Rolls-Royce factory, Dundonald, shortly before closing in 1977 (Belfast News-Letter, 7 February 1977)
The Rolls-Royce factory at Dundonald was short-lived, but it impacted many people.
The site was initially the factory of Resinoid and Mica Products Ltd., a plastic mouldings firm that relocated to Dundonald from Reading, England, in September 1965. It provided 300 jobs, but within months the company found itself in financial difficulties and all staff were made redundant by March 1966.
In May 1966, Brian Faulkner, Minister of Commerce at Stormont, made an exciting announcement that the government were in talks with Rolls-Royce regarding the possibility of taking over the factory at Dundonald. Although Rolls-Royce was famous for its high-end cars, it also manufactured aircraft engines and it was this branch of the business that was planned for the Dundonald site.
Negotiations concluded in August and production started in December. It was hoped that the factory would provide up to 2,000 jobs, but this never materialised; the number of employees generally did not exceed 1,000 and they were predominantly male.
Job advertisement for Rolls-Royce aero engine factory, Dundonald, 1966 (Belfast Telegraph, 22 October 1966)
This failure to deliver on jobs was just the start of the company’s problems. Issues with the handling of their RB211 aircraft engine’s development, combined with high production costs, put a financial strain on the firm. Rolls-Royce was forced to liquidate in 1971, but the British government stepped in to save jobs and took ownership of the company. A poor economic climate in 1970s Northern Ireland contributed to Rolls-Royce announcing in 1975 that there would be a phased closure of the Dundonald factory. Despite local efforts to prevent job losses, the factory’s doors finally closed in November 1977. As the Belfast News-Letter of 3 November commented, ‘The ill-fated Rolls-Royce plant at Dundonald has clocked up its final mile.’
The factory was reopened in 1979 by Fisher Body Ltd., a division of the American firm General Motors, to manufacture seat belts for the European market. Between 1988 and 1992, the Japanese-owned Takata Corporation took over the business and renamed it the European Components Company. The company closed in 2004 and the factory was later demolished.
Did you work in Rolls-Royce, Dundonald, or one of the other businesses at the site? We’d love to know your stories or see any photos you may have from your time in the factory. Contact us here.