Neal, Sir Francis Leonard, CBE

Born on 28 August 1913 in Camberwell, London, the son of a Smithfield meat porter, he left school at 14 and began an apprenticeship in carpentry, then worked at Smithfield Market. Influenced by attendance at a Methodist boys' club (Clubland?), he became a local preacher and began to prepare for offering for the ministry by attending evening classes at Richmond College. How far his Methodist affiliation survived his early years is not clear. Leading a Smithfield porters's strike at 21 convinced him that trade union work was more important than the ministry and he became branch secretary and later a full-time official of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

Frustrated by his failure to be appointed the Union's Assistant General Secretary, he turned to management, joined ESSO in 1955 and in 1961 became its Employee Relations officer at Fawley, Hants, where he fostered union-management co-operation. From 1967 to 1971 he was Industrial Relations Director at British Rail. He was made a CBE in 1971 and was knighted in 1974, having espoused Thatcherite views on the statutory wages policy. Among his later offices were a directorship at Pilkington's and a part-time professorship at Manchester University. He died on 4 May 2008.

  • Daily Telegraph, 9 June 2008
  • Times, 10 June 2008
  • Guardian, 24 June 2008