A talented JCB
engineer who amassed a multi-million pound fortune thanks to his interest in cars has made a bequest to a Staffordshire school, one that is dedicated to nurturing the engineers of the future.
Bill Turnbull, who was born in New Zealand and came to the UK in 1960, spent almost a decade working as chief engineer at digger maker JCB, helping to develop the company’s first-ever mini excavators prior to retiring in 1995 at the age of 65.
When he died in 2019 aged 88, he left more than £4.2 million in his will thanks to an investment he made more than 50 years earlier in a rare 1937 Bugatti Type 57S — paying just £1,500 for the car, of which only 42 were ever produced at the factory in Molsheim, France. He had been restoring the car in secret at his home workshop in Tean (near Cheadle in Staffordshire), ever since he bought it. The car sold at auction in London for more than £4 million.
In a ‘nod’ to his life-long interest in engineering, Mr Turnbull left instructions to his executors to give the JCB Academy in Rocester, Staffordshire, £125,000 towards the construction of an automation and robotics centre. The new facility will be called the Bill Turnbull Suite in memory of the benefactor.
Executor John Seddon said: “Bill was a very humble man and also an extraordinary engineer who never forgot his links to JCB and the friends he made while working there. He would be absolutely thrilled to think that a bequest had been made to the JCB Academy and will be used to develop the next generation of engineers in the UK.”
Lord Bamford, JCB’s chairman, said: “Bill was a remarkable and talented engineer. This is a very fitting tribute to his lifelong devotion to engineering and will ensure his memory is kept alive for future generations following in his footsteps.”
The JCB Academy was the brainchild of Lord Bamford, who in his 46 years as chairman of JCB has championed the cause of British manufacturing. In the years before the Academy opened, he voiced fears over the decline in manufacturing and the shortage of young people with engineering skills emerging from the education system.
The JCB Academy was the first school of its kind in the UK for the education of 13 to 19-year-olds and a core focus on engineering. As well as educating around 2,500 students, the JCB Academy has expanded to provide training for around 600 apprentices since 2013.