Mather and Platt

My cousin, David MacIver, who was full of aesthetic and other attractive ideas but not an exam passer, had been encouraged to go round the world instead of taking a degree. He drifted through a great variety of enthusiasms before dying, in his sixties, in an Indian Ashram. At the time of my leaving Cambridge, he was living at Haslemere, learning to make old-style musical instruments with the Dolmetsch family. I went to stay with him for two or three weeks. Perhaps his parents had the idea that I might be a steadying influence! It did not work out that way. I had an enjoyable visit; but, under his influence, I spent much of my time reading, in French, an occult universal history by a philosopher whose name I have forgotten. As soon as I had left Haslemere I saw no more of those large yellow-bound paper-backs.

I had arranged to start work at Mather & Platt's in Manchester at the beginning of October 1932, and had also found myself very comfortable 'digs' in a little house with a family not too far from 'Park Works'. I also decided that I could afford to buy a second-hand New Hudson motor-bike. It had electric lights (a boon, as the New Imp had only troublesome Acetylene lamps and (later) very feeble Battery lights). The 495 c.c. engine made the bike rather heavy, but I was right in expecting that it would be very suitable for riding to work and also for going on longer journeys for week-end visits. I think it cost me 20 as well as the New Imp.

Then I had my accident. On the Saturday before I was due to start work, I was taking Jay on the pillion to Glan-y-wern. We were just passing the Glegg Arms at Heswall; it was before the days of 'roundabouts'. There was a garage on the big junction, and a car came unexpectedly right across from the Birkenhead road. I was not going at all fast; but I could not stop in time. The driver would have passed ahead of me if he also had not tried to stop. The result was that I put my head through his back side window (no saftety glass in those days), and Jay bumped her head on the road. Next day, they found that she had cracked her skull; but, at the time, everyone was too busy looking after me. At first, I did not know that I had been hurt. I only realised this when I got up to speak to the driver, and saw his passenger's face. My face was covered in blood. The driver happened to be a Doctor, and soon had me lying at the road-side, waiting for an Ambulance. I heard him say that he thought that I would die before I could be treated in Hospital. I would not say that my past life came before my eyes: but I do remember thinking that my life until then had been happy but unfruitful. I urgently wanted another chance! The Ambulance did come in time, and, when I got to Birkenhead General Hospital I felt sure that I would live, but that I would be frighteningly disfigured. I am still most grateful to the young 'houseman' who decided that there was time for Mr Roberts to come over from Liverpool to do a much better stitching job than he could achieve. I am also grateful for the nursing received there, and particularly for the Sister who took out my 72 stitches. But, in some ways I was a bad patient, and complained so much about my hospital bed that my father was allowed to bring my own bed from Hoylake. My other memorable privilege there was to share a Side Ward with an elderly Plymouth Brother. I found that his simple faith, and that of his friend who prayed for me, was worth a lot more than my own sophisticated belief so far.

That was a preparation for the Conversion Experience that I had when convalescing at 'Fernleigh', where my Aunt Ruth had kindly offered to look after me. She had lately joined the 'Oxford Group' (later 'Moral Rearmament') which became her religious anchor for the rest of her long life. During my stay I also became a keen member, and was impressed by the discipline of the 'Quiet Time' and the four Absolutes. I also made a public profession of faith at a Methodist Chapel in Liverpool and went regularly to our local group. The beginning of the end of my regular attachment to the Group was when I realised that our leader, a young man called Parkin, was always being 'guided' to lead us through the same Pauline passage.

After about six weeks I was ready at last to start at Mather's. I established myself very comfortably with the little family, of mother, father and eight year old son, with whom I went to lodge. As well as my bedroom, I had their front room, with my Expert gramophone in pride of place. I went to work by bus, as I had not yet begun again to ride the New Hudson. First I met Mr B. the Supervisor who had looked after me on my six-week course. He introduced me to the Pump Fitting Department, where I was to begin my two-year Graduate Apprenticeship. This was a better name than 'Gentleman Apprentice' ('bloody G.A') which had been used hitherto. Then he sent me up to see Mr T.Y. Sherwell, who was Director in charge of Apprentices, as well as of the Pump Department. Later on I went to see Mr Loris Mather, the gentle son of Sir William Mather, whose vigour and enthusiasm for Education had built up the Mather's we knew. He was our Managing Director. "T.Y." was good value; but his rather brusque manner made my stammer even worse than usual. He welcomed me sympathetically, and asked me what Class I had got in my Degree. "Only a Second" I stammered. "Thank God you are not one of those B. Firsts!" he said. He told me that my contemporary with a 'First', who had started (when I should have done) six weeks ago, was going to be useless. "He thought he had nothing to learn!" That lad soon left, and became a teacher!

