Industry: water, steel & energy

Gronow, Colin (7 of 9). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Recording date

    2014-10-22, 2014-10-18, 2014-12-16, 2015-01-34

  • Interviewees

    Gronow, Colin, 1929- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 7: Comments on life outside work in Scotland: enjoyment of work leading to CG and colleagues working on late, contrast with practice at Electricity Council and CEGB in London; mentions wife finding job and children setting into schools; friendliness of Glaswegians; anecdote about second wife working for Chivas Regal as a systems analyst and still receiving Christmas letters 30 years later; mentions advantages of being Welsh compared to English, Edinburgh less friendly than Glasgow, playing golf; pleasant holidays in Scotland; CG remarriage in early 40s; first wife remarrying; regular contact with children after divorce, such as watching football with son, discussions with former wife over sending daughter to secretarial school, disciplining son, intervening over daughter's suspension from school; [06:55] CG second wife from Kent, sharing several homes in Glasgow; CG giving first wife house and more generous share of salary than divorce settlement required; second wife buying their first home in Glasgow; CG 44 year marriage to second wife; CG colleague warning him over divorce and his career, SSEB chairman accepting situation well, CG not finding any awkwardness over divorce at work; anecdote about area manager Ronnie McLashen's response to CG divorce but later asking CG for advice after his own divorce. [12:00] Remarks on memoirs: anecdote about exchanging autobiographies with Ronnie McLashen in later life; CG children encouraging CG to write memoirs, also sending copies to former colleagues; mentions CEGB colleague Jim Redman writing a memoir; comparison of CG and McLashen writing style; McLashen's work rectifying problems on boilers at Hunterston A; mentions McLashen spending time at Harvard and visiting CG when he was at Electricity Council. [17:50] Remarks on colleagues at SSEB: chief distribution engineer [John Addison] transferring to Electricity Council to start engineering department; Francis Tombs recruiting CG and Addison to Electricity Council; CG many colleagues but no close friends; mentions still exchanging Christmas cards with former boss George Reid. [19:45] Remarks on customers: anecdote about CG meeting with Clydebank councillors over raise in tariffs on suggestion of area commercial manager Tom Wood; story about CG experiment with load rate tariff meters in the Gorbals, unexpected reduction of demands, difficulty in customers understanding of metering; clarification of working of load rate meters. [25:20] Remarks on metering and marketing: domestic peak and off peak and economy 7 metering; commercial tariffs simple standard charges; larger commercial and industrial users having meters that measured units and maximum demand; encouragement of air conditioning and higher lighting levels for commercial customers; unit investigating electrical alternatives for industrial equipment, instigated by Ronnie McLashen, comparison with work of Capenhurst research centre. [cont' from 32:50] [32:50] Remarks on: CG touring every Area Board in Britain to research commercial tariffs; close relations with area Boards and Electricity Council over appliance marketing; SSEB members on Electricity Council marketing committees for different sectors of market; SSEB not instigating economy 7 for sometime due to successful existing system; SSEB instigating practice of selling entrainment products in shops; informal exchanges between managers in different boards; [37:15] limited amount of entertaining potential new customers; advertising agencies later entertaining CG whilst at Electricity Council; competition with Gas Board, initially in ESI favour but later in favour of gas board; after use of natural gas; advertising arrangements, contributing to national programmes or setting up local initiatives; limited contact with independently minded NSHEB. [42:20] Remarks on SSEB chairmen: Norman Elliott, intelligent and independent, needing to be convinced over new developments, needing support of engineering skilled deputy as power stations were outside his experience; engineer Lewis Allan succeeding Elliott, with financial expert [Alan] Christianson as deputy; Christianson decision not to become chairman, opening way for Francis Tombs to become chairman; Francis Tomb's role in nuclear reactor debate of 1970s, extent of CEGB problems with nuclear power stations not experienced in SSEB; Francis Tombs winning argument over reactor choice with Walter Marshall. [47:10] Remarks on Francis Tombs: skilled engineer but learning about finances from financial expert Willy Kennedy; Francis Tombs instigating investigation by deputy chairman Austin Bunch into fraud in superannuation scheme at Electricity Council, leading to firing of two high level advisors in Council. [51:05] Remarks on: importance of characters, such as Arthur Hawkins, Alan Christianson, Fred Bonner on organisations; lack of typical office day in commercial part of business; CG spending much time travelling to London, anecdote about being a frequent user of British Caledonian airline; quarterly meeting with SSEB commercial managers and visits to area managers meetings; CG staff of around 50-60, excluding staff in shops; [56:15] CG reporting to deputy chairman, until reorganisation after which he reported to Financial and Commercial Director [George Reid]; Francis Tombs taking over as Director of Engineering from Geoff Shepherd; George Reid giving CG much freedom in work. [58:45] Comments on district heating schemes: Francis Tombs asking chief engineer Harry Morris to research district heating; Morris getting into problems with District Heating Association; CG taking over project; CG extensive research into schemes, trip on Alan Plumpton organised scheme to visit district heating schemes in Scandinavia; need for concentration of hot water usage around scheme for financial viability; CG sending researchers out to sample potential customers of potential scheme using Glasgow power station; CG putting together talk on subject; [1:04:20] CG talk to visiting Scottish MPs, but poorly attended due to Harold Wilson resignation the same day; CG talk to District Heating Association, comprehensively demolishing case for district heating in UK; huge infrastructure costs of district heating. [1:06:50] [cont' from 1:06:50] Remarks on CG later giving evidence to Parliamentary Select Committee: part of group of industry figures including CEGB's Derek Davis; anecdote about CG surprise at transcript. [1:10:00] Story about CG involvement in Industrial Society scheme to encourage Gordonstoun School pupils to consider careers in industry: Lewis Allan asking CG to take part in scheme; terrible weather; mentions Prince Charles amongst pupils in scheme; CG taking group of ten for exercises on industrial management, anecdote abut pupils always wanting to fire demanding workers; pupils wanting to work in in army, finance or church rather than industry.

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