David Moyse was a very well known and respected man in Hayle and had a wonderful outfitters in the main street. It was the first place I bought a Barbour waxed jacket.
I enjoyed my work and liked the people, but there was something missing. I yearned to get back to my roots Cornwall. I had just married and was working as an occupational health nurse with the Associated Ethyl Company, later renamed Octel, at Ellesmere Port. It was a chemical works, producing tetraethyl lead, the anti-knock component for petrol. The year was 1953. To prevent the build up of tetraethyl lead deposit in the petrol engines, ethylene dibromide was needed, to act as a sort of purgative. The company had two plants: one at Amylch in Anglesea, and the other at Hayle in Cornwall. Both works were by the sea because the bromine required for the compound was extracted from sea water. I had my eye on Hayle. In 1954 it was decided to provide occupational health facil-ities for the Hayle works as opposed to a first aid room. The chief medical officer called me into his office and asked me if I would like to take over. I jumped at the chance. I didn’t need time to arrive at a decision and was soon on my way. The first aid room was actually a very nice surgery. with tiled walls. It was run by a pleasant man, Bill Lapham. a qualified first aider. In common with most of the work force Bill wore a safety helmet. His though, was a distinctive orange. I was given a glimpse of things to come on my very first morning at the works. A knock came at the door and a man came in, said “Good Morning” and without another word, got down on to the floor and started doing press-ups. After a while he rolled over on to his back and did various leg exer-cises. This went on for some time and I started to think about the various options available to me for dealing with anyone with mental problems. Just then, I saw the other door leading to the corridor open slightly, and I caught a feint glimpse of an orange safety helmet. I knew then I was being wound up. The man was a fitness fanatic and, in his pocket, he carried photographs of himself posing in a pair of trunks flexing his muscles. Apparently, Bill had said to him, “I was telling this new chap the way you keep fit, and he is ever so interested and would like to see what exercises you do.” That was mere-ly the forerunner of the many leg-pulls I learnt about. Everyone was a fair target and Bill Lapham himself was caught on numerous occasions. He used to relieve Ernie Bryant at the works switchboard during the lunch break. Ernie was a master at setting people up. One day he went out to a callbox and rang into the works. “Hello, is that the Associated Ethyl Company?” “Yes,” said Bill. “This is the Newquay Steam Laundry and we are missing 10 drums of condensed steam, do you have them there?” “I don’t know,” said Bill, “I’ll ask.” He went out and saw Bill Phillips, the maintenance charge-hand, and Bill went rushing around the yard looking. Suddenly the penny dropped.
“What the heck am I doing looking for condensed steam?” he roared and collapsed laughing. One of the men in the works, Bob, was quite proud of his tenor voice. That was enough. It was in the days of Carroll Levis and his Discoveries. He was working in the laboratory when the telephone rang. “Hello, is that Mr Stephens?” “Yes,” said Bob. “This is Carroll Levis. I understand that you have a very good voice and I would like to audition you. I can’t come all the way down to Cornwall so would you please sing to me now.” “I can’t now, I’m working.” “That’s all right. Just sing me a few bars of Mecushela over the telephone.” “Well try.” He cleared his throat and began. “Mecushela. Mecushela. I hear your…heart calling….” Half the workforce was peering around the laboratory doors listening. Fred. a nephew of Ernie’s came to work in the laboratory. Ernie knew that he had just started violin lessons. and got to work. After about a week. a typewritten notice appeared on the board – “Works Orchestra. conductor Mr George Sherratt”, he was the deputy works manager. and leading the violins was Fred’s name. Fred was in a panic now. and went running up to George Sherratt. “Mr. Sherratt, I am sorry, but I can’t be in your orchestra. I’ve only just started to take lessons. – Mr Sherratt looked at him in bewilderment. “What on earth are you talking about – Work’s Orchestra. There’s no such thing.’ Poor Fred. One of the men who was a long-standing member in the local St. John’s Ambulance had a telephone call from some-one purporting to be the chief commissioner for the U.K. “I am in Cornwall tomorrow and I would like to come and present you with a medal to acknowledge your outstanding con-tribution to the association. Will you be there in uniform?” “Yes Sir, be here ready,” said Steve. The following morning, he arrived in full St. John’s uni-form complete with white kid gloves. Bill Phillips tried to get him back into working gear and out of sight of top management, but Steve would have none of it “You just want me to be in a dirty pair of overalls when the commissioner arrives,- he said angrily. He stayed in uniform all day but alas, no commissioner, no medal.
When a garden produce competition was held, Bill Lapham offered a guinea prize for the best carrots. When Archie Nicholas went to claim his prize, he was given a box of Beechams pills. It was at the time when the advertisement claimed that the pills were worth a guinea a box. We needed to be constantly on the alert, and woe betide the unwary two men working at the top of the big 30 x 30 tank on one occasion. They had not secured the ladder, and just before it was time for lunch, it was taken away. They spent their entire lunchtime alone and hungry. They made sure the ladder was tied the next time. We not only spent working hours together, many of us met in our leisure time too. In the true Cornish tradition, we spent Friday and Saturday nights in one of the local pubs, singing songs like Lamorna and The White Rose.
A great friend and character Jack Warner left the Engine Inn at Cripplesease, at the same time as Hewitt Hosking and me. Jack turned right to go the lane way.
Hewitt said to me, “Eh Jack will be coming down that narrow stretch.” We turned left and went the other way round to meet Jack coming down the hill. I put my headlights on full beam and sure enough met Jack coming down the long hill. Not knowing it was us, Jack reversed all the way up the hill again with my headlights dazzling him. When he reached the small lay-by at the top, he pulled in to let me pass. I wound down my window and said in dulcet tones, “Thanks Jack. – What he said to me then was unprintable. But no one ever did anything to Jack without having to take it back with interest. I knew I had it coming and did not have long to wait.
Jack knew of my interest in horses and when I arrived for work the following day, I found the surgery had been trans-formed into a stable. The whole floor was covered in about 6 inches of packing straw, and pieces of fishing net had been used to make hay nets, and these hung from the walls. I had to work like mad to get the surgery back to full operational readiness. Sadly, Jack is no longer with us, but whilst I live, he will never be forgotten. An awful smell, which increased daily, pervaded the safe-ty equipment store on one occasion. Floorboards were taken up to see whether the drains were blocked, but they were clear. Several days went by before anyone looked up in under the desk. There, nailed underneath, was a good old Cornish mackerel, in the later stages of putrefaction. The works was a really happy place to be. The men worked hard, but there was always time for laughter. They were gen-uinely supportive of one another. When Hewitt Hosking had just started building himself a bathroom and toilet extension, he suffered a coronary attack and was admitted to hospital. I was concerned that he would increase his stress by worrying about the unfinished work. There was no shortage of volunteers and the whole job was finished to everyone’s satisfaction whilst Hewitt was still in hospital. My time at the Hayle works was one of the happiest peri-ods of my life. Humour welded us together. It was not just a works. it was a club. Unfortunately, because of world competition. the works had to close in 1974. They were a great bunch of men that worked there, and I feel privileged to have known them.