7 September 2022

Obituary – Sheila M Wright FIMMM (née Holgate)

Sheila Wright was a pioneering female metallurgist in her time and one of the Institute’s longest standing women members.

Sheila M Wright FIMMM (née Holgate)

Sheila Holgate was born on 11 January 1929 in Liverpool. Her earliest memories include being hospitalised with diphtheria and walking through the newly constructed Mersey Tunnel in 1934. In 1944 the family relocated to Wolverhampton where aged 15, Sheila started work as a laboratory assistant at Zinc Alloy Rust-Proofing Company. Between 1946 and 1950, alongside her job, Sheila studied part-time at Wolverhampton Technical College (now University) successfully gaining City & Guilds qualifications in the Principles and Practice of Metallurgical Operations. Being professionally qualified, Sheila was elected into the Birmingham Materials Society in 1951, becoming an associate in 1955. This was the start of a lifelong association with what is now the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining.

The IOM3 Library was recently delighted to receive Sheila Wright’s professional papers, covering her career as a metallurgist. It includes qualification certificates through to published papers in professional journals, photographs and correspondence. The collection includes 12 offprints of published papers dated 1950s-1960s. Also included is the raw data for her paper on Women in Metallurgy dated 1964/5.

The papers include references to Mr WE (Bill) Ballard who was Sheila’s manager and mentor, and a past President of the Institution of Metallurgists (1958). It was under Ballard’s guidance that Sheila became an expert in metal spraying at a company called Metallisation, later known as Metco.

It is believed at the start of her career Sheila Holgate was one of the pioneering female metallurgists of her time and almost certainly unique in her gender in the specialist field of metal spraying within the UK.

Sheila married in 1954, had a family and relocated to the Sussex coast in 1960. In 1969 she was accepted as a mature student on a teacher training course which heralded the start of a 20-year teaching career.

Following the death of her husband in 1998, Sheila returned to her metallurgy background by attending IOM3 events in London and serving on the Education and Benevolent Committees until well into her 80s. She initiated and sponsored the “WE Ballard Award” for first prize – LMS Lecture Competition (silver tankard). Sheila became a Fellow of the Institute in 2007 and was an active member up until recent years.

Sheila passed away peacefully on 13 August 2022 at the grand age of 93.

We are grateful to Sheila’s son, Peter, for collating his mother’s papers and donating them to the IOM3 Library. The ICON record including a full list of the collection can be found here: https://icon.iom3.org/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=177898&query_desc=kw%2Cwrdl%3A%20sheila%20Wright