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Authors memories of Eastleigh Works

My name is Alan Mew. I started at Eastleigh as an apprentice is 1974, when I joined the works training school.  I wanted to be an electrician for some reason but wasn’t clever enough so they signed me up to be a Vehicle Builder (sorry to all Vehicle Builders, but I did learn that it takes a vehicle builder to put right what the electricians stuffed up!).

 I wasn’t too sure that being a Vehicle Builder was what I wanted, but I went along with it.  A decision I really don’t regret!  I have to say that this gave me the opportunity to meet so many good people to whom I owe so much. 

 When I went into the workshops after my year in the training school (with thanks to Derek Clift, Tony Avery, Jim Guyatt, Ron Ford, John Osbourne, Graham Taylor, Ken Smith and Terry Weedon and all the others who helped behind the scenes and I cant remember - those blooming aluminium saucepans).

 The first gang I worked in was door fitting up and was guided by Fred Benjamin, a really nice chap who looked out for me, thanks Fred! and George Donawa who constantly took the mickey out of me, which helped me settle in (so I am told).  I remember being in the shop for just a few days when I heard a screech.  It was Mick Lane being chased down the staging by John Cutler wielding an axe - welcome to the mad house!

 I then went to work on the stripping gang, ripping out the inside of the coaches with Dave Broom who was a really great chap, and made me feel work was fun.  I continued to work around all the areas of the Vehicle Builders as all the experienced chaps tried their best to make a man out of me.

 I ended up on the Door Hanging Gang, which, to this day, I still feel privileged to have been there.  The work could be quite hard and it had to be right or Bill Prior, the charge hand, bless him, would give you a right rollicking and would make you put things right.  He certainly left his mark on me and I had so much respect for this man, as most of us youngsters did (you either loved him or hated him). 

 It wasn’t really until I started working on the nightshift that I did really learn the "tricks of the trade."  This was where I learnt so much from a handful of blokes who certainly knew their stuff and, were all excellent tradesmen.  A cantankerous lot of old sods, but if you were lucky enough to fit in and be one of them, you were ok.  I think I was lucky and ok, as I survived 7 years of nights before being shoved back onto the dayshift when we lost our overtime and people needed money (time and 1/3 for nights – helped out loads).

 I guess some of the Vehicle Builders I have to thank in addition to those already mentioned would be; Steve Newell (a best mate); Den Carter (many a happy night spent on body repair with Den and Don Sparsholt – a welder); Richard King (loads younger then me but an excellent tradesman and a really good mate); Alan Creecy (the oldest apprentice in the works) John Pennicott; Ken Angel; Roy Dawkins (Slim - the shop Rep who I constantly gave an ear bashing - sorry Roy!); Pete Dawkins; Mick Lane; Bill Prior; Gary Toas; Tim Langrish; and Graham Hunt, foreman (but so much more).

 There are so many more I can remember and would like to thank, but it would not be practical to do so here, so in addition to these special people who helped me shape my working life, I would like to thank all the people who gave up there time to teach me (and kick my bum when I got it wrong) and be my mates and mentors and to all vehicle builders who taught them, and I guess I ought to thank the railway for employing me and investing in me.

I worked on Inspection for a while as a temp, thanks to much nagging from Richard King and eventually, for my sins, ended up in the Training Department, working with Graham Taylor, who left and Ken Smith took over, Dave Pemberton, Brian Foord, Derek Styants, Arthur Hawkes, Mark Hill, Perry Roles, Don French and Jane Godden.

I am now working as a Computer Technician for the City Council working with Special Needs Children, which can be a great job, but I have to say, not the same as working for the railway.  I know we all used to moan about the place, but I have had a few other jobs since leaving in 1996, and not one of them have been as good and on the ball for Health and Safety and Training, so well done to them that looked after us.

Why did I do the crazy thing and have a go at this web site? Well I guess it really is meant as very small tribute to all the people who have helped me on my way throughout life and if it wasn't for a lot of these people, well where would I be today - so thanks to all and thanks for visiting this site and any thoughts you would like to share, then I would like to hear from you.

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