I then went quite a long walk to the Pump Assembly Bay (I think it was Bay 7). The metal and glass roofs of the long Parallel bays made Park Works look like a very large and wide railway station, full of noisy machinery and partly-finished machines, I found the men's Lancashire accents hard, at first, to understand. I must at first have looked very lost. As I passed, or visited our Pump Stores, I always heard the greeting "Are yappy?" It was some time before I realised that all they meant was "Are you happy?" Which I was, in my way. My work, apart from fetching bits from the stores, consisted largely of using a spanner, and sometimes a file, and of packing the glands round the pump shafts, with lagging impregnated with black graphite grease. I thought that no work could be dirtier than that, until some months later I began to work in the Iron Foundry. This was not so obviously dirty; but the black sand used there got ingrained into my hands. Some may be there still! For lunch I went to the Staff Canteen (the men had another Canteen, and the Senior Staff and Directors had their own arrangements). I enjoyed the friendly welcome and the good cheap meals. I got back to my digs, tired after the long day's standing, and enjoyed the comfort and the novelty.

I had not yet begun my routine of week-end visits (in succession, to The Old Garden, The Hermitage, Wanlass and Matson Ground), which became possible as soon as I was able to begin again to ride the New Hudson. Once or twice I went on Sunday morning to the Friends' Meeting House in Manchester. I had done this occasionally while I was at Cambridge, and sometimes had been moved to speak there. Perhaps the last time was when the Principal of Dalton Hall, the Friends' Student hostel in Manchester University, did me the honour of asking me to lunch at their High Table. I am afraid that the school-like atmosphere of Dalton Hall, so much less lively than that I had enjoyed at Cambridge, and was later to enjoy at Toc H, put me off Quakerism.

My contact with Toc H (which had been just a name to me at Cambridge) began with Bill Howson, whose initials were F.G. He had been an undergraduate at Queens'; but was also a fellow Engineer, whom I had met occasionally at the Labs. Bill's face, with its dark quiff, was easy to recognise when I was surprised by his voice. He was working in the next Bay to mine, I think on the "Bar-to-Bar" test. This was done in a fenced enclosure, with a little one-man Office in the middle. There was very little to do there at that time. Bill often had time to sit at the table in his little hut, and do "Mather Boys' Club" business. This club was in the Mather Institute near their Salford Iron Works. Being an "Uncle" there was Bill's main "Toc H job". Some months later, when I took over "Bar-to-Bar", things were very much more busy. Rough-looking girl "Winders", would be hanging over the railed enclosure trying to "will me" to pass their "armatures". Unfortunately for our girls, the armatures were wound with necessarily fine and flimsy wire, and there were a high proportion of "failures", on which they would lose their "bonus".

However, for Mathers, these little motors were the beginning of a desperately needed surge of new work, caused by the introduction of the new "National Grid" of High-voltage electric Power Lines. The coming of "The Grid" meant that Electric Power was, at last, of a standard voltage and frequency: so that the electric motors etc. became much cheaper to make. Previously some supplies might be of 50 volt, as they were at Gerrards Cross (which made our electric light so expensive that most people preferred to stick to gas). (Later, we had a 'Power supply' added, which came at 200 v). There were numerous other variables. So, for those on The Grid, Mathers were able to offer "Unit Drive" (involving one or more motors for each machine) to replace the cumbrous and noisy overhead shafting (with a belt drive down to each machine, and an arrangement of sliding pulleys to connect or disconnect the power). This was the old system, which we had at Park Works. In older factories the shafting might be connected to vast and ancient steam engines.

When I arrived at Mathers we were in the depths of the pre-war 1930's Slump. The bosses were even trying to "lay-off" Apprentices (though the Unions rightly were able to stop that, as it was illegal).

When you looked down the aisles, you could see how scantily the workers were scattered. Five years later, when I left Mathers, the same aisles looked crowded. This very welcome change was largely due, as far as we were concerned, to the onset of "Unit Drive", though the building of the new Cunard White Star liner (later christened 'The Queen Mary'), was another factor to cheer us all up. It had a remarkable effect on everyone's morale: so we let everyone know where our bits and pieces for the new liner were being made. However, unlike many firms, Mathers were able to pay good dividends right through the slump, because very high profits were still being made on our fire-dousing "Automatic Sprinklers". But that is another story!

