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Some more Edinburgh characters
In previous pages I have described some of the characters we associated with when living in Edinburgh. Many of them were from the caving fraternity and of them, a few had emigrated up from England having met and married Scottish girls while caving or climbing there.
John and Jill Manchip
These two have already featured in this narrative as they were both witnesses at our wedding. John was from Bristol and a member of the Bristol Exploration Club (BEC). The motto of the club is 'The BEC get everywhere' and John typifies that attitude. He has completed the ascent of all 277 Munros. These are the Scottish mountains over 3,000ft high which were listed by Sir Hugh Munro back in 1891 and have become a Scottish mountaineering objective.
Bagging Munros is a measure of your determination and to become a Munroist is an achievement that demands respect. I did start to 'knock a few bastards off' as Sir Edmund Hillary once said and reached just over 50 before leaving Scotland to return to Somerset.
John is also a railway enthusiast and I bet he was a regular on Temple Meads station train spotting prior to discovering the ladies at an early age! He is known to have stuck a BEC sticker on the toilet of the first British Rail high speed tilting train (APT) as it reached its maximum speed of 150mph.
Jill is a Scot and could never quite accept the coarse behavour of cavers and climbers, especially when they were singing their rude songs. She used to have a unique ability never to fart which fascinated John and it is a wonder she has never exploded!
About this time there was a feature on the TV about the Bristol accent. It involved an interviewer reading the following to Bristol people in the street and asking them to repeat it:
Eva Turner, prima donna, D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.
Almost universally they replied 'Evill Turnell, primall donnall, D'oyly Carte Operall Company' then when asked to listen to a recording of what they had just said could not see any difference in the way they pronounced it. So they say 'Brissle' and 'Americall' and stick an 'L' on the end of almost any word ending with an 'A'.
John worked as a foreman at Ethicon, a company making surgical suture needles which employed lots of ladies and was teased for days by them asking him to pronounce different words in the 'Brissle' accent.
Sue and I also caught the habit and often had to apologise to people called Sandra for calling them Sandral.
We both spent many happy hours in our life with them both in Scotland and abroad. Here you can see them with a gang of Mendip cavers at an Italian camp site at Lake Garda in Italy prior to tackling some Via Ferrata in the Brenta Mountains of which more later but the funniest story about the Manchip's was after their son Neil was born he went to stay on holiday with some very straight and proper Scottish relatives. On his return he told them he had seen "Uncle ? wee-weeing in Aunty ?'s bottom", something they were unable to conceive of!
Martin (Milche) and Kirsty Mills
I was the Senior Scour Leader of the Quantock Senior Troop of scouts in Somerset in the early 1960's when they asked me to take them Caving. Someone knew a Bridgwater chap called Martin Mills who had just received an explorer belt which the Scout Association awarded to individuals who had, amongst other things, organised expeditions overseas and Martin had recently started caving. I contacted Martin and he agreed to take us all caving. I became hooked on the activity and Quantock Seniors were then condemned to go underground every weekend.
Martin was an instructor on the Somerset Scout Caving Group and I did the course to became an instructor myself. Our County Commisioner for Caving was a bloke called Fred Davis who was a member of the Shepton Mallet Caving Club (SMCC). Martin and me applied to join and were accepted. You can read more about the SMCC in the caving songs section of this web site.
I gave him the nickname 'Milche' because he had this habit of chewing the cud like a milk cow. While caving with the GSG Martin met fellow caver Kirsty and discovered that girls were no so bad after all and they married in Fife where I was a witness.
One of my funniest stories about Milche was when he was exploring sea caves alone on Lundy Island on the Bristol Channel. He swam into a cave and then realised that something large and black was coming fast towards him. He just managed to get out of the path of an enormous bull seal intent of rape, Milche wearing a black neoprene wet suit and hood must have looked like a desirable cow seal!
Keith had some nasty bone disease which made him disabled for most of his life but that didn't stop him living his life to the full despite his handicap. We all knew him as Keith the Cripple and he was still speedy enough on his crutches to chase the women.
He had a great sense of humour and when he failed in his attempt at seduction would look at his hand and say "wait 'till I get you hame".
Keith was a programmer with International Computers Limited (ICL) who manufactured large mainframe machines and lived much of the time in Cheadle Hulme, Manchester where he worked until he was made redundant but he was from Edinburgh and spent most of his leisure time in the city.
