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So how did you come to be at Swan Hunter?
Well as I said before; I went and sat an exam for this technical college and the village school master from the next village to us, which again was called Dinnington, but that was Dinnington Village – Jim Atkinson was a friend of my dad’s and he knew a guy that worked in the drawing office at Swan Hunters, the same guy as it happens became the Duke of Northumberland’s piper eventually – yeah Tommy Matthews they called him! And Jim Atkinson said to my dad ‘well if he wants a job…’ because dad said ‘he is no longer - not going down the pits – no way is he going to work at the pits! No way! We sent him to college for his shorthand and typing etc!’ and Tommy Matthews had said ‘We’re looking for office boys for the offices you see.’ So he arranged an interview for me and I went and saw a Mr Pearson who was the….human resources we call them now… (laughs) guy and I got a job a office boy in the electrical drawing office. Strangely enough this is where I ended up! (laughs) But, yes the electrical drawing office and that was it. I started the next week – aged 15 – that was in October, because I didn’t finish technical college – sorry not technical college – the commercial college until October that was my full year with handfuls of certificates for this that and t’other y’know! But going into the office – it did help a lot because I was well versed in office management shall I say y’know. One of the thing we did have to do, which used to tickle me was every night after the draughtsman had gone home, as I say they finish at quarter past 5, didn’t bother me as I was going to night schools anyway. We used to have to put the covers on the benches because they worked on flat benches – not the drawing boards that you see nowadays with bars that go up and down – they worked on flat benches and I used to have to roll these covers and furiously cover them up.
What were the covers for?
To cover the drawings up so they were…I will go on from that to tell you what it was like. The old offices – the offices down the bank here as they are now y’know there a tunnel that you go through. Well the old offices were wooden built and the railway lines that used to carry the goods from…west yard was that way, east yard was this way, docks was that way and you used to have railway engines pulling the trucks and so forth and for some reason they always stopped underneath the offices. I dunno weather it was shelter from the elements of what, but when they stopped under there the smoke used to come up through the floor boards and we used to say ‘Open the windows! Open the windows!’ and you had to open the windows and open the fire door at that end and it would clear eventually when they’d had their cup of tea I suppose and gone off again. But you see with all that coming up there was soot and goodness knows all what, so they worked through the night as well when the draughtsman had gone home and all that lot would descend on the drawings y’know. We all had a little brush that we used to brush everything off with in the mornings! (laughs).