Anchored off in the lee of bum island reflecting of recent happenings at work resurrected perhaps past performances of items still photographed firmly in the back of the old brain. Looking back on it all, so many many engine hours ago on my counter of life this one certainly seems to stand out more than others. The one happening which perhaps made the biggest impression on me as a boy in my second year of a five year apprenticeship occurred in approx 1961 and still stands out as the one that was the most audacious and certainly caused the most trouble of all the five years served amongst us apprentices. It all began with of all things a Weir Pump on a steamship we were at the time doing a complete refit on. One of the senior apprentices was tasked with doing a major stripdown of same and as such it was discovered that the parent bore of the steam cylinder had the usuall barrel effect wear present. Thus the offending part was removed from the ship, craned ashore and back to the fitting shop where alas it was discovered that as it was very old another cylinder assembly was no longer available. Much discussion between the ship owners and our workshop manager followed and the outcome was to bore out the parent diameter and make up and fit a liner. In other words sleeve it. Now this had been done many times before and as such the casting was set up by the apprentice in a lathe and carefully bored out. A close grain seasoned cast iron oversized liner was obtained and subsequently machined by the senior apprentice to be pressed as an interference fit into the original casting of the pump. This operation was carried out but the final fit was to be witnessed by Bill H, the workshop senior machinist who would ensure the OD and the ID had been machined out correctly. When the liner was pressed into the parent bore Bill H was away for the day and rather than wait the apprentice, who had done many of these operations before decided as he knew it all he would finish the job off himself. When Bill H returned to work next day someone ( who had it in for the apprentice who carried out the repairs ) put it about that " you should have seen the centre pop marks on the sleeve as it went in " and to cut a long story short it was decided to turn up a mandrel and a strong back and pull the liner, much to the protests of the apprentice concerned. Sure enough the first few inches of the liner revealed several centre punch marks which had been applied to ensure a "force fit ". In other words, a cock up job. Out came the liner and another liner obtained and machined correctly by Bill H to ensure that no pop marks were necessary to ensure a force fit. A proper job this time. Now the apprentice concerned had to endure much ribbing from other apprentices plus a big bollocking from management over this and as such swore to enact revenge within the three months he had left in order to complete his time. As he could not find out who started the centre pop rumour he decided it was down to Bill H who had pulled the liner. It was yet again the standard old cry, "that old b stards got to be taught a lesson, he's got to be shown who's boss " This saying prevailed throught my five years and was the party piece saying when someone considered that someone else was needed to be taught a lesson. Several weeks passed by and nothing happened until the workshop manager and the workshop charge hand were off together for the day. As this was a very unusual happening full advantage was taken of this by the senior apprentice concerning flywheel bolts locking wire, paint cans and of all things coffee. His parents had a guest house and as such purchased large tins of coffee in bulk and Dennis L had learnt the properties of its high Diuretic content and this fact was to be a major contribution to his plot and as such it was necessary to take full advantage of this new found knowledge. Thus eight am one fateful morning we were all instructed by DL to consume several cups of coffee within the next two hours oand this had to be pumped out into a four pint paint tin placed in our fitting shop toilet and to that effect this was closely monitored by DL and his cronies by virtue of a yellow chalk plimsol mark both running vertically and horizontally around inside the can together with a scriber from a surface plate. As each apprentice attended his contribution " pump out " DL was closely monitoring their performance to ensure as he put it " as everyone was directly involved there could be no one bubbling anyone else for should they do this then they would be bubbling themselves and any abstainers were thus threatened with a promise of what would happen to them should they abstain from their. " contribution " into the plot. We all knew full well what this meant and as such indeed the tin level grew and grew until it was over half full. Now as I have said before our workshop was around sixty feet high and perhaps around two hundred plus feet long. Sixty feet up sat a huge electric motor in its own engineroom and through a large hole in the wall their was a two foot wide flat belt which drove shafting both sides of the workshop for its entire length. Several belts both sides fed several machines, large lathes, drills, shapers, milling machines and power hacksaws, each machine was clutched in and out as necessary throught