Some of us used to travel down to Manchester for a boys weekend as they had some great breweries like Holts and Robinsons and the beer was much cheaper than elsewhere. After a session we would all go to an Indian takeaway called Pradise who in those days had three choices of curry, Hot, Very Hot and Suicide. We would of course go for Suicide and on one occasion Uncle Murder and myself were sleeping on Keith's floor when I felt the urge to defecate. It must have been especially hot that night as my arse felt like it had been wiped by an Aussie cricketer and I lay there whimpering.
Then Uncle Murder felt the urge and the pair of us took it in turns whimpering all night!
Examples of Keiths humour were many but one of my favourites was when a bunch of us were on our way to a barn dance in the wilds of West Lothian and we all stopped to get a 'carry 'oot' in a village pub. As we all walked in there was a hush in the general conversation as there is sometimes in these places where strangers are viewed with suspicion. Keith suddenly said loudly "we're all gay y'know" and everyone began talking again.
I had some programming work I needed doing, Keith was out of work, so I employed him to write some bespoke software.
Ulstein Software Development.
The previous page described how my company had invested in a Wang mini computer running unix and put a terminal on every desk. Wang had developed their own version of a computer language they called Wang Basic but all those variants were similar. Wang terminals displayed text in green on a black background and Windows graphics had not yet appeared.
Shipyards would call us asking for a quotation for a propulsion system giving us all the data on the ship and the propulsion engine. We would then spend several hours calculating the propeller size, gearbox reduction ratio, shaft diameters etc to meet whatever ice class and classification society requirements specified. We would then wade through loads of different price lists to estimate the cost and eventually call the shipyard back with a price.
Sods law was usually at work and the yard would have two or three engine alternatives with engines of different powers and speeds which meant a new calculation and price. I knew that these calculations could be performed in seconds by a computer. Furthermore all the price lists could be kept in computer files and once the calculations were done could be referenced to compile a quotation while the client was on the phone.
If you are beginning to fall asleep then I won't bore you with the details but the geeks among you interested in early software development can click here.
Ulstein UK Expansion.
I already mentioned the machining centre ordered from Makino in Japan. The biggest problem we ever had with those machines was persuading Makino to fit a swarf conveyor high enough to reach the old empty oil drums we used to catch the swarf. The machine arrived, was installed and started cutting metal and never failed. Contrast this with the Giddings boring machine which was broken down more than it was cutting metal.
We had a carousel which fed the raw material to the machining center where a robot would load it and finally place it back on the carousel when it was finish machined. When it ran out of material a yellow light on the top would flash telling us it wanted feeding or a red light if a probe detected tool wear when it would stop.
During the daytime we would program, tool up and load the carousel before we finished at night then start the machine arriving in the morning to find a load of finished components.
The photo above shows a batch of stainless steel propeller blade bolts. Hexagonal SS bar would be cut to length and loaded on the carousel but no other manual operation was required.
One night our works manager received a phone call at home from the police telling him one of their officers reported a flashing light in the factory. He went to investigate and discovered the machining centre had run out of work. We then used to put a cardboard box over the lamp at night in a high tech solution so as not to frighten our local Bobby.
With our initial purchase of a large lathe with a deep hole boring attachment we could turn a shaft about 10 metres between centres which meant we were limited to boring a hole through its centre of 5 metres and then had to drill from each end which was dodgy. We decided we needed to deep hole drill up to 11 metres so needed a machine that could turn 22m between centres. With the length of the headstock and tailstock/ejector drill that meant a machine over 25m in length and costing over £1 million.
Tachhi in Italy were the specialist machine tool manufacturers selected and I applied for a regional development grant which was turned down on the basis that the investment would only mean we would employ one additional operator. Once again the problem of politicians having trouble seeing past the ends of their noses was at work for that one machine had the capacity to take about a third of Fife Forges total capacity of big propeller tailshafts.
The government cheerfully gave a new fastenings supplier of ours money for a new depot yet without people like us cutting metal they would have no customers. I had to accept the decision but we ordered the machine anyway, too late to save Fife Forge who eventually closed down so we had to go down to England for our shafts. So much for the regional development grant.
