Every section had one or more Labourers to support the skilled men. On the Winders there was Russell who seemed to spend most of his time going to and from the toilets up in Roller Shutter Dept. I later found out he did not have a serious bladder problem, but was a bookies' runner, putting bets on from the Fitters and Winders.
The test bed labourer was Tommy Keenan who made the worst cup of tea you have ever tasted. No matter how many tea bags you brought in for him you always ended up with a good helping of tea leaves floating in your mug. In spite of Tommys lack of tea brewing skills he was always friendly and helpful. If you ever wanted to know what was going on in the company, you did not have to read the notice board; Tommy knew everything first. He was always able to tell you official or unofficial information, with shop floor gossip being a speciality. Tommy was on first name terms with all the Managers especially Les Thompson, who always seemed to get a perfect cup of tea.
The Winding Section was made up of a close-knit group of men including John Cherry, Wally Ball, Dennis Dombavand, and Bob Faugel. Each of them had a totally different personality but still worked well together.
There was also the larger-than-life Ken Lee - and Dave Lomas, one of the quieter lads, but who would do anything to help you. Some have passed away but there are still plenty of old faces who turn up at the Long Service Association Reunions.
Next to the Electrical Test was Pump Test. At the top end of the test bed, near 8 Bay lift was the pump test offices and computer room. In the 1970s we used to have our efficiency calculations and test certificates printed on the computer situated there. It was the size of a fitted wardrobe. We used to load a boot-up cassette, punch in a start-up sequencer number stand back and watch the computer jump into life and shake around like a cheap washing machine. The computer had a link up with Houston, Texas, and sometimes could take quite a while for the results to come up on the printer. But it was never a problem waiting for the printout - the computer room was climate controlled, cool in summer and warm in winter. Also there was the added bonus of having a chat with Sue, the keyboard operator.
The Pump Test Bed stretched from 8 to 11 Bay. It was made up of a collection of girders, bedplates and a maze of pipework above a massive tank of water (750,000 gallons). It was this tank of water that caused the great flood of 1985.
Every year the tank had to be drained and cleaned out. A full weekend of fun and games, as long as you did not mind getting wet and very dirty. It was also a chance to collect items that had been dropped into the water during the year spanners by the dozen, watches, radios, instruments, and usually a pocket full of change, in fact anything that could possibly fall in usually did, including a Test Engineer now and then. It was after just such a pit-cleaning weekend that the whole factory was flooded out while the tanks were being refilled overnight.
Unfortunately there was a problem with a valve and the water kept flowing out slowly but surely filling the tanks then one by one each of the bays. By morning a surreal sight greeted everybody coming into the factory - the gangways had become a landscape of hills, valleys and lakes.
Most of the floor was made of wooden blocks. They had soaked up water like a sponge, swelling up and distorting. We had to paddle through the water to get to the Test Bed and start to salvage test reports that were gently floating across the bays.
After the initial shock and amusement the main task was to get things back to normal as soon as possible, including digging up the floor and draining all of the water away. I think the Test Bed was hardest hit as most of the cables and buzzbars were under the floorboards.
It took three weeks of pumping out, mopping up and drying out, not one of the best jobs I ever had! We had had minor floods over the years, with blocked drains and leaking joints, but never to the extent of the summer of 85. One good thing did come out of it. The new concrete floor improved the image of the factory, which might never have happened if not for the flood.