Diss factory founder passes away

Retired Diss businessman, Doug Bartlett, who established a flourishing electronics factory, has died aged 87 after a short illness.

At the height of its success, Alma Components was a leading manufacturer of electronic components, employing some 300 people in the town, and exporting worldwide.

But it was by chance that the factory was established in Diss. Born in Beckenham, Kent, in 1924, Douglas Caswill Farquharson Bartlett had been destined for a career in banking, until the war interrupted.

Denied the opportunity to become a pilot because of poor eyesight, he trained in the RAF as a wireless mechanic and was posted to Foulsham in the heart of Norfolk, where he met his wife of some 56 years, Dorothy, who was a signals operator.

After the war, Doug chose to continue in the electronics field.

As Britain came out of post-war recession and began to boom, he took the plunge and joined forces with two other entrepreneurial spirits, Jim Price and Bob Mann, to set up Alma Components.

And in those early days, his older daughters even helped out by assembling electrical circuits on the kitchen table.

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They had a site lined up in Portsmouth but when it fell through they chose instead to come to Park Road, Diss, building a new factory in 1959.

Over the next 15 years the business steadily expanded, making first wirewound resistors and then reed switches.

The firm was bought out by an American company, Hamlin Electronics, in 1976 and continued to manufacture from the Park Road site until 1990s when it was scaled down and moved to Sawmills Road.

Doug was involved in many aspects of Diss life.

He set up the first mobile physiotherapy unit in the town, established the Waveney Words Talking Newspaper in 1986 and was the area volunteer for repairing talking books for the blind.

A regular churchgoer at St Mary's, Diss, he installed the church's first public address system and helped install exterior floodlighting.

He was chairman of governors at the former Diss Grammar School, a trustee of Bressingham Steam museum and a long-serving Rotarian.

In March 1994 at the 47th annual meeting of Diss Rotary Club, he was presented with the organisation's highest international accolade, a Paul Harris Fellowship.

He had also started a programme of mock job interviews at Diss High School to help students enter the world of work.

One of his main interests was classic cars, and he would often be seen driving around the town in a myriad of different vehicles which he had restored – anything from vintage Rolls Royces to an electric bread van.

In his latter years he nursed his wife Dorothy through illness, and after her death in 2003 was a familiar figure in the town – and further afield – on one of many electric buggies.

He leaves three daughters, Sarah, Angela and Deb, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

His funeral was held at St Mary's, Diss, on Friday.