The works manager came into my office one day and said he had a problem with the labourer. The foreman had given him a proper request to empty a swarf bin and he had refused so was given a verbal warning. The shop steward was then informed who told who labourer to do as he was told. He again refused so was given a written warning. The works manager was informed but he still refused and was given a second written warning and I was informed. I told the labourer if he did not carry out the foremans instructions we would have to terminate his employment and gave him some time to consider. Subsequently the works manager, foreman and shop steward agreed with me that we should fire the labourer which we did.
The Union, without any consultation with us, took the case to an industrial tribunal and lost. I discussed this with all concerned and in particular the shop steward who I told that as the union had completely ignored our closed shop agreement and we had followed it to the letter that the agreement was worthless. He agreed with me and I wrote to the union terminating it. They did not even bother to reply or contact me and we had no further problems with industrial relations on the shop floor.
I did have problems however with my sales staff. One of our service engineers had been promoted to become a sales engineer on a trials basis. After a year on the job he had not achieved any sales so we asked him to return to service which he refused so we fired him after the usual warnings proceedure. He took us to an industrial tribunal and we lost, principally because my sales manager gave evidence supporting the sales engineer.
I was furious and fired him on the spot without any warnings so we subsequently lost that tribunal as well. We made the national press as the sales manager was awarded a record payout, paid for all his travelling expenses for a year in his new job and kept his company car. Served me right for letting my temper get the better of me but sales improved once he was gone.
Anthony Louis Monk.
In August 1982 we learnt of the death of Sue's youngest brother Anthony who like his elder brother Phil was following him with a career in the NZ Navy. His car went off the road and he was not wearing a seat belt otherwise he would pobably have survived. We debated if Sue should fly out to NZ but then decided that instead we would ask Joan, Sue's Mum, if she would come over to the UK for a visit at our expense the following year which she agreed to do.
Joan had never been out of NZ before and despite us both advising here to break her flight to the UK she insisted on doing it in one go.
We met her off the flight at Heathrow and booked into an hotel for a few days to help her get over the jet lag. We showed her the sights of London including the obligatory pigeon feeding in Trafalgar Square which she loved. We also took her to Hampton Court Palace as the flower show was on and the weather was glorious before heading across to Wales to meet my parents in Brecon.
Summer stayed with us all the time Joan was in the UK and we enjoyed such luxuries as breakfast al fresco al Brecon with my parents. Sue looks like she has on a Leicester Tigers rugby shirt but I am sure she knew a Barf supporter like me would never allow that to happen.
We somehow found ourselves in Liverpool at the National Garden Festival where my Mum and Dad were a bit carried away with a couple of locals
Maybe that Leicester coloured shirt of Sue's was an omen as we then went to see a relation over there. We were not welcomed at all by the lady who I think was Joans cousin and were all a little miffed having made the effort to contact a long lost relative. She was probably a Tigers supporter!
We finally made it back to Edinburgh where Joan spent a few weeks with Sue showing her the sights during the week and us all taking excusions into the countryside at the weekend. I swear that, unusually, it did not rain the whole time she was in Edinburgh and we posted her back home much refreshed, knowing we had made the sensible decision to bring Joan over to us rather than Sue going to NZ for the funeral.
This trip was one of those we took Mondeo Murder with us who remembers it as follows:
We left Edinburgh Friday 2nd July 1982. I think we drove to Dover. Can't remember if we stopped overnight but we went over on the Hover (Cross Channel Hovercraft) first thing Saturday. Remember "its no bovver wiv the hover". Remember clearly stopping for coffee and croissants in France, one of those moments that is for some reason clear in my memory. We were in Florence on the 5th of July and had dinner at a lovely restaurant (we had Steak Florentines which were huge and succulent). The owners wife came from Inverbervie (is that in Europe?).
The main reason I can remember so much is the fact that Italy won the world cup that year and we were in Florence when they defeated Brazil, the place went wild and we retreated into the above restaurant. We also visited Pisa and Cavo on Elba. We camped in the Sila national park in the south near the town of Lorica where you invented Lorica granita Harvey Wall Bangers and I believe we watched Italy defeat West Germany in the company of some Germans and me being a typical Jock became an honorary Italian for the night.
I also remember we stopped for Sue to pop into the bushes and on her return to the car she asked you that if ants crawled up your bum could they get into your bloodstream.
