Harland and Wolff - Shipbuilding and Engineering Works

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Lord Rochdale (Chairman 1971- 1975)

Brigadier John Durival Kemp, 1st Viscount Rochdale OBE, TD, DL (5 June 1906 – 24 May 1993), was a British peer, soldier and businessman.

Lord Rochdale had a life of tremendous variety which combined numerous appointments in industry, active service both in the Army and the House of Lords, and a real love of the countryside.

He was born John Kemp in 1906 at Rochdale and after education at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge.

On 6th July 1971 the Minister of Commerce for Northern Ireland, announced the choices for the position of Chairman of Harland and Wolff and Managing Director. The role of chairman was reduced in its importance; the candidate, Lord Rochdale, would only be serving in a part time capacity and the position of managing director became essential to the operation of the company. The individual selected for that position, Mr Iver Hoppe,

Mr. Hoppe immediately put together a master plan to examine the yard and devise the right solutions for the way ahead. He called his master plan the P200. It was to be the blueprint for the future. Both Lord Rochdale and Mr. Hoppe seem to have been so enamoured of what they thought they could do that they persuaded Mr. Whitelaw when he was Secretary of State for Ireland to put £23 million of Government money into the yard, admittedly with a further £12 million from Harland and Wolff, to extend the facilities, modernise and even, it was said, find 4,000 further jobs for people in the Belfast area.

With the return to power of the Labour party under Harold Wilson in 1974, the situation for the shipyard changed yet again. The days of Iver Hoppe and Lord Rochdale in charge of the company were effectively numbered the moment Merlyn Rees became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland as he proceeded to intervene and interfere in whatever way possible in the affairs of the shipyard. At first this limited the management’s commercial decision making powers, but as Rees continued in his position, he worked covertly to remove Hoppe and Rochdale from Harland and Wolff, regardless of the consequences that would befall the shipyard or indeed the individuals concerned.

At the end of October 1975 Lord Rochdale retired.

Rochdale had many interests. He flew his own plane before the war and he had a great love and understanding of music, possessing a fine voice himself. He travelled widely which earned him friends throughout the world. Despite his very full life he devoted much time to his family, which included many nephews and nieces. Although he had a highly serious outlook on life he also possessed a keen sense of humour. No doubt it was partly due to this that he was held in such affection and respect by family, friends and business associates alike.

Viscount Rochdale died 24 May 1993 aged 86.

 

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