Now, to return to the 'Bar-to-bar', the work on this test alone increased so much while I was in charge of it, that, far from being able to take time off testing, as Bill had done, when I finished my time there I had to be replaced by two apprentices!

Now for my introduction to Toc H! Of course, Bill and I then met regularly at lunch. Although we had seen little of each other at Cambridge, our common backkground there was a sufficient bond. Soon I arranged for him to come back with me for a meal at my digs. He was impressed by the 'Expert'; but we did not have the same taste in music. Then he invited me to a 'Guest Night', at Toc H Mark XIV, 1 Eccles Old Road, Salford, where he had been living as a hosteller since his arrival at Mathers. There were about 40 men present. They were a mixed lot; but they all seemed to me to be very 'hearty'. They were evidently enjoying each others company; but I was just embarrassed by their friendliness. I was glad to get away!

Bill could see how I felt; but it was not long before he asked me to come again. He explained that this was not another Guest Night, but an invitation to have dinner at The Mark. He very much wanted me to meet Michael Coleman, the Toc H Padre who was based there. He was sure that I would like him. Bill was right. Mike was stocky and dark and intensely alive: and he was interested in me. I think that it was at that first meeting that I said that I wished that I could enjoy the company of 'worthy' people, instead of being embarassed by them: and that I wanted to be a Christian in a practical way.

He said that the best thing that I could do would be to 'take the plunge' and come, at least for a time, to live at the Mark with him and Bill and the other 20 hostellers. Such was the attraction of his personality that I agreed to come in a fortnight's time!

When I came, I found that living at The Mark was indeed better than I had dared to imagine. With an interval of a few months at Bury, when I needed a rest from the strain of of being Warden, I lived at The Mark for the next four years. I began to find, very soon, that once I had talked freely with individuals, and, better still, shared simple jobs with them, I could really begin to accept them and love them as people.

So I came to the Mark with my gramophone (which I was allowed to put in the main Common Room) and all my other portable possesions. Of course I found it a sacrifice to have to share a bedroom with three other men (strangers at first), instead of having two rooms of my own. However, apart from the pleasure of having friends to go home to, there was the pleasure in living in the kind of tall and spacious rooms that I was used to in visiting my Grannies and my aunts.

The Mark was opposite a tram junction and the 'Woolpack' Inn in Pendleton and had a rather smokey garden and various outhouses, which we once used for a notable free Fete. It also had a cellar, in which was the chapel, which soon meant a great deal to me.

Beside Bill and Padre Michael in the Mark, I remember Lew Butler, a former miner, who was Steward, cook and housekeeper. When Michael was Curate of Hucknall in the depression, he and Lew, who had been long out-of-work, lived together in a tent just outside the town, to share the lot of the many who were homeless. Then Lew came with him to the Mark. The Assistant Steward was Luke, a large and rather simple man with black hair and a very red face. Members of the L.W.H. (League of Women Helpers) came in regularly to do our mending, and there must have been at least one daily woman. Lew had a good room at the top of the back stairs, and I remember him presiding at about 10 p.m. in the kitchen, where we gathered for cocoa and bread and dripping. We hostellers took our turns at washing up after dinner, and in being Host to any visitors, and in taking evening prayers in the Chapel. Of the other hostellers on my arrival, I remember Arthur Taylor who was Warden, Dickie Newall, a clerk at the Salford Royal Hospital, Harry Haylings, a Rep. for Hairdressers' material, and Norman Brown who was a Technical Rep. for leather products. Norman was very hearty and extrovert and a new, and rather alarming experience for me. Later he married Timmie Field of Gerrards Cross and became the father of Frances, who is at the time of writing engaged to Giles [his brother], and her sisters. Another hosteller was Tommy Malan, from Congleton (where the buses ran to 'town hall time') who was ordained at much the same time as I was. There was also Charlie Garner, with whom I still exchange letters. He was at the Mark all day, where he often played my gramophone, and had red hair and a 'chip on his shoulder'. He had long been unemployed as a boiler-maker, as his father had been his foreman and would not favour him. When the war came near, he got a good job in London and worked there throughout the war, living at Toc H on Tower Hill, and helping to keep the Lunch Club going. Now as a retired man he enjoys the music and art and free travel that London can offer.

