Blog: Emeritus Professor just the ticket
Simon Warburton | 6 December 2013
I'm making my way back from last night's Welsh Automotive Forum (WAF) dinner at the Vale Hotel near Cardiff - a venue used by the Wales rugby team whose pictures liberally adorn the walls - and my first time at the event.
I spent four great years in Swansea and even though I now live relatively close to the Welsh border, there's something undeniably different about crossing into a clearly defined country that resides in the United Kingdom, but which very much and fiercely, retains its own identity.
WAF - as they call themselves - bill this evening as a networking event and there was evidence of that in bucketloads during the convivial pre-dinner session where the good and the great of the Welsh car industry got together for a lot of chin-wagging and a catch-up.
I met Emeritus Professor, Garel Rhys, a name known domestically and internationally and although I've heard him many times on British radio, I'd not met him before.
And a mesmerising ten minutes I had with him too. The man is a force of nature, a volcano of informed opinion garnered during decades of expertise, laced with a liberal dollop of Welsh fire.
He reminded me of a cross between Neil Kinnock - charasmatic former Labour party leader and Cliff Morgan - legendary Welsh rugby commentator - with a dash of pulpit evangelising thrown in for good measure.
I offered my own small observations - mainly about the recent visit I'd made to Lille to look at French automotive clusters - and he was good enough to listen and provide his own rich array of anecdotes.
Rhys also addressed the audience formally later in a tub-thumping display of oratory that appeared to need almost no notes, but which was a tour de force of the UK auto business and its recipe for present and future success.
The industry - UK manufacturing in general perhaps - needs ambassadors like the Emeritus Professor - whose passion for his subject shone through the evening which also featured former Ford of Britain chairman Joe Greenwell whose own long expertise is now being harnessed by the UK government.
Rhys is clearly a man who likes his rugby and liberally sprinkled his address with references to Wales' demolition of England - it would have to be England -earlier this year in the Six Nations tournament. It was 30, er, 3.
But he was also self-deprecating enough to sign off his speech with a reference to the current powerhouse of world rugby: "And in 2084 we will beat New Zealand again," was his pithy observation.
More of Professor Rhys' ilk would be just the ticket.
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