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The Reyrolle Story: Twenty-Four - Record Profits

...He also remembers happy days socialising with other graduate students and the annual drinking competition which was won by an allegedly non-drinking Sheik!...

Robert Owen tells of a man who went through Reyrolle's Graduate Scheme then later became a university professor.

To read earlier chapters of Robert's history of the huge engineering firm please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_reyrolle_story/

To purchase a copy of his book visit http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reyrolle-Story-History-Co-Ltd/dp/1905295073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245678876&sr=1-1

It was the early 1950s before any major rebuilding of the UK's infrastructure could be observed. As the demand for electricity increased, Reyrolle's order book improved and the number of employees grew. Demand for electricity was such that in 1952 the nations 132KV Grid System was overlaid with a new 275KV Grid. This in turn was superseded in 1960 by a 400KV Supergrid.

During the 1950s, Chairman Sir Claude Gibb's Annual Review of each year to the Board of Directors read like a recurring record. "Increase in Orders", "Another Successful Year" "Improved Dividend" and "Record Profit" confirmed the continued success of the Company. In 1957, the Chairman reported "Substantial higher value of orders together with new production records", and a Christmas Bonus of 62,245 shared between 8000 employees (or approx 8 each).

A minor set-back to productivity took place in 1954 when the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) called a one-day strike. Only managers and apprentices were left at work and not much output was achieved.

Reyrolle had apprentice problems which led to the shortage of draughtsmen in the 1950s. Many apprentices, after earning higher than normal wages on piecework in the factory, were giving up their studies and not going on to the drawing office. Such was the shortage of draughtsmen during these busy years that some adults of varying experience were recruited for training to work in the drawing office.

More successful was the Company's Graduate Scheme. This was a structured two-year programme for graduates, many who came from overseas. It provided a valuable training ground for many of the Company's future engineers both at home and abroad. While numbers varied, there were always sufficient to run a Reyrolle Student Association and organise an active social life. The annual "Spring Fling" at The Majestic, South Shields will be remembered by many.

Ernie Wadham retired in 1956 after working for 10 years as Education and Training Officer, a job which entailed supervising the Graduate Students. He spoke highly of them saying "These young men came from all over the world and to work with them was a most enhancing experience. The majority returned home after training and are looked upon as Reyrolle ambassadors".

One product of the Graduate Student system was David Little who worked at Reyrolle from 1965 to 1970. He recalls training by Eddie Chew who was then Production Controller and R. Rumbles who was Manager of the Light Engineering Shop. The training must have been effective because David went on to be Professor of Manufacturing Systems at the University of Huddersfield. He also remembers happy days socialising with other graduate students and the annual drinking competition which was won by an allegedly non-drinking Sheik!

Some graduates got more than they expected during their two year's training. Thoral Janson a student from South Africa met Doris-Ann Kinelato, Secretary to the Contracts Manager, during his time at Reyrolle. Whether they met at the Majestic is unknown but they married in 1964 and forty years later are still together in South Africa.


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