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Two Rooms And A View: 114 – Economic Effects

Robert Owen reaches the end of his teaching career.

While the 1980's will be remembered for the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher and The Miners’ Strike, it was a major fire at DABTAC that I recall the best. It was 4 am on Saturday, 15th November, 1985, when I got a telephone call at home telling me the college was on fire.

Believing it to be a hoax, I replied, "Well, keep it going until Monday. I'll deal with it then!" and I put the phone down.

Unfortunately the phone rang again. The call was genuine, and the fire turned out to be one of the worst ever seen in West Yorkshire. As the person responsible for buildings, it caused me a great deal of extra work and I practically lived at college during the next few weeks. One unexpected output was that I made my only ever appearance on local BBC TV explaining the cause and effect of the fire.

Both our sons Michael and David were successful in respective A level examinations and continued their studies at the University of Loughborough, Michael to study Business Studies with French and David to read Mathematics. As one son left, another started. During those six years, our car weaved a well worn route from Huddersfield to Loughborough and back.

Forces of economic change overtook further education colleges in the late nineteen-eighties, causing many redundancies and early retirements. As a result, after teaching for twenty-seven years is six different colleges, I took early retirement in 1992. Angela and I took this opportunity to see something of the world, and during the following years we visited Australia, Canada, U.S.A., and many European countries.

It also gave us the opportunity to exchange our old four-berth caravan for a new two-berth model. Using it we sacrificed continental touring to explore the many lesser known areas of Great Britain. We eventually centred on Rookesbury Park near Fareham in Hampshire as our favourite site. Here, we spent many a long, pleasant holiday.

One of the advantages of caravanning is that you never know who you are going to meet. During the nineteen-nineties, I met two caravanners who helped to bring back nostalgic memories. The first was Alf (or was it John?) Brown with whom I shared a primary education at Fence Houses Junior School - now Woodheys - from 1942 to 1946. He was on the way to the South of France for the summer.

The other was the brother of Vince Carrahar, who was one of the two other apprentices from Shields who started their training at Reyrolles with me in 1951. I was interested to hear that Vince's career had to some extent reflected my own. After National Service he had left Reyrolles, trained to be a teacher and had recently retired as Head of Music from a local High School. If nothing else, this seemed to indicate that engineering apprentices from the mid-Tyne switch-gear firm, are certainly flexible.

During the millennium year I re-visited Flimby (without the caravan), the small village near Maryport where I was evacuated in 1940. The colliery had gone but the 1876-built Infant and Junior School still existed and looked much the same on the outside. Internal inspection however, indicated that it had been extensively modernised.

The school secretary was particularly helpful. Following an earlier telephone call, she had amazingly found Mary Foster, the daughter of Mr and Mrs Foster with whom I was evacuated. When we met, one of the first things Mary said was, "How's your sister Addie?" They had only met once, sixty years earlier!" Mary and I spent a very pleasant afternoon reliving my evacuation in her comfortable home not far from the school and near the now demolished Rise House Cottages where we both used to live.

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