TRIBUTES have been paid to Nick Burgess, one of the key figures behind Grimsby’s successful post-war development of the frozen and chilled seafood industry, who has died at the age of 79.
He spent most of his career with two leading companies – Ross Foods and Bluecrest Foods – and worked both in Hull and Grimsby.
His contribution to the industry was considerable, particularly when it came to production techniques, an area in which he excelled. He also tutored some of the people now leading the seafood sector.
Originally from Nottinghamshire where he represented the county at hockey, Burgess started his career with the Ross Group in Hull, then one of the UK’s leading fish and frozen food companies. That business would later develop into today’s Young’s Seafood.
But it was with another young Ross executive, Frank Flear, who launched Bluecrest Foods in the 1970s, that he really made his mark.
Bluecrest became a major force in supplying supermarkets and the catering sector with a wide range of seafood products.
The company went on to employ hundreds of local people and it opened a modern factory on Ladysmith Road, Grimsby. Burgess was a key figure in the design and construction of that plant.
Paying tribute this week, Flear said: ‘I was deeply saddened to hear of Nick’s death and my deep sympathy goes out to his wife and family.
‘He will be greatly missed by many people. He joined me at the beginning of Bluecrest Foods and was appointed production director.
‘He played a very big part in the successful development of the company and helped make it one of the leading supermarket brands.
‘He was also responsible for our Ladysmith Road factory, which at the time was one of the most modern sites of its kind.’
Brian Ruffell-Ward, another Bluecrest director from that period, said: ‘Nick was a very great friend for more than 50 years. He was also a super colleague and very enthusiastic about everything he did. My thoughts now go out to his wife and family.’
Grimsby fish merchant Bill Hobson, another long standing friend, said: ‘Nick was a great professional and an absolute perfectionist in everything he did whether at home or at work.
‘He brought that same perfection to the Bluecrest business, ensuring that the sauces, coatings and spices were absolutely right, helping to create some superb seafood products.
‘Yet he was a very understanding man and always had time to sit and listen to others.’
One of the men he helped develop was Pete Ward, now chief executive of Young’s Seafood.
Ward said: ‘I worked with Nick for many years, from my earliest days in the industry. Nick was a man who had a glass half full, rather than a glass half empty, approach to life and he had a great ‘can-do’ mentality.
‘He not only made a big difference to the business but he also taught me personally many great principles that I still value and try to demonstrate today.
‘I feel proud to have known and worked with Nick both as a colleague and a friend.
‘Nick was a man who I have always had great respect for and, on behalf of everyone at Young’s Seafood Limited, I would like to offer our condolences and sympathy to his family and friends.’
Burgess leaves a wife, Helen, two daughters by a previous marriage and three stepchildren.
The funeral service will be held at Grimsby Crematorium on Wednesday, December 16, at 11am. The family have asked those attending not to wear mourning attire.