My next part of my training by Alan Swinburne

Following my “interesting” training at Templetown Brickworks Lab my next placement was in the General Lab in the Technical Research Department.The TRD was situated at the top of the Canyon Road and in addition to the General Lab it housed The Metallurgical,Water and Refractory Labs,Chief Metallurgists and Chief Chemists Office,Library ,Workshop,Sample Preparation Room and Section Managers Offices.


          It was a completely different working enviroment from Templetown but I still met a number of characters and was given a very good training carrying out chemical anaylsis mainly of steel using “wet” analysis methods.

It was a fairly strict regime compared to Templetown ,you had to ready to start at 9.00am prompt and were not allowed to leave after work until the Lab was tidy and all the valuable items such as Platinum Crucibles were accounted for and locked away in the safe.

I remember on one occasion a crucible was unaccounted for and we were kept in the Lab for about 15 minutes until the crucible was found – in a Senior Chemists laboratory coat pocket!! 

Although the Lab was open plan (see photographs) it was divided into two areas,one area where all the technicians and trainees worked the other where all the Senior Chemists worked,as one the very Senior Chemists was known as Mexican Ed because of his moustash,that area was known as Mexico and very rarely did we cross the ” border “!


Every  day you were given several samples of steel drillings and had to analysis them for a certain chemical element- Carbon,Sulphur,Phosphorous,Manganese or Silicon.Analysis of elements such as Vandium,Copper,Nickel etc were carried out by the Senior Chemists.


In addition to the analysis of steel products the analysis of Blast Furnace Gases was also carried out.


Although we worked Day Shift in the General Lab  we provided cover for the shift Chemists in the Steelplant Lab and there was always an almighty scramble when the Cover Rota went up as not only did you get Shift Allowance but some was classed as overtime,a welcome addition  to our pay packets.


As I’ve said it was a more sedate enviroment than Templetown,but we still had many social and sporting events,it seemed every couple of weeks there was a reason for a social night out mostly in the Stirling Castle for a Stag Night,Leaving Presentation etc.

Also we were always having in house and Inter Department sporting competitions.It was a time when you made great friends,people who I am still in touch with now

We went on holidays together and one work colleague was my Best Man,worked as my Manager when I was in business after the closure and are still good friends 55 years later.

Also several married couples met in the TRD .It was also customary,as it was in all departments, to have a collection and presentation on the occasion of someone getting married or leaving.The third photo shows such a presentation, and the next photograph shows the successful TRD football team which won the inter department football knockout,a very hotly contested competition .

There was very good footballers who worked in the TRD at that time,one of which was Malcom Young who played scrum half for England Rugby team.(bottom left) 

There were several characters in the TRD,but one who was known to everybody was “Wor” Jacky Herdman. As well as being a Chemist Jacky was a farmer and because of my background he always looked out for me.

I spent many hours with Jacky delivering eggs around the works,and the odd turkey or two at Christmas.!.

Jacky also kept a small flock of sheep near the Raven Pub and when they were ready for market he would “recruit” a couple of us,hide us in the back of his van and set off on the pretence of collecting water  samples at the Fell Coke Works.

After rounding up the sheep our reward was a pint shandy in the Raven.

Happy days!!!. 

Jacky farmed at Esp Green and during a particulary bad winter had difficulty getting to work in his van so he came to work on a horse which he “stabled”in the Generator House.

This made the local Press ,see photograph

He liked the odd pint and I was told that on at least on occasion the horse arrived home before Jacky who had an unfortunate dismount after leaving the pub.


It may appear it was all play but no work but I can assure everyone, that the training and responsibily to get things right were very important,and in between the fun times we worked very hard and also still attended day and night classes at  the Technical College, but there was great comradeship through the whole department , a very enjoyable place to work.

The HCSW project team would like to thank Alan for this latest chapter about his working life at the Consett Steelworks

5 thoughts on “My next part of my training by Alan Swinburne”

    1. I remember the cricket final of the works knockout was between the TRD&Engine Sheds. The TRDhad organized a presentation straight after thinking they were going to win as they had two Pakistani Test players studying to be metalergists that did not happen.

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