Toc H, Salford Branch, met weekly in the Common Room, and were, when I got to know them, a very interesting mixture of men. I remember our very good Methodist padre, (and have often retold his account of his first pastoral visit), and Charlie Hampson, a Salford City Coucillor, and Alan Warrington a Police Constable, who liked to tease his Rector, Richard Hussey of Sacred Trinity (by the Flat Iron Market), by holding up the traffic for him whenever he appeared on the pavement. 'Uncle Richard' came quite often. He was a member of Church Assembly, and famous for his witty tongue. I had not been long at the Mark when I surprised myself by leading the men in Community Singing. The Branch was accustomed to begin with this and I was 'host' and so felt bound to deputise for the leader who had not yet arrived! Another member whom I must mention was Stanley Bailey, a paraplegic, and rather heavy, lad who had to be fetched and carried into the meetings. He 'came out' wonderfully, particularly after it had been arranged for his eyes to be tested and fitted out with the strong glasses that proved to be necessary. In the war, when others kept being 'called up', Stan became Branch Secretary and kept things going for the duration.

Hostellers and Branch members were expected to do 'Toc H jobs' of social service. That was how Stan came to be collected. My first 'job' was to help Bill at the Mather Boys Club, where he was 'Uncle Bill'. The Club was for boys of Junior School age from the warren of little houses and flats around Mather's Salford Iron Works. It had recently been founded by Michael Coleman and Jack Armitage, a Mill-owners son living at the Mark. Michael had wanted the boys to call him 'Mike'; but Jack held out for 'Mr Armitage'. They then agreed to be called 'Uncle Mike' and 'Uncle Jack'. When I joined the staff I was 'Uncle George'. I had no skill in coping with the hurly-burly upstairs, but found my niche in sitting on the bottom step to stop boys who had been 'chucked out' for misbehaviour from coming in again!

The boy I best remember was Billy Wolstenholme, who was always cheerfully impenitent. I learned that he and his brother were motherless, and models of good behaviour at School, and in helping their father at home; but Bill just had to be naughty somewhere. When the Club went to camp near Chapel-en-le-Frith, Bill was the leader in any mischief such as cow-chasing. When some good little Wolf Cubs were camped in the next field (mercifully across a brook) I had to reprimand Billy for trying to terrorise the Cubs with bloody threats. "They've got knives, haven't they?" was his answer. But Billy was basically good. I overheard him telling a younger boy that Uncles liked to be private when using the very primitive latrines that we shared. When I was put in charge of the little tent that was our canteen, I shocked the others by appointing Billy as my Assistant. I proved to be right in assuming that he would be too vigilant in stopping other boys from stealing sweets to do any stealing himself. I watched him carefully of course: but it was so. Before Camp, when we were packing kit on to a truck, I discovered that I had the gift for seeing what would fit in where. So, stammer or not, I could and did take charge. The streets around the Institute were very poor indeed, with a big bed and much clutter to be seen through every open front door; but one, at least, of the homes that I visited was spotless.

Soon after going to the Mark, I began again to ride my New Hudson, and go to work on it. Pendleton is on the opposite side of Manchester to Park Works, along about four miles of (mainly) cobbled streets. The way round by the Racecourse had fewer tram-lines; but on foggy mornings it paid to follow the tram-lines into the town centre and out again. The heavy bike was rather unwieldy for picking up after a fall; but it was just the job for the regular week-end trips that I now began, going in turn to Hoylake, Wanlass, The Hermitage and Matson Ground. I would go immediately after Saturday lunch, and return either on Sunday evening or very early on Monday morning to get to work at 8 a.m. Everyone was very kind, though at the Old Garden I did not like to confess that I could get tired of always getting my favourite foods!

After quite a short time I was made Warden at the Mark. I remember Bill telling me afterwards that they wondered what I would do next! My job was to collect the rents, which were on a variable rate 'according to means', to introduce new Hostellers, and generally to get to know people and to help them to get on with me and with each other. Sometimes it helped if I was ready to risk speaking plainly. The responsibility was quite a strain but, apart from the privilege of having my own room, it had its rewards. So I had my share in the leadership of Toc H in Salford.

One memorable occasion was my debut as a Toc H Speaker. Just before our meal one evening, Mike told me that there was a crisis on the 'Houses' Committee (responsible for running our 'Marks' in Salford and Manchester) and that he therefore had to attend it. So, would I go in his place as Speaker at a District Meeting in Leigh, about ten miles away? I had to accept and, without any paper preparation, I set off, after our meal, for the meeting in a School Hall. I found it without trouble; but, with my stammer, had difficulty in persuading anyone that the great Mike was not coming, and that I was his deputy! The sight of the members, sat in a single row round the edge of the Hall did not help me. I had not the experience or the confidence to tell them to move up! But I eventually managed to tell them about life at the Mark, and the men who shared it with me. They seemed quite happy; but I was never asked to come back!