Happy times Murdo
Happy times indeed. Sue was always confused when it came to the human body parts. In fact she referred to her genitalia as her 'parts'. She also talked about her front bum and her back bum so we were really not sure which one the ants might have penetrated!?
Elba was well worth a visit and I don't know why Napoleon so disliked it as it is very scenic.
In fact the Fontainebleau treaty granted him ownership and sovereignty of the island but he only stayed for 10 months before he went back to France and stirred up more trouble for us Brits until Wellington gave him a gobbing and sent him to St Helena.
Mention of Cavo reminded me of Uncle Murdo dashing, with his little ditty bag of antiseptics, to the assistance of a stark naked stunningly beautiful Italian girl who had been stung by a jellyfish on Cavo beach. Sue and I were concerned for Uncle Murdo's safety as her boy friend swept towards him on his jet ski.
We swam naked off the rocks with Murder pretending to be a porpoise.
Lorica is mentioned elsewhere on this web site and was where we made friends with the owner of a local hotel who invited us to his daughters birthday party. We ate pasta there one night and he demonstrated how in the South they twisted a fresh chilli pepper over the pasta. This was in our camping days and in our tent later Sue reminded me with a yelp that chilli on her 'parts' was not that pleasant much to Murder's amusement in the tent next door!
On the right is a picture of us in Lorica. Note the tee shirt I am wearing which was a brilliant marketing idea of mine for Ulstein Thrusters and was intended for girls to wear but Sue would never wear them! It looks to me like a mutual goose!!
Nobody in Lorica spoke English and they had never heard of a Harvey Wallbanger let alone Galliano, the Italian liqueur used to make it. They had no orange juice either but they did use fresh oranges to make granita and plenty of vodka. We had purchased a bottle of Galliano on our way South so we quickly had the pub hooked.
We patronised a local pizzeria but had communication problems with the young man who ran it until we met a Maltese visitor who could translate. The pizze guy told him that he thought me 'simpatico' which translates as likeable and easy to get on with but the Malteser said he couldn't properly translate the compliment. I told him it needed no translation and said 'grazie' to pizze man. I always feel at home in Italy.
Leaving Lorica to head back North early one morning, I had to stop a couple of times for Sue and Murder to evacuate the contents of their collective stomachs after the farewell party the night before. I remember Murdo rabbiting on about a footballer called Lou Macari who nobody had ever heard of and everyone performing a dance from their home country, all except Murder so Sue did the Highland Fling for him.
My final memory of that trip was Murder swimming just under the surface of the camp site pool in Rome with his one hand above the surface like a sharks fin chasing some tasty Aussie girls.
Ulstein's main activity in Norway in those days was shipbuilding and it was only later they acquired most of the Norwegian marine equipment companies. My part of it was running the UK factory and sales/service of all the groups products in the UK and Benelux countries. Every few months I would do the rounds of the shipbrokers in London to dredge up enquiries for newbuilding for our shipyards.
Some UK shipowners would sometimes show interest and Star Offshore in Aberdeen was one. I often chartered a light aircraft and flew senior executives of shipowners over to see the shipyard and various equipment companies in the group. I took the MD and superintendent engineer of Star on one of these visits and they were one company who followed up with a firm enquiry for two UT704 tug anchor handling supply vessels.
A character called Erik Haakonsholm in Norway took charge of preparing newbuilding quotations. He was a Master Mariner (and well known pisshead) and our trials master who often accompanied me on my shipbroking visits so he and I spent many weeks in Aberdeen with Star and ultimately tendered some alternative specifications of ships.
Came the day of the closing of tenders and I was in London with boss man Idar Ulstein. We called Star who told Idar that we had lost the contract. He asked for the reasons and was told it was that our offer was slightly more expensive but included only two 3500bhp Bergen diesel engines rather than the larger 4500bhp alternative. I then said that, having sat in on negotiations for several weeks, I was pretty sure our final offer had included the larger engines.
I called Erik in Norway who confirmed I was right and Idar called Star back who promptly placed the order for two ships. Had I not been present that order may have been lost through a misunderstanding and it is by such small margins orders are won or lost. Star went on to build more vessels with Ulstein.