the day and the clatter of all this belting went on all and every day. Now dear old Bill H the machinist was 74 years old, been round the world one hundred times at sea, seen several torpedoes come through the ships side in the war, and was a very very experienced hand. At his age his sole interest left in life was drinking gallons of Scrumpy, ( rough cider, tried it a few times but continually exhausting to atmosphere after a session decided to move onto beer which was by far a better investment and would stay on board ) His favourite concoction was Scrumpy and black currant which very closely resembled L.F.O and not only looked like it but tasted like it, in my view very similar indeed complete with lumps in suspension just like dirt and bugs in a sight glass on a fuel line. When you cocked up a machining job or was not sure of a problem jobby Bill H was the man to see. I still make use of the many things this man taught me concerning engineering and quick way out situations when encountering problems to this very day. Now old Bill in view of his age only worked 10 am till 4 pm each day and as such would arrive at the workshop at 9. 45 am prompt every day. Dennis L was fully aware of this and running his operation with military precision planned to take full advantage of this. At 9.30 prompt he announced that no more diuretic contributions would be required and as such the can in the toilet was subversely removed from the toilets and taken into the workshop. At this moment in time all would be revealed for at the far end of the flat belting there sat a painters tin securely wire locked onto the belting via holes drilled into the top part of the tin. This was the reason why the flywheel bolts locking wire was on a bench for there was no engines being stripped and overhauled at this time nearby. The contents of about 10 or 12 apprentices contributions were carefully transferred into the wired on tin through the wire belt guard under which the tin sat. Dear old Bills daily start up at work never varied , day by day. On with his overhauls, trilby hat firmly in place, ever present pipe removed from his mouth , a small bearing scraper used to "de coke " the pipe and noisily tap out the pipe on the lathe bed, ram St Bruno tobacco into it, tamp it down and he would then flash up the pipe with the ever present swan vesta matches, the ones with the red tips. At this point I am reminded of many of the workshop and engineroom staff who throught the working day wore trilbys at work, ( haven't seen this for years ) Bent closely over the valve casting/ piston ring, whatever the job was in the chuck to ensure nothing had moved overnight etc he would , without looking reach out for the operating lever alongside the lathe to engage the drive mechanism. This was another highly polished idler pulley ( polished by 30 years plus of use age ) which would be pushed into the already on standby drive belt causing it to go over centre and engage the drive. Unknown to dear old Bill he had invertly started a process from which there was no return. Although he had a dozen pairs of eyes on him apprentices in the know we're trying to miss nothing yet not be seen to be watching him and be any part of the plot. Thus the tin and its contents rapidly began its irreversible rapid travel to the point of the end of the belting run whereby it entered the radii of the end pulley and as such threw the whole contents of the tin squarely over old Bill and although his overhauls and trilby copped a lot some caught one side of his face unprotected. Screams of shock and horror rapidly turned to tears of rage when by licking his lips it became obvious to him exactly what the contents were. Apprentices rushed over to " help " him and the machine still being clutched in now and on every circuit told the tale of what had happened to other fitters in the workshop who were not in on the plan. Whizzing round and round clearly displaying the wired on tin it was a plain to all onlookers not in the know that this was no accident at all. Apprentices who had directly assisted to bring this about vowed that " legs would be broken over this when the person responsible was revealed " and management were duly summoned . Dear old Bill was subsequently sent home, the job he was doing unfinished for the day and each of us was summoned one by one before the Managing Director to be interviewed over a several days period.
Apprentices whom management considered to be more involved than others were told that their interviews would have to be conducted with their parents present and as such this ran on for weeks and weeks during which time Dennis L the main culprit had done his five years and gone to sea. As we all had, how can I say more than a " hand " in it nothing was said and although suspicions were bandied about and all apprentices knew the main culprit was never caught or his I D revealed. Perhaps because of my age at the time of this happening or the sheer audacity of it all this has remainded with me very vividly for some 54 years forever photographed / embellished in the back of my brain and although many many other things of this nature went on for the five years apprenticeship years I think this one really " took the p ss! "
Remembering The Good Old days, when Chiefs stood watches and all Torque settings were F.T.