Industry: water, steel & energy

Graham, Jim (1 of 6) National Life Story Collection: An Oral History of the Water Industry

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  • Recording date

    2011-10-10, 2011-10-11

  • Interviewees

    Graham, Jim, 1946- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Gilmour, Alison (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: [Session one: 10 October 2011] Jim Graham [JG]. Description of early memories. Description of house; lived with sister, father, mother in downstairs flat. Uncle Bob lived upstairs. Description of playing cricket with father, using a cracket (stool) as the wicket. Mentions outside wash house, toilet, tap in backyard. Comments on Mondays being wash days; mother did washing. Description of meals on different days of the week. Mentions favourite treat. Lists 'pop' drinks available from the pop man. Mentions buying groceries from Co-op van. Comments on buying pop. [5:37] Description of rented family house, South Shields. Comments on getting water from backyard tap. Description of wash house, mother's role washing on Mondays. Comments on using outside toilet. [9:55] Description of lighting in the house. Mentions sharing bedroom with sister. Description of bedroom. Comments on sharing bedroom with sister. Mentions living there until JG was 16, sister got married aged 22. Comments on hearing people next door; description of neighbouring terraced houses. Sister called Margaret [MG]. Description of relationship with MG, mentions MG has died. Description of MG's personality; comparison to JG. Comments on playing football, remarks on school. Mentions MG was caring, looked after mother. [17:23] Comments on parents' aspirations: father was miner, did not want JG to be a miner. Comments on father's education; mentions he played football. Comments on father buying JG magazine editions for a science encyclopaedia. Mentions father died when JG was 16. JG started work aged 15; comments on father's response, mentions father became ill. Remarks on mother's aspirations for JG; mother's duty to look after her parents, mother never worked. Description of mother, doing homework together. Mother called Margaret Anne [MAG], father called James [JGA]. Mother's maiden name was Crake, she also came from mining community. Mentions MAG worked in mine offices. Mentions JGA started as a labourer. Comments on not having much money; mentions JGA started working on the face of the mine a couple of years before he died. [24:43] JGA hated work. Description of JGA washing in front of fire; seeing his cuts and bruises. Remarks on visiting pits. Mentions JGA's interest in his colleagues; comments on the mining community. [26:09] Comments on impact of seeing JGA after work at different ages: mentions attending secondary modern, the assumption that JG would be a labourer. Remarks on interview with careers teacher when JG said he would be an electrical engineer; response from teacher about becoming an electrician. Comments on possibilities at secondary modern. Mentions turning point for JG was JAG dying, because mother and sister could not work. Description of interview for apprenticeship with Electricity Board; being unsuccessful. Description of Reyrolles company [A. Reyrolle & Company] where JG did apprenticeship until 1974. [31:34] Comments on sense of the mining community as a child. Comments on not having much money: mentions JGA did not work for months after being trapped underground for four days, was unpaid. Remarks on feelings about own childhood. Comments on attitude of mining community. Mentions there were three Jim Grahams in family. [34:52] Description of family's response to JG's apprenticeship: comments on mining being dangerous. Description of JGA's work clothing; cuts looked like tattoos because of coal. Grandparents were also miners. JG and cousin Jim were only two in family who did not go into mining. [37:45] JGA died from stomach cancer; description of hospital tests and operation. Description of MAG telling children JGA could not work anymore. Description of JGA's response to JG's apprenticeship; comments on JGA being ill. Mentions attending night classes for technicians’ course and Higher National course, being offered work in research laboratories. Comments on colleagues in laboratories. JG studied with Open University. [41:14] Comments on father discussing industrial politics, mentions National Union of Mineworkers. [43:32] Description of evening routine. Mentions comics: 'Dandy', 'Beano', 'Eagle', 'Tiger', 'Lion'. Description of family holidays: to Butlins in Filey, to Bowness near Carlisle. Description of railways 'Away Day Pass'. Comments on local community not going on holiday frequently; mentions JGA never had a car. Comments on jobs held by women in community: MG was Secretary in biscuit factory, others worked at Wrights Biscuit Factory, cleaners. [48:54] Description of dominant employers in North East, late 1950s: shipyards, ship manufacturing on River Tyne, steel industry. Comments on not knowing what an Electrical Engineer was. Remarks on careers interview. Job title at Reyrolles was Electrical Apprentice. Story about seeing pamphlet for Reyrolles before interview; description of interview. Mentions visiting library to learn about Reyrolles. [56:38] Description of first day at Stanhope Road Infants School. Attended Stanhope Road Juniors and Stanhope Road Seniors School. Reflects on feelings about going to school. Description of teachers: Mr Josephs, Killer Crowell and his punishments, Mr Hancock. Comments on getting the cane. Mentions not telling parents. Comments on being