In 1983 I had the pleasure of attending the naming ceremony of Star Polaris in Aberdeen harbour which had a propulsion system manufactured by us in Dunfermline.
It should be placed on record that the man who was really responsible for the design and ultimate success of most of Ulsteins ships was a Naval Architect called Sigmund Borgundvaag and it was he who provided the technical back-up that made such contracts possible.
Idar was a qualified Naval Architect who had a happy knack of attracting some clever people to work for him. He was in charge of a family company who all did as they were told so there was never any fear of a boardroom coup or a shareholder revolt.
In all the time I worked for Idar I only ever saw him subservient to one man and he was Sverre Farstad who owned the shipping company of the same name and was a big customer of our shipyards.
Idar once told me he was coming to Scotland with his wife and family for a break and would be meeting with Sverre Farstad who would be talking to Shell about chartering some of his supply ships. This could mean more orders for the shipyard and could I suggest somewhere to entertain Sverre while in Aberdeen.
It so happened that I knew a marine superintendent at Shell and called him for advice. He had a relation who worked for the Queens Balmoral Estate and said he could arrange a private visit. So we had a guided tour of the estate but I had never before seen Idar so nervous of upsetting anyone.
Idar was the brains behind the acquisition strategy of the company. During the eighties we acquired Tenfjord and Frydenbo steering gear, Hydraulic Bratvaag deck cranes and winches, Norwinch, Sperre Compressors, Bergen Diesel and Liaaen Propellers. What marine equipment firms were left in Norway wasn't worth having.
In addition new products were developed such as Passive tank stabilisers, pneumatic bulk tanks, high lift rudders, anchor handling gear and joystick ship controls.
We were exhibiting once at an exhibition in Aberdeen when an airline pilot came onto our stand and introduced himself as the senior pilot of Morefly, an offshore helicopter company we had just aquired and inviting me for a ride in a new Puma they had just bought. What on earth would he acquire next?
One answer was water jet propulsion which gave me another excuse to visit New Zealand and talk to Hamilton Water Jets in Christchurch about a licensing agreement.
As a group we were now in a position not only to design and build a ship but to supply most of the major items of equipment. Ship Design Machinery packages could now be offered and we had no competition that could offer anything so comprehensive in the offshore industry or for any small ship size.
New Zealand 1986
This was to be our last visit for many years down under and we spent Christmas in Palmerston North with Joan.
Not long after getting off the plane we heard the news of a Pan-Am 747 being blown up over Lockerbie in Scotland with the loss of all on board and many on the ground. When you have just flown half way round the world on a similar aircraft you can imagine how we felt.
After Christmas I flew down to Christchurch and talked to Hamilton Jet but they very sensibly decided they would keep their know how to themselves.
We did have a look at some hot mud pools bubbling away somewhere or other and you have to admit the photo above is a nice one of Sue but it was a short trip with brief stops in Bangkok on the way out and a few days in Koh Samui on the way back where we decided to return at a later date.
Every other year the GSG would hold their caving dinner in Sutherland but on alternate years would visit another caving area, often South of the border. As a result we would often be invited to other caving clubs dinners and a regular was the Orpheus which was always somewhere in Derbyshire.
The first one we went to was at the Bennetston Hall Hotel where we met Mike and Pat Palmer from Mendip. Unfortunately the management were not used to caving dinners and tried to close the bar early at which point Mick Durdy threatened to burn the place down. As the Palmers and ourselves were staying there we were slightly concerned
We then made the journey most years and on the Sunday after the dinner we would assemble for a lunchtime singing sesion at the Packhorse Inn at Little Longstone. On one occasion we drank the pub dry and the locals could not believe it.
At the Palace hotel Buxton they were banned for wearing caving boots on the dance floor and at another hotel for playing football with the rotating glass sphere in the ballroom. At breakfast the manager refused to allow them to sit in the dining room as he "did not serve animals"! Eventually they were unable to find any hotel in the Peak District that would have them.
Nothing daunted at the next years dinner we all met up at the Three Stags Head Inn near Buxton for a few pre-prandial ales before walking across the road to a transport cafe which had been commandeered for the evening.
Sue and I sat down at a table and my place had an envelope next to it which Sue, being a nosey git, opened.
It said 'congratulations you are a monitor'. "What's a monitor" Sue said.
