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Shan introduces himself: Came to England in 1976 from Bombay. 0.30, Started in the hosiery at Corah’s in Leicester, did 10 years there. 1.12, Left Corah for an extended stay in India. Returned and got job at BU in 1988 which lasted 15 years before being made redundant. 1.57 Worked in IVI Department where they made tacks and nails. 2.10, then worked in the heat treatment plant. 3.00, Shan has been with only three firms in his working life and they were all good firms. 3.50, 2500 people working at BU when Shan joined. 4.03, How Shan got the job. 6.17, Explains how he had a heart attack and found ways to carry on doing his job. 7.45, IVI began reducing numbers of workers; Shan felt his health difficulties contributed to him being chosen for redundancy. 8.41, Ends.
Date posted: September 19, 2013No Comments
Bob Duncan was a pivotel figure in the seven year struggle of BU pensioners to receive the company pension they lost when BU closed down in 2000. Now retired and living back in his native North East, Bob tells us about his time at BU and his involvement in the ultimately succesful campaign to win back the pensions of hundreds of BU employees.
Summary of recording made on August 7th 2013
Bob explains how he came to work at BU from the North east.1.00, worked in the Assembly Shop building toe-lasting machines, did this for 34 years. 1.20, became a shop steward because nobody else wanted to do it. Later became the trade union Convener. 1.55, Dave Tipton became Deputy Convener, and the two worked closely together. 2.15, became a Trustee of the BU pension scheme in 2000; only six months before BU unexpectedly closed. 2.42, when the firm closed everyone who was still working there lost their pension. 3.00, the Government had said company pension schemes were ‘safe and secure’. Bob and the group took that to mean they were ‘guaranteed’, and this was the basis of their fight for justice. 3.25, Bob became one of the four campaigners in the Pension Action Group led by Ros Altman. 3.40, there were many visits at all hours to Parliament and meetings with politicians. 4.20, met with the Public Accounts Select Committee and Bob was asked by a Labour member whether he would have joined the pension scheme had he known it wasn’t safe and secure. Bob answered ‘I might be a thick Geordie, but I’m not a stupid Geordie’. That is now recorded in Hansard. 4.50, After nearly five years the Government eventually caved in prior to the case going to the House of Lords. People were paid 90% of their entitlement. 5.30, Bob retired six years ago and now lives back in the North east. The BU pension struggle he was involved in for many years now seems like a distant memory. 5.55, Ends.
Date posted: September 5, 2013No Comments
Gordon Biggs was born in 1922. He began work at the BU aged 14 years in 1936 and retired 46 years later in 1982. This recording was made on 20th March 2012. Gordon describes his progress at the BU and talks in detail about the tasks he carried out.
Introduction – 1936. 0.30 – First day, met Joe Moore. Errand boy for the first year. 1.25 – Sticking blue prints on boards. 1.35 – How Gordon got the job. 2.12 – Transfer to the Tool room. Making marking tools. How this was done. 3.45 – Working on a speed lathe; making taps and gauges. 4.40 – ENDs
A typical working day. 1.08 – Clocking in. 2.08 – Taking lunch to the canteen. 2.56 – Smoking time. 3.20 – Knocking off, 5pm. 3.46 – Wartime changes. Asked to work nights. 7.30-7, night and day, six shifts a week. 5.14 – Quiz time at breaks. 5.57 – Sirens going off. 6.50 – BU firewatchers. 7.20 – ENDs
After the war. Tool design office. 0.54 – Worked in the Drawing Room designing tools. 1.08 – Back to the Tool room as assistant foreman. Then foreman after two years. 1.50 – Stayed as foreman until 1980. 2.23 – Job satisfaction. Producing good machines. The BU was a good firm to work for. The Institute. 3.32 – The Ambulance room during the war became a dentists. 4.28 – Hairdresser came in two days a week. 4.56 – Money not great, but job for life. 5.08 – Today no job secure. People did leave for extra money. BU apprenticed people were well trained and skilled. 6.15 – Quarter Century Club. 7.12 – Annual dinner. 7.40 – Made a trustee in 1980. 8.12 – Associated companies that attended club meetings. 8.36 – ENDs
Appointed equipment engineer. Reponsible for purchasing new machine tools, and selling old machines. 0.53 – Management secretary of joint production committee. Met monthly. 1.50 – The work chugging along happily. 2.30 – Cannot remember a BU dispute. 3.05 – Permanent job: Good friendships. 3.56 – Daryl Watkins. 4.30 – Emhart pension. 5.22 – ENDs
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Frank Smith (DoB, 20th October 1918), interviewed in July 2012, recalls his life and work at BU.
Starting with the desperately sad death of his father in World War One, one month before his birth, and concluding with the summing up remark ‘Been Busy’.
0.12, Lived in Loughborough. Recalls the sad death of his father in WW1 a month before he was born
0.30, Lived just with his mother until 10 years old. Mother met a chap who was a knife-smith who worked in the Knife Shop at the BU.
0.58, At the BU they used large 4 inch knives to cut thick sole leather
1.30, Frank’s mother married again; to Herbert Arnold; who already had three children. They moved to new house in Leicester on Turnbull Drive.
2.05, Frank moved school during scholarship year, went to Folville Rise in Braunstone, but didn’t get the A1 grade needed for grammar school, instead he went to intermediate school.
3.25, When he was 14 Frank was taken to the BU where a number of simple tests took place
4.00, First job at the BU; Errand Boy in 1932. Assigned to a works department at 12 shillings a week, for 48 and a half hours (2.96 pence per hour!).