treated as someone responsible by parents; remarks on disappointment being worse than punishment. [1:04:14] Mentions favourite and least favourite subjects at school. Description of making crackets at school. [1:06:10] Comments on taking eleven-plus examination, being let down by maths questions. Reflects on finding out JG had failed eleven-plus. Mentions friends did not go to grammar school. [1:09:14] Mentions taking Northern Counties examinations at Stanhope Secondary Modern. Comments on eleven-plus. Reflects on changes to life after JGA died. Comments on apprenticeship at Reyrolles. Remarks on size of Reyrolles company, slogan: 'Reyrolle, the Rolls-Royce of switchgear'. Description of apprenticeship. Mentions doing piecework, earning money. Comments on MAG's widow’s pension; family did not receive money from Coal Board after JGA died in 1962. Comments on working in different departments during five year apprenticeship. Comments on deciding to work in research laboratories, earning less. [1:17:30] Description of JG as a young man leaving school, 1962. Comments on opportunities at the time. Mentions people left school at 15 but apprenticeships started aged 16; comments on this gap between school and work. [1:20:34] Description of first day on apprenticeship: travelling to Hebburn, standing up all day. Comments on not being mollycoddled by trainers. Comments on learning to make test plates. Mentions not working with fellow apprentices again. [1:26:53] Comments on earning money and camaraderie in apprenticeship; mentions missing spending time with people in retirement. Remarks on technicians’ course. Comments on qualifications of colleagues. [1:29:18] Comments on course attended at South Tyneside Technical College. Mentions work done on technical course was unrelated to apprenticeship work. Protection equipment was made in relay shop; comments on workers not knowing functions of equipment. Remarks on reaching Technical Department. [1:34:38] Description of shop floor workers' backgrounds. Comments on opportunities to progress at Reyrolles. [1:36:36] Remarks on apprenticeship, working in different areas. Comments on receiving first wages: following JGA's example, giving wages to MGA until JG married. Mentions Brenda's [BG] father had a good job. Mentions receiving pocket money from wages; going out with friends. Remarks on passing Higher National aged 21; asking Reyrolles to send JG on day release for a degree at Open University. Description of credit system at Open University. [1:42:37] Comments on joining research laboratory: mentions Reyrolles Training Manager's chart documenting apprenticeships. Description of role of engineers and technicians in research laboratories creating breadboard circuits. Joined laboratory as technician. Comments on working with Geoff Evans [GE], learning about electronics. Gives number of colleagues. Comments on opportunity to stay in research laboratory role after apprenticeship; considering change to wages. [1:50:41] Remarks on thoughts about future career towards end of apprenticeship. Comments on response to graduates in this industry. [1:55:11] Description of GE: Chartered Electrical Engineer who was Area President for Institution of Electrical Engineers. GE became disheartened with Reyrolles. Remarks on reasons for reduction of Reyrolles employees. GE moved to Merz McLellan. Comments on JG's awareness of the market at the time; discussions relating to unions and people leaving company. Offered Engineer position in 1974, but applied for Electrical Assistant role at Sunderland & South Shields Water Company and got the job. [2:02:06] Description of work done in research laboratory relating to systems for control of electricity. Comments on enjoying work. Description of a typical project, comments on size of components. Comments on colleagues, mentions Ronnie Niven [RN]. Mentions feeling 'second class' in role. Comments on needing to have the qualifications to become an Engineer at Reyrolles; comparison to water industry [Telephone rings]. [2:11:29] Comments on hearing about Open University: mentions Labour manifesto. Comments on wanting to be an engineer; awareness of number of graduates working at Reyrolles. Mentions MAG suggested Open University to JG; remarks on appeal of Open University over Sunderland Polytechnic. Mentions GE spoke to Head of Laboratories who agreed to sponsor JG's tuition. [2:16:03] Mentions MAG's response. JG studied Bachelor of Arts in Science. Mentions loving the OU (Open University). Description of practical experiments done at home, meeting tutors. RN took course at same time. Comments on course dropout rate. Mentions doing Masters degree afterwards. Course material arrived via post with accompanying television programmes. Description of assessments. [2:23:49] Comments on balancing work and studies: BG's help, having first child. Comments on Open University material helping JG at work. Mentions weekly study routine. Comments on staying motivated. Finished course in 1978. Remarks on course summer schools held in Durham and York. Reflects on completing degree. [2:29:09] [Interviewee and Interviewer look at photographs] Mentions graduation held at Newcastle University which MAG attended. [Telephone rings] Description of reasons for leaving Reyrolles, 1974: mentions applying for job in new department of Sunderland & South Shields Water Company. Water Company funded remaining Open University fees. Remarks on changes to water companies in 1974.

  • Description

    Life Story Interview with Jim Graham, Operations Director, Northumbrian Water

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