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The Reyrolle Story: 33 - Dry Humour

Dry humour and practical jokes helped the days to go by at the huge Reyrolle engineering works, as Robert Owen reveals in the latest chapter of his history of the firm.

To purchase a copy of Robert's book please 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

Dry humour was a well used commodity in the factory. The numerous and popular tea ladies who brought a tea trolley around the works twice a day, were often the recipients of this humour. They were usually more mature females blessed with a broad imagination, thick-skin and an easy tongue. Often the only females seen all day in some departments, which explained the verbal flirtations and sexual fencing that often took place as the fitters collected their tea.

New apprentices in the works were often exploited by practical jokes. Being sent for a tin of elbow grease, sparks for the grinder or a left-handed screwdriver were common pranks. The favourite however, was perhaps being sent to the stores first thing in the morning for "a long stand".

A small number of departments in the factory were completely staffed by females. One such department was the Transformer Room where the two Maggies (Lee and Hewitt) tried to control over 100 young women. It had a fiery reputation and years ago it is claimed a good looking, naive apprentice inadvertently strayed into the Transformer Room and was never seen again!

Reyrolle had a First Aid Centre at both Hebburn and New Town Works, and Factory Doctor, Dr Rich, and Nurses Jamieson and Thompson, were kept busy with a multitude of minor accidents. The firm's Accident Prevention Committee attempted to keep mishaps to a minimum but where it failed, accidents were recorded in the Secretary's Letter Books. It made interesting reading; the most repeated complaint was a strained back, possibly, due to incorrect lifting; the most amusing, possibly, the worker who presented himself first thing in the morning with a broken finger, obtained "While running for the 5:18pm No 87 bus to Marsden, the previous evening".

If the wind was blowing in a certain direction, an obnoxious smell might also have been good reason to visit the first aid room. The repugnant odour came from Williamson and Corder's Glue factory across the river at Low Walker, although many people mistakenly blamed nearby Haggies Rope Works. The smell was so powerful that even during the summer months, doors were kept closed at the New Town Works.


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