, and seconded by Councillor Audrey Wales MBE.
Among those who paid special tributes to Sir William was former Mayor of Ballymena, P.J. McAvoy, who, as a long standing SDLP representative was poles apart on constitutional issues from the ardent unionist.
On Friday, however, he told the audience of the personal bond that had grown between the pair during their service on Council.
“I well remember Sir William giving me a lift in that great big car of his many times when going or coming from council meetings!
“I’m happy to be here today to pay tribute to the man I call my friend,” he said.
Further tributes came from North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley who remarked on Sir William’s political activism at a time when many in the business community ‘kept their heads below the parapet’.
And he recalled nights in the harsh days of the troubles when his late father would receive ‘phone calls from the man he codenamed ‘Ahoghill’.
Mr. Paisley said Sir William was a rare breed in today’s society: “He is a character. If anyone wants to see what makes a real Ballymena man they need only look at Sir William Wright.”
Lauren Christie, speaking on behalf of the extended Wright family, thanked all who attended for the honour conferred on her grandfather and paid special tribute to Mrs. Ruby Wright, who, she described as ‘the great woman behind the great man’.