A FORMER Southampton television producer, who played a major role in turning children’s favourite Thomas the Tank Engine into a global film star, has died.

Angus Wright, who was 78, began his career with the BBC as a sound studio manager.

He later moved to Southern Television – the forerunner of Meridian – when it was based at Northam.

Mr Wright worked in the children’s television department under the legendary Jack Hargreaves.

As a producer and director he was responsible for ITV’s longest running children’s favourite How! the programme captured the imagination of the nation’s younger generation as it demonstrated in a very entertaining way how things worked.

One of the show’s stars was Meridian Tonight presenter and Daily Echo columnist Fred Dinenage.

With the change of the Southern TV franchise he stayed in Southampton, becoming head of religious programmes for TV South and Meridian.

In 1984 he resigned from network television to join an independent production company which he had founded with his then partner Britt Allcroft in 1981.

That company took off in a huge way when it acquired a licence of TV rights from the Reverend Wilbert Awdry’s railway series of books featuring Thomas The Tank Engine.

Beatle Ringo Starr was persuaded to be the voice over story teller. The first series of Thomas the Tank Engine films were launched on ITV in November 1984. It became so popular that it led to further films and five years later Thomas the Tank Engine was making tracks across the Atlantic.

Mr Wright retired in 1999 and moved to France.