Long-time plumbing and heating industry figure, politician and businessman, Bernard Bateman MBE, passed away peacefully on 26th January at the age of 78, following a year-long illness. He will be remembered for his larger-than-life personality, enthusiastic support for the UK plumbing and heating industry. Along with, his unflagging empathy for others and, of course, his signature shock of white hair.
Born in Bristol in 1944 and brought up in South Wales, Bernard achieved a huge amount in his lifetime. In 1967 at the age of 22, he became the youngest ever councillor in Cardiff City Council and in 1973 he became a Magistrate for the Gwent Bench.
In his early career he worked as Branch and Area Manager for plumbing and heating merchants OBC in South Wales, later to be part of Wolseley Hughes Plc, He was promoted in 1978 to Sales and Marketing Director of Yorkshire Heating Supplies, becoming one of the youngest directors of the merchants, and moved to Ripon, North Yorkshire.
Bernard played an important role in the renaming of the brand to Plumb Center in the 1980s and continued to run the Sales and Marketing function for Northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland until 1993. He then joined merchants, Harcross as Managing Director until taking them to sale in 1997 and established Geberit in the UK, where he oversaw the purchase of Caradon Terrain in 1999.
A champion of professionalism in plumbing and heating, he was an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), and twice held the post of National President at the industry body. He was a member of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers, Freeman of the City of London and Honorary Secretary and founder of the World Plumbing Council, an international organisation which aims to achieve the best possible plumbing for the world through growth and development of the world’s plumbing industries.
Bernard was also appointed to the Water Regulations Advisory Committee by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) in 1999 and played an important part in the introduction of dual-flushing into the UK, saving millions of litres of water every year.
However, many will know Bernard for the amazing plumbing and heating industry trips and conferences that he ran over many years, both in the UK and around the world, covering almost every continent.
In 1993 Bernard was a co-founder and chairman of The Think Tank, a London-based marketing agency, which he launched with his son Liam Bateman and Shaun Madle. The award-winning agency continues to thrive today and Bernard was an active advisor and mentor right up to the end.
Bernard also chaired Ripon YMCA for 29 years, sat on the National Council of the YMCA, was Chairman and President of Age UK North Yorkshire and was chair of Ripon Festivals for over 20 years, responsible for over 50 annual community events. During his lifetime he raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities, including the ABF – The Soldiers’ Charity.
Bernard was awarded an MBE in 1988 for his services to the plumbing industry.
Returning to politics in 1999, he held positions including Mayor of Ripon, Mayor of Harrogate District, Chairman of North Yorkshire County Council and was a Councillor on Harrogate District Council until he was taken ill in 2021.
Bernard is survived by his wife Linda, their two sons, Liam and Nicholas, and four granddaughters.