I explained that in this context when I was at school it meant a student appointed to assist in helping out, so she now had the job of serving everyone instead of me for being so nosey!
Someone blew a whistle and asked all the monitors to go to the kitchen where the girls of the club had prepared a full meal and very good it was too after which we all retired back to the pub and got rat arsed!
Naturally the GSG had the odd dinner down in Somerset after which on one occasion we all went back to Mike and Pat Palmers place which was in the middle of being renovated and had no plaster on the ceilings.
Being cavers we decided to have a squeezing contest between the ceiling joists which was quite interesting for the ladies as many of the men wore kilts with 'nay knickers'! One guy called Trevor sat on the stone hearth with his legs apart showing his manhood which curled like a snake over the edge of the hearth and along the floor. Pat couldn't take her eyes off it!!
The photo above was taken after a GSG dinner at The Stradlings at Yarley in Somerset and they gave us 10p off a pint if you wore a kilt. Murder is about to lift his kilt to show us his 'Bobby' which is impressive but couldn't match Trevor's. It was well known that he never wore anything under his kilt and at a party in Edinburgh at our flat I once noticed Murder and a certain lady who had her hand up his kilt. Both of them had glazed expressions on their faces!
Those of you who know us will be wondering when I was going to get around to the cats. We first acquired a cat to get rid of rats which failed miserably and with his demise we were catless. One Christmas I arranged buy a pedigree Blue Burmese from an Edinburgh breeder and I arranged to collect her early on the appointed day early so as to arrive home before Sue was awake.
I then took the photograph of a Sleepy Sue waking up to a little bundle of pure joy.
This was the start of our love affair with these beautiful intelligent social creatures who just seem to love humans and being in our company.
Of course one Burmese is not enough and they do enjoy their own feline company as well as humans so it was not long before Foxy, a Red Burmese was acquired and our cat family was complete.
The Burmese breed came from a female cat brought from Burma to the USA in 1930 and bred with a Siamese. The Brits took these offspring and bred them with their Siamese and eventually ended up with two distinct Burmese breeds, the American and the British or European Burmese.
Both cats loved to climb. Tasha would love to climb up on top of doors and just sit there and watch what was going on below. Foxy loved to get inside empty boxes. Both co-existed happily with our neighbours moggies on either side of us.
Bonner and Lynn next door had Scruffbags who once came over our garden, in through the Ingrams cat door on the other side of us, up two flights of stairs and returned to present the Ingrams pet hamster in their bed. It was duly returned unharmed until Scruffbags returned a second time with the corpse! He also once nicked Theresa's butter, a whole half pound and took it home!
Pamplemousse Ingram calmly let Scruffbags have the run of the house and our two never ventured in another house or as far as we know let another cat in to ours.
I have many photographs of Tasha and Foxy so above is a slide show of them both in Edinburgh and later in Somerset. Their great love was chicken. Sue would roast one and both cats would station themselves next to the oven and refuse to move. They could eat more of it than either of us.
Both cats lived to a ripe old age in cat years but eventually came the day when I took Tasha to the vet and watched while he put her to sleep. That was the first and only time I ever did that for a pet and I had never realised how an animal could become so part of your life until they die. Sue vowed she would never have another cat but one day, one of our customers who was with the Cats Protection League told Sue she had a beautiful British Cream that she needed a home for.
Sue told her no but she suggested we might like to see the cat anyway. We went to her house and as we stood in her lounge in walked Eric and gave Sue a head butt. That was enough of course and we had another cat. He was a proper character was Eric, loved cars and would crawl under them coming home with an oily stripe down his back looking like a badger!
He was very street wise and roamed freely around the village making friends and stopping traffic. People used to come in the shop telling us where they had seen him and one neighbour discovered him in her bed once.
Eric caught feline aids and the vet wanted to put him down but I wouldn't hear of it. We had to keep him from going out then to avoid giving it to other cats.
When we retired we could not take him with us on the barge but we managed to find him a home for him in Bath with a guy called Martin who had a flat with a roof garden which was perfect for Eric.
We gave him £100 for the vets bill which we knew would come eventually. The two of them bonded perfectly and Martin would take Eric sitting on the front seat of his open sports car to see his father. Eric lived for over a year but eventually we had an email telling us he had to be put down.
Our story continues here.