Life at Mathers went on happily, and, every three months or so, I was moved to a new Department. But, having asked to go to the Iron Foundry at Salford Iron Works, I was there for six months. The Foundry, which employed about 60 men, was not used to having Graduate Apprentices, and the Manager evidently thought that I was after his job! So he did what he could to make life difficult for me; this meant, at least, that the men were on my side! Life at the Foundry was quite different from that at Park Works, where all was modern and well organised. There we even had Works Policemen! The Foundry, with its earth floor (safer, really than the more modern concrete floors) looked a mess. I think that it had originally been a brewery. I noticed that the pipes for the automatic sprinklers were disconnected and hung from the roof in rather a drunken way. (I realise now that they must have been put in "because Mathers made them" but were abandoned when it was found that the heat of metal being cast quite naturally set the sprinklers off when there was no fire to be prevented!)

The Moulder who looked after me was a lovely man. He boasted that he was a Communist and an Atheist: but he was proud of his elderly mother, and evidently kind to her. He was a very skilful and conscientious worker. Our only difficulty was that, particularly when I first came, there was very little that I could be trusted to do. He, and indeed I, was afraid that I would fall asleep while watching him, and fall into the "mould", and spoil a week's work. I do not remember much of the detail of my long stint in the foundry; but would not have missed the experience. The dirty work made us all look a scruffy lot; but I was told, when remarking on the little group of smartly dressed men waiting outside our Office, that they were moulders who had been 'laid-off' the previous week. We queued up in a long line to collect our own wages from the cashier and there was a lot of banter, principally about the prowess of Manchester United or their rivals. We were a small enough gang to be able to share one joke.

I think that I went on to the Research Dept. after my time in the Foundry. Too much of my time there was spent in searching round for bits of second-hand piping; but I remember one moment of real drama. We were in the course of developing the 'Mulsifyre' system of extinguishing oil, or, for instance, cinema film, fires with high pressure sprinkler jets. The task was to make sure that there was no risk of shocks coming back through the hose if the jet should touch a high-voltage cable. So we set up our test on the ground outside the lab, with a special high-voltage feed from a generator and transformer in the lab. The wire was led from the transformer across the passage and a little lab, with an arrangement of crossed bands of yellow insulating tape to keep it safely out of contact with the intervening doors and windows. Then we went out to lunch. Very naughtily I did not make a proper check before switching on the power, and had not seen that a Cleaner had shut the outside window, so that the wire, instead of being safely supported, was nipped between the window and the frame! I switched on, and the generator make a painful groaning noise, and there was a crackling heard across the passage. Alas, it was my high-tension wire emitting great sparks. The result was a badly scorched window frame, a broken window, and a shocked and contrite George.

A more dramatic, and oft repeated, test was done regularly to impress visiting customers. A large open tank, with a good layer of oil floating on water, would be lit by an Assistant. A great flame would go up skyward then, at a word from our Research Director, (sometimes so long delayed that the man holding the hose would be almost roasted) the 'Mulsifyre' jet would be turned on. There was a huge puff of steam and the fire would be extinguished, leaving the large cloud of black smoke to drift away. It was a convincing demonstration; but a bad nuisance to the neigbours, as oily smuts could descend on their washing. There were indignant protests, and, in the end, a compromise was agreed:- "Never on Mondays!" In the days before washing machines, everybody washed on Mondays.

When I was about half way through my Apprenticeship, I was sent to Northwich to be interviewed for the Staff of I.C.I. Because of Sir William's passion for Education, Mathers took on many more Graduates than they could hope to employ. They reckoned that a Mather-trained man employed in another firm would be good for our reputation, and also for business! So I went to Northwich, and, having been directed at the gate to a nearby office, waited there, with about half a dozen other men. We waited and waited and then complained. It turned out that no one in the Selection Team had heard of our arrival. Once we had been found, everything was very efficient and interesting. We were sent the round of about the same number of interviewers. They were kind enough, and asked us about anything but our technical abilities. These were all set out on the C.V. files that had been sent ahead of us. We were also informally interviewed while waiting, and during lunch at the Staff Canteen, where I remember the very expensive china plates. On my last interview I was asked whether I would like to join I.C.I. forthwith, or wait until the end of my second year at Mather's. I said I would wait. In the course of the year that followed I decided, after talking with Michael, and with other members of the Toc H Staff who came on brief visits to the Mark, and, in particular, with Tom Savage (who later became Dean of Cape Town and then a Bishop) that, sooner or later, I would want to be ordained. It was Tom who persuaded me that to be a Priest, who saw all kinds of people at all stages of their experience, was better, if possible, than to be a Probation Officer, or any other kind of Social Worker.