5.25, Family men were earning £3 week – £3’10 shillings with bonuses
5.54, Frank’s saving grace was the apprentice scheme.
6.22, Invited to be apprentice. Two full days at technical college, plus three evenings a week (7-9.30) in your own time.
7.25, Assigned to X Department. Not production, but design for new machinery. Huge variety of tasks. Great for learning and training. Something of everything.
9.05, Record ends.
Born in Loughborough 20/10/18. Coming up to 94 years of age. Moved to Leicester in 1928 and started at the BU in 1932.
1.06, Frank knew of BU before starting there. Of Mr Klee, who ran the knife shop. Of the Bennions, and Bennion and Pearson. On the front of Union works, by MacDonald Road, there was an inscription to these men.
2.35, There were two major shoe machinery firms in Leicester then. Gimson was the other (later became Bostik), on Ulverscroft Road, which later amalgamated with the BU.
3.40, Claude Bennion, MD, introduced the Quarter Century Club scheme. £100 gift when you became a member. Which bought a £99 Ford car then. That figure hardly rose.
4.33, The American USM had amalgamated with the BU previously. Still US foremen about; Mr Hussey in charge of the Milling dept.
5.43, Recording ends.
0.50, The Government brought in conscription for all men over 20 years of age. In the services or in the mines.
1.40, Many 19 year old young men (every walk of life) joined the Territorial Army, including Frank.
2.30, Joined an Artillery battery; lack of uniform. Spring 1939.
3.22, Summer camp for two weeks. Still paid by BU. Back to work on Monday morning then on Friday night of that week – Called up. War declared on the Sunday.
4.10, Shipped off to France in Jan 1940. Equipment was all relics from WW1.
5.04, After Dunkirk. Back in UK, all BU conscripts offered chance to return to factory as new fighting machinery needed. 80% did. Frank stayed on, as a gun fitter. Knew only one other man who did. He was glad he did.
6.29, Recording ends.
BU took on about a dozen Cambridge engineering graduates every year. Ensured the future backbone of the company – along with qualified apprentices.
0.55, Technical college (later DeMontfort Uni) training was very good; almost up to degree standard.
1.43, This training helped Frank in the army and helped him get commissioned. As well as better set when returned to BU post war.
2.20, Time in the Forces. From France to India as Seargeant. Then Ceylon, then officer training. Then Indian Army Ordnance Corps on NW frontier. Made Captain, in the Indian army.
5.45, Moved across road to Burma, held up by floods at Karampur. Posted on to another division in Burma. A workshop company. Chittagong then Burma proper. 70 men to command. Their main role was maintaining guns for an infantry brigade
8.12, Three years service there, till end of war.
8.25, Recording ends.
Flurry of bicycles; bicycle racks
0.25, Only the directors had cars at the BU
0.29, Belgrave Road looked like the Tour de France
0.36, Getting your bike wheel jammed in the tram lines
0.51, Recording ends.
Total service of 48 years at the BU. (subtract seven years for war service and pre apprenticeship) Returned to BU in ’46 or ’47.
Career at BU after the war
0.35, Given full training programme on return. Wages back to £6.19 shillings and sixpence after receiving a Major’s salary in the army
1.28, Initially put in the Drawing Office. Followed by the Experimental Drawing Office.
2.08, Joined the company pension scheme. 5s a week it cost.
3.33, 1951. Moved into the chemical side of things from mechanical engineering. Describes the different components used in the factory. Frank had a small development team for all these tasks.
6.48, The BU wanted a new machine for impregnating and coating base materials. Many specialist jobs like this. Ideas into production units. 12 years working here.
9.38, Recording ends.
Transferred to shoemaking machinery side from accessories research.
0.25, Three research sections; Upper Machinery; top parts of shoe and sewing and sticking together; then Closing. Then Lasting, the shaping of the shoe upper into shoe form.
1.30, Frank had Section 1. Lasting. 1962-76.
3.25, Recording ends.
0.30, ‘FS’ team – George Barton, chief designer; Phil Reader, assistant manager.
0.56, Test fitters role.
1.25, Helped design a new automatic machine that won a gold medal in Leipzig. Alas gold plated, not solid gold.
2.10, 1979. Asked to be President of the Quarter Century Club.
3.20, QCC Annual dinner. About 1500 people attended. Used to be at Granby Halls, but moved to DeMontfort Hall in Frank’s year.
4.30, Handed over presidency to Tom White
4.40, Continued managing Lasting dept research then promoted to Technical Manager; therefore left research dept. Was responsible for Works drawing office, time setting office, all technical functions, and appointed to board of management, although not a director. Tim Watts appointed at the same time.
6.20, Four years there until retirement in 1981.
6.44, Recording ends.
Retirement – Demise of BU after Frank retired
0.20, New director brought in at BU, Burton.
1.00, Retired as an ‘Emhart pensioner’, as this was the owner of BU at that point.
1.30, Emhart bought out in 1990s by Black and Decker and then Frank became a B & D pensioner. Soon got a good rise! But nothing since 1997!
2.12, Then followed a management buy out in the late 90s. Business diminishing due to foreign competition. Gradual closure and disappearance.
3.30, Recording ends
Retirement – Frank’s son was working in a shoe factory in Blaby. Frank helped there for a year or two. Then that factory closed.
0.40, Since then mostly doing reading, painting water colours and watching sport on TV. And caravanning with his wife.
1.15, ‘Been busy.’
1.18, Recording ends.
Date posted: June 11, 20131 Comment