Walter Desmond Wiggill remembered

Former chairman of Boksburg Industrialists Association dies.

Walter Desmond Wiggill, known to business associates and friends as Desmond (Des) Wiggill, was born in Boksburg, Gauteng on 17 May 1931 and passed away peacefully on 12 December 2015 after a short illness.

Des attended school in the Boksburg area, finishing his high school career at Boksburg Central High. While there, Des was a keen participant in athletics and held the school record for the then 880 yards. This record would only be broken many years later.

Des Wiggill started his apprenticeship as a patternmaker in 1948 with Frontier Founders, a foundry that had been established in 1947, and in 1969 would merge with Universal Iron and Steel Founders and change the name to Unifront Founders.

Shortly after completion of his apprenticeship in 1955 Des Wiggill started his own patternmaking business, servicing the foundries in South Africa. This business grew steadily and eventually Des Wiggill decided to start his own foundry W D Wiggill (Pty) Ltd.


Des Wiggill

The foundry became one of the biggest privately owned foundries in South Africa. The foundry cast both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and at its peak would cast between 300 and 400 tons of metal a month. The non ferrous foundry concentrated mainly on bronze impellers and pump parts, while the ferrous foundry cast grey, SG, high chrome and steel castings. Regularly 10 ton pump castings would be produced by the foundry, and at one stage a 20 ton casting was produced.

Des sold his business to Cementation Engineering in 1979. The foundry then changed the name to Cemenco Foundry and continued to operate until it was closed in 1979.

After the sale of the foundry Des Wiggill continued with his investments and other businesses, which he had interests in.

Always interested in the Meehanite process Des purchased the license for Meehanite in Southern Africa from a friend, Adrian Gray, in 1984 and formed a company Meehanite Africa (Pty) Ltd.

Meehanite was introduced into South Africa in the mid 1930’s and one of the first licensees was Thos. Begbie & Co. (Pty) Ltd. The Cemenco Foundry would also sign up for the process, as would the foundry at the South African Iron and Steel Industrial Corporation (Iscor and now ArcelorMittal South Africa).


Des Wiggill (centre), along with two business associates, on the furnace platform in the W D Wiggill (Pty) Ltd foundry that was situated in Boksburg, Gauteng shortly after the foundry’s first 5 ton induction furnace had been installed

The Meehanite process became a passion for Des and he would sign up a number of other foundries, which today still hold their licenses. Des continued promoting the process until he passed away, organising and holding Meehanite technical conferences, which were always a big success.

Until his passing on December 12, he was also actively involved in BP Wiggill Engineering, a foundry started by his son Brian that also holds a Meehanite license.

Des was innovative and had vast experience in the non-ferrous and ferrous foundry industries, and was happiest when he was on the foundry floor. He was very active in the Boksburg community, and served on the board of the Boksburg Industrialists Association for about 20 years.

Des married his surviving wife Deirdre in 1954 and they had three children – Brian, Rosemary and Derek. He was also a grandfather of four grandchildren.

Des will be sorely missed by family and friends.