It was Uncle Francis who had written to me to say that I should not go on dividing my energies between Engineering and the other work that Toc H led me into. He and Auntie Frieda could see that I could not go on "burning the candle at both ends".

So, at the end of the year, I wrote to I.C.I. asking if they still wanted me. I was called back for another string of interviews; but it happened that 'The Boss' was the first to interview me. I had to tell him that I would not want to stay indefinitely with I.C.I. He then had to tell me that, in that case, they did not want me! It was reckoned that, for the first six years of a Staff man's service, he was likely to cost the Company more than he could earn for them. I then had to go the round of the other interviewers, explaining to each in turn that 'The Boss' had turned me down, for reasons that they would understand! They did not, on that occasion, pay me my expenses!

When I got back to Mathers I had to explain to Mr Sherwell why it was that I.C.I. no longer wanted me! He very generously told me that Mathers would keep me on for as long as I cared to stay; provided that I would continue to do whatever jobs best helped the firm.

So, my next job was to go back to 'Bar to Bar' for a time, as there was no suitable Apprentice ready to take it over. Then I was asked to replace a man who had been killed on the E.L.Test (for electric motors etc.). After an interesting time at that Department, once hearing the unforgettable noise of a motor racing away out of control (not my fault, that time!), I was put on to the job that I would probably have done anyhow, as my next stage at Mather's. I became a Pump Estimator, under Mr Whittaker, our Chief Estimator, with Stan Hewitt on the table opposite to me, Jim Hall (from Newcastle, who ran a Chip Shop after work), and Norman Tetlow, who was our brainy boy. Our job was to answer the enquiries that Mr Whittaker would pass over to us, offering a suitable Centrifugal Pump, chosen from our official performance charts (Called the 'Aturbocode'), and quote a suitable price and 'Delivery Time' (normally at least three 'working weeks'), together with a suitable motor to drive it.

I remember that my first Estimate caused Mather & Platt quite a loss, though no one told me. I think that they did not want to 'shake my nerve'. I only found this out, weeks later, by accident. The Chart that I was relying on had been made by one of our designers (Downstairs) who was notoriously optimistic. Mr Whittaker had noticed this after my estimate had been sent out, and had put in a larger pump, at no extra cost to the customer. It was Company Policy to stand by our Estimates, even if the stand proved very costly. They told me about one of our Directors who when he was an Estimator had made a very foolish promise. He had guaranteed that a certain deep-mine pump would last for (I think) six months. This would seem reasonable to anyone who did not know from experience that deep-mine waters could be very corrosive indeed to the impellers of centrifugal pumps. In this particular case the impellers were worn out in about three months. This meant that, instead of making a profit on one pump, we had to supply three (one, 'on the job', and two under repair) and keep on replacing impellors. The cost ran into five figures, a lot of money in those days: but as he was a director's son he had not been sacked.

I did not normally have to answer outside enquiries on the telephone; but there was one occasion that I shall always remember, and have often retold. I lifted my phone, and the man on the line did not at first appear to me to know what he was talking about, though his Welsh manner was very urgent. He did not seem to know how big a pump he needed; he knew the 'head', but not the required number of gallons per minute; but what he was most concerned about was the time it would take before he could receive the pump. I think I said "Five to six working weeks". "But the women are weeping at the pithead" he cried out. I said that we would do our best. Then I asked Mr Whittaker what to do. He said:- "Go down to 'Pump Test' and see what we have of about that "head" (The "head" was the height up which the water had to be pumped) "Never mind who the pump belongs to! Just tell the foreman that the pump is needed to cope with a mine disaster, and ask him to get the impeller turned down to the right size, and the pump prepared for shipment as soon as possible".

So I did that, and we found a suitable pump on the test-bed (I do not think that I ever heard whether it was a new pump or a 'customer's repair'). At once a man was told to get the necessary work done, and he worked on until the Night Shift took over and the pump was sent out the next morning, instead of in six weeks time. Everyone was glad to be able to help.

