From Humble Beginnings!
This is the one that has to be written in order to give some back ground information and a reason for all of what is to follow but I will keep it short and as factual as possible. However, I reserve the right to put in a few snippets of things that happened along the way to provide a little additional interest.
I am Graham Trim; I was born in a little Devonshire village near Sidmouth in the early nineteen fifties. We lived in a tied cottage belonging to the farm on which my Father worked. Two and a half years later my little brother joined us and the Farm was a great place to grow up for us both. However, times were hard and my Mother worked absolute wonders with what little money we had and she did it so well that these things only became obvious many years later, on reflection. I vaguely remember my father secretly going to a very early meeting of the Farm Workers Union in Toll Puddle and joining as a member. However, it was widely accepted that it was my Fathers unique knowledge of farming, the country side and agriculture that helped to steer the farm on to success until in 1966 when he was forced to give up for health reasons.
They Say that Lightning Never Strikes Twice: It was in 1964 we were hay making when it started to rain, Dad was driving the tractor and I was up on the trailer stacking the bales. Dad shouted to me to jump off and since the load was nearly complete He would take it back to the farm and unload then collect me on his way home from our friends house, they lived just across the road from the field in which we were. I jumped off and was running down the field when I heard an almighty crash and as I turned around I saw that the load had burst into flames and Dad was on the floor shaking himself, lightning had struck the load and he had been thrown off by the charge. A few months later He was down by the river Scheming which is a Devon word for cutting down the high weeds that are left in a meadow by cows feeding, usually stinging nettles and thistles etc. This time lightning struck the all steel Allen scythe that was on the back of the tractor and once again Dad was thrown onto the ground by the charge. Many years later Dad passed away on holiday in Cornwall just before his 80th birthday. He had a morbid fear of flying and his last journey was in the Devon Air ambulance who did a brilliant job under the circumstances! He was a very respected pillar of the village and surrounding area. We were all gathered in the largest Chapel at Exeter Crematorium with many people on the outside because so many had come to see him off. The Vicar (a lady) was just saying "we hereby commend our brother to" when there was an almighty crash and lightning had struck the chapel and was conducted away by the conductors on the roof. The Vicar later confided in us that she had nearly had a heart attack because she thought that the coffin had exploded.
OK enough about that, My Grandad IE Dads Father had been an engineer and had also been in all three of the Armed Services working on the development of aircraft. He had the dubious pleasure of being on the HMS Ark Royal when it was sunk in the Second World War but luckily he was one of the survivors. Shortly after the War, He developed a system for soldering aluminium primarily for mending milking machine buckets as they were in very short supply then. Soldering aluminium was thought to be impossible at that time but it is almost common place now. I used to spend quite a lot of time with him, I think it is where I get my engineering ability from! I believe that good engineers are born with the ability and the skills are then honed and improved by learning. In 1966, I was lucky enough to get an engineering (Tool Making) apprenticeship with JH Shand in Axminster and it was a good time to be learning to engineer because as it turned out I had one of the very last of the good old-fashioned Apprenticeships where a lad was put with a skilled engineer for 5 years. In my case I was fortunate to have been partnered with a man called Staff Sallway. The day I qualified as a Tool maker He Retired having taken the trouble to pass onto me everything that he had learned during his 50 years in the business. I did the very first year of the government training scheme EITB which was a full time one year course at Exeter Technical College plus the NEBSS (national Examination Board of Supervisory studies). I also did the City and Guilds Mechanical Engineering Technicians courses parts one two and three, but it did involve a lot of home study and additional evening courses. During my time at Shands the company was bought out by Stavely Industries a large Machine Tool Manufacturer who owned other companies such as Drummond Bros and Archdale but in 1971 it was obvious that Shands would be closing down and as an assistant manager I was one of the first to be made redundant.
At this time an Engineering Apprenticeship was a very valued Qualification to have and it consisted of a 5-year on the job learning period together with a one day a week college course which usually involved one extra evening course as well but you also had to do an extra two years as a probationer before becoming a fully-fledged Engineer. Pay was low and I started on 50 shillings a week £2 and 50p in today's currency but a skilled engineer could expect to earn £1000 per year which was a lot of money in those days. As a matter of interest I finished up on £1500 and assistant manager at 21 which was extremely well-paid for those times. The City and Guilds part 3 in production engineering certificate, back then was the entrance exam for the Production Engineering Institute and therefore could not be taken until an apprentice had done his two year probation period and attained the age of 23 so being made redundant at 21 scuppered that plan. However, I then joined Normalair Garrett and by January 1975 I had accrued enough holiday to be able to take the part 3 certificate and eventually attained the Full Technological Certificate in Production Engineering which to my surprise was awarded with distinction.
What goes around comes around! Over the years I have gained more than my fair share of critics some of which are justified and many not but few would question my engineering ability. However back in 1969 A foremen in the tool-making shop asked me to press fit some hardened steel pins into a set of jaws for a cold rolling machine that were also very hard. I explained that it was not a good idea because press fitting relies on one part expanding to hold the other in place and both of these parts were so hard that neither one would give. Today we use Loc-Tite but it had not been invented then. I was told to shut up and get on with it. Well the obvious happened and I had to take the hand full of expensive shrapnel back to the said fore man who was not happy and said that "I would not make an Engineer as long as I had a hole in my arse"; He then expelled me from his part of the Tool room. I suppose I should thank him really, because it was then that I moved into production Engineering and Design but it was not many years before I became assistant manager of the Tool room.
I must say that my time at Shands was a happy one and I did learn one hell of a lot about what I still call real Engineering. I learnt about machine tools and at that time we were building the transfer machines for Ford to make the cross flow cylinder heads and engine blocks used in then the new Escort and Cortina cars. This was long before CNC and industrial computers had been invented. I designed and made press tools and cold forming machinery for producing typewriter type and the IBM type wheels used in cash machines etc. Transfer machines, press tools and cold forming equipment relied extensively on the correct use of a wide range of springs and pneumatics to work reliably so unknown to me at that time; this was one of the building blocks that I would need in the Air Rifle design trade later in life.
My first real development project was the ICL type finger that for many years was seen on the television screen typing the football results. I learnt a lot about press work and the cold forming of steels, machining all types of materials and machine design, casting and moulding techniques, Heat treatment, Plating, Production and value Engineering plus business management which gave me a very good overall start in Business.