The local “man who could make anything”

Tom McGill (97) who died recently, was by anyone’s standard an amazing man. The Donegal born engineer, came to Derry around 1940, and during World War II Tom McGill, known as “the man who could make anything,” invented a device to allow a radar disc on the roof of Aberfoyle House to be controlled from inside the building, three storeys below. At that time he was working for Harland and Wolff as they did wartime work in Derry.

In 1951 Tom was introduced to Scottish industrialist Dr Daniel McDonald who had a factory in Birmingham and was interested in starting another over here. To cut a long story short, Tom McGill’s engineering skills were a key factor in bringing Birmingham Sound Reproducers (BSR) to Derry. At the height of their production they employed 2,050 people at Bligh’s Lane and at Drumahoe, making up to 50,000 state-of-the-art record players a week. Tom McGill was the Group’s Chief Production Engineer.

In 1967 Dr McDonald proposed making ‘white goods’ in Derry but key staff refused to move from England and BSR ended up closing Derry factories. After BSR, Tom McGill continued his career as a consultant engineer.

He was a founding member of the Derry Housing Association and did much good work with that organisation for over 40 years.

Considering Tom McGill’s career and his humanitarian work he was surely a relatively unsung Derry hero.