My own best experience as an Estimator was when I received an enquiry for a 'bore-hole pump' to be driven by a small Gardner diesel engine (the sort used on lorries). ( A 'bore-hole' pump is driven by a very long vertical bar, from the engine on the surface down to the pump at the bottom of the hole.) There was no difficulty about specifying a suitable pump and gearbox etc. The real snag was that, after bad experience with broken shafts on this type of pump, ' Company Policy' was to insist on a 'cyclical variation' in shaft speed of not more than one part in twenty. This would have required an enormous fly-wheel (more costly than the engine itself) to keep the speed as steady as was specified! I remembered two points from my Engineering lectures. First that shafts could vibrate in two different ways:- one was 'Whip', the sideways bending of the shaft: the other was in twisting, the "Torsional Vibration" produced by the presence of a heavy pump-impellor at the bottom of a long thin vertical shaft. This vibration, I pointed out, would have a definite 'periodicity', depending on the relationship of the 'whippy' shaft with the heavy weight at the end. It was a principle exploited in the 1920's by the makers of the "365 day" clocks which had their vogue before "quartz-timed" electric clocks came on the scene. Instead of a swinging pendulum the escapement of these clocks was operated by the very slow twisting and untwisting of a thin vertical shaft with a heavy weight suspended from it. I sent a Memorandum to our Design Department, asking if they had considered whether "torsional vibration" could have been the cause of our trouble with shaft failures on our vertical bore-hole pumps. They had not, and it was, (and was easily calculated). So we no longer had to specify those impossibly big fly-wheels!

The only other such Memorandum that I remember writing was slightly improper, as it involved using family knowledge. I had been impressed by the new idea of fitting Automatic Sprinklers into new ships as a fire precaution. I learned in conversation with Uncle Francis that he, and presumably "The Provincial", had not yet heard of this development. So I wrote a note to our Fire Department to suggest that someone told "The Provincial" about this. Later, I noticed that Uncle Francis had been given a smart little brass paper-weight incorporating one of the pretty little fluid-filled glass bulbs that were used to set a sprinkler system working by bursting at a pre-determined heat. (The original type were not so pretty or so reliable. They relied on the use of a very soft solder!) These special bulbs were a jealously guarded trade secret: they were made behind a locked door in our Research Department. I heard nothing about this from Uncle Francis, whom I ought to have consulted before exposing this little bit of ignorance; but I had a summons from old Mr John Taylor, our Senior Director, who was in charge of our Fire Department. He had been taken into the firm, years ago, by Sir William, Loris Mather's father: we understood that he first called as a fire-extinguisher salesman, and that our Fire Department had been started by him. Moreover, until Cromptons had, at last, broken our, very lucrative, monopoly in the supply of Sprinklers, old John (by hook or by crook) had seen to it that all previous competitors had been eliminated.

Old John, whom I knew well by sight from his frequent visit to the Directors Lavatory just behind my desk, told me that he was very pleased indeed with my Memo, and asked me if I would like to come into his Department.

I then had to explain to him that I would soon be leaving Mather's to begin my training for Ordination. He accepted this; but he told me a cautionary tale. A young friend of his had been a good ordinary Methodist. Then he became a Methodist Local Preacher. Then he moved over to the Church of England and trained to be a Priest. Now (horror of horrors!) he had become a Roman Catholic Priest. We parted with mutual respect. I think I promised him that I would not become a Roman Catholic! Old John was an an attractive old rascal, though I expect that Loris, as Managing Director, must sometimes have found it an embarassment to have this tough old man, his late father's friend, on his Board.

I had one memorable holiday contact with Mathers. I was invited to join T.Y.'s son Bob and a cousin, Horne, on Bob's yacht at Conway. I think I was invited, on Bob's parents' suggestion, as a 'Steady type' to keep Bob out of mischief! My trusty fibre suitcase was not really suitable for stowing on a smallish boat; the other two had simply brought their clothes loose in their car! We got our kit into the dinghy without dropping anything and rowed over to Bob's 25' yacht, moored in the river not far down from the Suspension Bridge. Our accommodation was spartan but sufficient; but I did not yet know how unreliable the diesel engine was to prove. I had, of course, sailed often on 'Manana', but never in a bigger boat or on the tideway.

