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Martin Taylor’s Memories of Mather & Platt - Part 1
Park Works - Mather & Platt Ltd. UK - Manchester
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Martin TaylorThis illustrated article has been compiled by Martin Taylor and is presented here in his name. Copyright in this work is neither held nor claimed by this site. Any correspondence arising will be forwarded for his attention. 'Marcel Boschi's History of Mather & Platt Ltd.' (UK) is pleased to have this opportunity to present his personal memories.

These five pages have been constructed for this site by David Drew-Smythe on behalf of Martin Taylor from an original Adobe (5Mb) presentation. Original images re-scanned by Bob Spears and edited for these pages.

Martin writes:

I worked at Park Works from leaving school in 1974 until 1996 when the factory finally closed its doors and was later demolished. In that time I met some great characters and made many good friends. It is an impossible task to tell all of my memories of this part of my life so I apologise to all those who I don’t mention by name, who helped to make my time at Mather + Platt as great as it was. I hope that everyone who has been involved with Mather + Platt has as many good memories as I have.

 

The long and distinguished history of Mather + Platt, including Park Works, has been well documented and makes interesting reading. My involvement with the company came comparatively late in this history. I was there when the company was still Mather + Platt, before the arrival of Wormald and Weir Pumps. I witnessed and survived both take-overs, and I was there at the closure of the factory. I hope that I played a part in a small way in the Mather + Platt story.

 

I started my working life, like many others, in the P.T.W. (Practical Training Workshop). This was a place where Apprentices starting out on their Engineering career made thousands of toolboxes and hand tools of all shapes and sizes. Under the watchful eyes of George Newman and Alf Twist we gained experience in fitting, welding and machining. Big Adrian O’Reilly guided our college education. Physical training was supervised by Bert Leah who, after a long career and hip replacements, is still remarkably fit, and to prove it he is a world champion rower.

 

 

 

My first experience of the shop floor was when I was sent by Keith Jackson (one of the fitting instructors) to see Ken Cooper (one of the Fitting Foremen) for ‘a long stand’. To my embarrassment, and the amusement of others, it took me 25 minutes of standing outside the Electrical Stores to realise the joke.  Instead of rushing back I had a walk round, watching the crane drivers and slingers move a huge bedplate down 8 Bay. Listening to them, they were all laughing and joking, I thought, what a great place to work. When I got back, Mr. Jackson asked what took me so long. I told him it had been a very long stand.

 

 
 

During my first year, my only other visit to the shop floor was when I was sent to 18 Bay stores, which was a slight problem as I found out that there were only 17 Bays. I asked various people where 18 Bay was and they sent me from one end of the factory to the other. I ended up wandering round the pond and having a look at the Shunting Engine, which seemed to be a permanent fixture on the lines running round the cricket pitch before finally giving up. There were plenty of practical jokes played in the training school, luckily not all on me.

 

I spent most of my time at Park Works in the Electrical Rotating Machinery Division, working mainly on the Test Bed. Based in 5-8 Bay. It was not always a bed of roses but it was there I spent some of my happiest times. The Test Bed was probably one of the most dangerous places in the factory as I found out on one of my first introductions to the Test Bed with John Cherry from the winders. As we walked down 6 Bay to see one of his windings being tested, there was a big flash of light and a loud bang and a column of smoke rising from the test area. John did a 180-degree turn and headed back to the winders with a few well chosen words suggesting it might not be the best time to have a look round.

 

There have been many different people in charge of the Test Bed. David Thompson was the manager when I was recruited as a Junior Tester. He was always famous for his verbal reprimands – in fact it was almost worth getting into trouble to hear his comments. One of my favourites was ‘you have taken the noble art of incompetent bungling to a new level’ which was heard on more than one occasion while he lectured the young trainees. Although David was strict and liked things done with military precision, I enjoyed working for him. He always stood by his principles and could be relied upon to defend you to the hilt. If anyone had a grievance against any member of his staff, they had to tackle him first.

 

 

 

 

A good example of this was in the office, at Christmas, when there were always lots of cards, decorations and Christmas trees on show. On the shop floor the welders used to have a tree made out of welding rods and scrap metal, decorated with paper cups. So, I thought we should have a bit of Christmas cheer on the test bed. I made a paper chain with the words “Happy Christmas from EL Test” and hung it up on the fence surrounding the test bed. When I came in the next day it had been taken down. When I questioned what had happened David told me that a senior member of staff had ordered the sign to be taken down. But David did not let the matter end there. He went up to the office and demanded everyone else’s decorations should also come down. There was a public outcry from the secretaries and the manager in question soon relented. My Christmas decorations were back in position before the day was over. It was a tradition I carried on every year after that, I’m sure to the annoyance of some managers.

 

The Chief Electrical Tester was Gerry Taylor, who was one of the nicest men you could possibly meet.

 

Reporting to him were a handful of great lads and a few more eccentric ones, who put the motors through their paces before they were despatched. Gerry was well known for his large family. I think there must have been a competition with Arnold Bennett as to who had the most children. The final score was Gerry 9 and Arnold 5, but now the race goes on with Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren.

 

Gerry and myself used to take it in turns to drive each other to work. At the time, Gerry had a Vauxhall Chevet, or more appropriately ‘shove it’ as we had to push it on a number of occasions. One such time was when Gerry called me on the phone to say he couldn’t get the car started, so I drove over to pick him up. As I got near his house I found myself in a traffic jam. At the front of the line was Gerry’s car stuck in the middle of the road. I parked up and ran down to help. Throwing my coat on his front seat I rolled up my sleeves and started pushing. Gerry, always the optimist, thought that the car was going to start so I kept pushing. A couple of hundred yards later the car burst into life and Gerry drove off triumphantly into the distance. This left me stood without a thing, my coat with my keys and money being in Gerry’s car.

 

I stood around waiting for his return to no avail. I eventually walked to the bus stop and begged 50 pence from a girl who felt sorry for me. I finally arrived breathlessly on the test bed only to find Gerry had not turned up in work. Meanwhile, Gerry had made it to the car park only then realising my coat had my keys in. He then drove back to Oldham to find me. In work we thought Gerry must have broken down again and sent search parties up and down Oldham road. We eventually met up and got in work rather later than planned. There was very little testing done that morning!

 

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