Eric Richardson died in July 2006, three weeks after his 101st birthday. Born at Woodchurch on the Wirral, he moved with his family to Liverpool in 1913 and then Birkenhead in 1915.
He left school at the age of 15 and served a six-year apprenticeship with the Merseyside firm of Woolliscroft’s, during which he gained a Higher National Certificate in electrical engineering. One day a friend asked him whether he had ever thought of going to university. This seemed unattainable – in the 1920s only sons of the wealthy went to university, and at that time Eric’s father was unemployed.
However, the friend arranged for Eric to receive financial support and by 1933 he had obtained a first class honours degree and a PhD in electrical engineering from Liverpool University. After completing his research he began an illustrious academic career.
His first post was at Hull Technical College, where he was head of the engineering department. In 1942 he became Principal of Oldham Technical College. For the rest of his working life he held a succession of principalships – at Salford (1944-47); Northampton Polytechnic, London (1947-57); and the Polytechnic, Regent Street, London, from 1957 until his retirement in 1970.
In 1949 he was appointed a government adviser on education in developing countries, involving several visits each year to Nigeria and other African states. In recognition of these services he was appointed CBE in 1962 and knighted in 1967.
In his personal life Sir Eric Richardson experienced sadness. His first wife Nellie died in 1937 after just three years of marriage. He remarried in 1941; May was 18 years his junior. Their second child Sheila died in 1949 aged three and in later years May became very frail. She and their three remaining children survive him.
Eric was a keen evangelical Christian. Although brought up as a Methodist and actively involved in chapel life, it came as a shock to him to discover at the age of 20 that he was not a true believer.
A friend invited him to attend a Bible class in Wallasey run by a Miss Thornton. She had offered for missionary service with the Church Missionary Society but had been turned down on health grounds. The class became an outlet for her missionary zeal and it was here that Eric understood the gospel for the first time. He was converted towards the end of 1925.
Eric had an immense God-given capacity for work, and alongside his professional responsibilities threw himself wholeheartedly into the Lord’s service. He became a very acceptable lay preacher. During his years in Hull he worshipped at Trafalgar Street Evangelical Church, where he served as Sunday school superintendent. Soon after the move to Oldham, he was invited to become honorary pastor of Bethel Mission.
Eric lived in London for 52 years. He and May moved there in 1947 and remained there after retirement for a further 29 years until, when he was 94, they moved to Plymouth.
In London they became members of Duke Street Baptist Church, and Eric served for many years as a deacon, and for a while as an elder as well. However, he also channelled his considerable energy into wider involvement in gospel work.
He served as chairman of many Christian organisations, including the Africa Evangelical Fellowship, Leprosy Mission, National Young Life Campaign, Crusaders and London Bible College (LBC). He was president of the LBC from 1978-1989.
As he looked back over a remarkable life, from humble beginnings to international prominence and knighthood, Eric suggested that the most fitting epitaph would be, ‘Eric Richardson – a man greatly blessed’.