Next morning, the engine started readily, and we went down the river with the early tide. When clear of the river, we put up our sails and sailed for the Menai Straights, and stopped the engine. It was a very pleasant sail. On getting into the Straights, we anchored just beyond Puffin Island and had our lunch. Then our troubles began. We had some difficulty in starting the engine, and then had more serious difficulty because the current was strong and our anchor was wedged among the great stones on the bottom there. Eventually we got free without losing the anchor, or any fingers. We sailed back towards the Conway river in very good time; but, this time, we simply could not get the engine to re-start. The dying wind and tide took us on towards the River mouth. When we got into the River, the wind died completely but the tide took us on upstream. As we got to Deganwy, we saw many boats moored on each side of the channel. We drifted on (sometimes sideways) without hitting anything. On we went towards Conway; but before we got to the bridge our cries were heard and a boatman came to our rescue and towed us to our moorings.

Next day, two strangers, in a larger, and very smart yacht, took pity on us, and invited us to come cruising with them. Now I was glad of my suitcase, as the other two had quite a time with their armfuls of loose clothes!

We were made very welcome. Our two friends were much less smart than their boat; but we had a few days' very agreeable cruising with them. I did not go with Bob on his next trip, which was perhaps just as well. On his next trip he managed to break the boom of his boat and had to be rescued by the life-boat.

A year or two before I left Mathers, I went into Hospital, this time in Liverpool, to have a 'Celoid' scar removed from my neck, which would otherwise have pulled my chin down. On my arrival, Sister put me under the care of her longest serving patient, a ten-year-old urchin who had been partly scalped when an upper room of his school collapsed. 'Joe' was splendid. First he took me to the end of his ward's balcony, to give me a glimpse of a street in the distance. Then we talked, and I confessed that I was soon to go to train as a priest. "Yes", said Joe, "I am Church of England and Conservative"! Then he proceeded to tell me how to escape from any policeman that might be chasing me. "You go down the street and see a woman sitting in her open front doorway. You dash past her, and go out through her back door, and then, through the back door of a house further down the road. Meanwhile the policeman is still at the first front door, asking permission to follow me through the house!" Though lively, Joe was pathetically pale and wan. I told Aunty Frieda about him, and was glad that she then arranged for him to stay for a fortnight at a farm. Some time later, I had a Christmas greeting and a photograph of him looking very smart in his CLB uniform.

The operation was quite straighforward, and the enforced rest was quite a tonic; but I thought it best to leave the Mark for a time, and go to lodge at Bury with my Cambridge friend Ben Dakin and his mother. Ben was a Curate at the Parish Church, and I was glad to see him at his work. I enjoyed going to their week-day Evensong, and learned to love reciting the Psalms. Mrs Dakin was very kind, and the three of us got on very well. There was, however, one occasion on which I really distressed her. There was a party of a thousand school-children in the Drill Hall, as guests of the new High Sheriff. I came home very pleased with myself; because, when the children began to run about after their tea (waiting for the film show), I had conducted community singing (a thing I had never before attempted). But we had a good pianist (and no-one else willing to conduct). I simply asked the children what we would sing next, and the pianist ALWAYS knew the right tune. I had taken my jacket off to conduct more freely. What I did not know was that my shirt sleeve was nearly off! Mrs Dakin claimed that that was why the children watched me and followed my beat: and that I had disgraced her! But she soon forgave me, and I stayed on at Bury very happily until I went back to Pendleton and resumed my voluntary duties as Warden.

So my regular round of week-end visits to The Old Garden, Matson Ground, Wanlass and The Hermitage were resumed, and I bought from Bob Berry, off Deansgate, who used to keep my New Hudson in order, and, in some quarters was more famous for being, for a time, the fastest man on two wheels, a blue Morris Cowley two seater for, I think 10. It was one of the first successors to the famous 'Bull-Nose' and had started its hard life as transport for a salesman of Jacob's Biscuits. I have written elsewhere of my adventures with this 'old crock'.

I had bought it to please Granny Jager and Auntie May, who thought (rightly) that the carrier of a motor-bike was an unsuitable vehicle for even occasionally carrying a dinner-jacket for formal occasions. Soon Granny and Auntie May had decided that even the car, with the red rubber patches with which I had repaired the hood, was not really suitable! So, one afternoon Granny spoke to me and asked;- "What is the price of the cheapest new car? Auntie May and I would like to buy one for you!" After a moments astonishment, I thanked them very much and said:- "You can now get a little Ford or an Austin 7 for 100; but the car that I should really love to have would be the new Morris 8 tourer. That costs 120; but, with my old car in part-exchange, I could get that with your 100." They very kindly agreed, and the little black Morris 8, with its red upholstery, became my pride and joy for some years. I hope also to write about this. To see it come up Wanlass drive, with the screen folded forward and a load of pretty sisters and cousins with their hair flying, was a sight to remember.

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