by Tom Frew ex-Lambertons now living in OZ.
see Tom Frew Gallery -
The news of the demise of Lambertons in Coatbridge was indeed sad to hear about. One can only surmise that the company was incapable of adapting to a changing technical world. Perhaps the tried and true product of yesteryear became either a non-marketable one or like the yards on the Clyde the competition overcame them. One wonders?
The attached photograph taken circa 1949 represents part of the manufacturing capability of Lambertons Engineering Works of Coatbridge. This is the base component of a heavy-duty cold straightening machine for rails and angle steel up to the heaviest sections. This straightening machine formed part of a large order for the Port Kembla steelworks in New South Wales, Australia.
There were many characters to be remembered from those far off days now. There was Tommy Twycross the General Foreman a gentleman suffering a dreadful facial wound from WW1.
Us apprentices lived in mortal fear of TT and our productivity increased no end when he did his rounds of the factory. Back then there was a weekly newspaper called the Reveille always adorned by scantly clad young ladies? God Forbid but TT caught myself and my mate ogling as only 18 year olds can do. We were treated to being batted around the head by TTs bunnet he demanding to know what bit of the job was this. When I told him I could not read it due to the reflection of his baldhead I thought TT was going to burst his boiler! I was told later that he regaled some meeting with my quip but I was left wondering about the connection between my brain and motor mouth?
Jimmy Dick was the Manager who had a daily routine of circling the plant. Jimmy always had his hands in his trouser pockets and was a fairly relaxed person.
Harry Shanks a journeyman fitter who taught me the motto Never stand where you can sit and never file where you can chip still remembered 60 odd years later.
Dear me then there was Willie Maze [?] who operated one of the big wall creepers a vertical slotting machine. The gentleman was on piecework a type of production bonus and hence never would stop for anything. The sight of Willie attending to the call of nature and eating his lunch at the same time was something to behold. Toilet doors were non-existent!
If one was not careful it was easy to end up with a nickname that would not go away. I recall Frank McPherson was sent for a roughing tool for a production machine and he filled in the chitty for a ruffing tool. Frank ended up with a career in the Merchant Navy but he was always known as Ruffer:
My how times have changed in those days an apprentice would think nothing of climbing up and operating a 100-ton overhead crane and with aplomb turn over a massive casting with consummate skill. In 2007 one would nearly require a PhD to do that!
Just a very few of those gallant individuals who come to mind!
The crew in the foreground of the photograph was expanded a little when it was known that photographs were being taken but nevertheless the majority were the engineers and apprentices who constructed the machine. The gross weight of the machine cannot be recalled now but it was such that the low loader used to transport the machine to the docks was fitted with solid rubber tyres. Perhaps tyre construction was not so impressive as todays product?
Thinking of how such companies as Lambertons and Murray and Patersons Engineering Works have disappeared from the scene makes one realize that people today will have no idea how these companies made such a contribution in their time to the local community.
First of all over the years thousands of young men served their apprenticeships in various engineering disciplines in these two former great companies. The Merchant Navy was the recipient of many young lads fresh out of their five years servitude. Likewise all too many migrated to other countries seeking a better life than what was available in the grim 1940s post war era. Food rationing, wages of a few pounds a week, housing shortages etc, so in retrospect no fault could be found with those departing Auld Scotias shores.
How did all these young men fare one wonders? Many will now have passed beyond the Vale alas. Nevertheless the writer himself met many from Coatbridge on the engineering projects going on in Australia in the 1950s. One young apprentice bottom row, extreme left became a multi-millionaire through his own endeavours.
On the off chance that this ever gets to be of interest and perhaps recognition by any of those shown in the old photograph I would be thrilled to hear from anyone who remembers me.
The women were working
in the factory driving
the overhead cranes and
as machine assistants.
The old hands described
the women working the
overhead cranes as
having great touch and
email: Tom Frew ex-Lambertons