John King

(chief engineer)

2002/59, John King interviewed in his own home in Edinburgh by Sarah Bromage on 23/10/2002

John King began work in the papermaking industry at James Bertram as a designer, then moved to Culter Mills as assistant chief engineer. Moved to Woodhall Mill as chief engineer from 1971 until 1983.

000 After school national service. 1952-1957 consolidated pneumatic Tool Company in Aberdeen. 1957 –1960 Canadian National Railways. Went back to previous company then moved to James Bertram
030 1965 James Bertram as a designer. Covered all aspects including wet end and dry end.
042 Worried about prospects of James Bertram. Bertrams involved in dealings with other companies.
067 Chief draughtsman at Culter Mills. Upgrading the efficiency of the mill. Promoted to assistant chief engineer until 1971. Chief engineer at Woodhall in 1971
094 Moved back to Currie. Woodhall difficult mill to run. One machine mill. Many breakdowns, a lot at night. Example of breakdowns; Main line shaft fractured. Got shaft from Inverkeithing mill.

130 Machine down would cost £600 an hour. His salary was £3,200. Dry section at Woodhall 3 tiers high. Journal fractured. Examples of problems with machines.

171 Turbine failing. High pond silted up and silt had got into system. Draining the high pond. Some men sweeping silt into pipe that fed the mill.

202 Machines shut down for a fortnight at summer and weekend. Latterly only breakdown maintenance.

217 Annual budget for maintenance. Would always be spent in first few months.

225 Breakdowns; fire tube had developed a crack. Shut boiler down. Argument with mill manager who wanted to keep boiler going.

260 Night shift caught with a woman in the fire tube, dismissed man.

271 Too many smoke tubes in the boiler inhibiting circulation and causing scale to build up.

280 Bolt coming out of chimney, chimney flexing and no guy lines. Had to order guy lines.

294 Bertrams training, had HNC in mechanical engineering design. Had to familiarise himself with machinery but same principles apply.

317 Would visit site and take site measurements. Involved in installation, enjoyed work at Bertrams. Involved in designing equipment, overseeing the manufacture. Saw job right from start to finish.

339 Not involved in Water of Leith while at Bertrams was involved with Tullis Russell. Fife, Markinch and North of England.

350 Bertrams miffed with Kinleith, quotes for Kinleith would do work and then would not get order but they would install it themselves.

360 He specialised in wet end. Installation in Italy. Quite a lot of work abroad at Bertrams.

377 Engineering apprentices went to drawing office and then would send them to mills as mill engineer with idea that they would buy machines from firm. 30 draughtsmen in drawing office. 15 in stock preparation. 80 in workroom.

395 Firm very father and son orientated, a family concern. Extension of building upwards on Leith walk. Offices extended, wasted space. Techno pulp problems with that firm. Dr Kerracus absconded with funds

440 Meeting in Sicily with Dr Kerracus and David Donald. Stopped at airport with calculations of papermaking machines.

472 Not that much travel involved with the job.

477 Socialising at Bertrams. Extended lunch hour within the firm. Would go to Assembly Halls at Constitution Street.

497 No sporting facilities. He was union rep, refused to go and strike with union. Deal with management for annual increase of 25p. Everyone in firm member of union.

516 Separate union to workshop. One day march was only strike, didn't work. Not happy with salary so left. Cost of housing

537 3 years at Culter, chief draughtsman then chief engineer. Responsibilities in each post and description of staff in each department.

565 Mechanical engineer usually took over chief engineer

569 130 people employed at Woodhall at that time. 3 engineering supervisors, 3 very close. Allocated each a section of mill to separate them.

585 4 electricians. Shift system was 3 shifts with weekends off. 24 hours a day. During miner strike put mill on 3-day working week. Resisted that because it was a continuous process. Made production start sequentially to prevent electricity surge. Oil prices trebled. Pulp prices rose

623 Bulk of material waste paper. Description of board. Description of processes involved in making board.

688 Dust on board big problem. Last project installed at Woodhall installed water jet cutters which cut down on dust. Would cut through board and seal the edge.

691 3 months notice to leave the mill. The day he left 11pm and phone rung. Wanted him to come out.

711 Last job machine to take pallets away when it was full. Sprockets had slipped out of alignment.

732 Passed mill and black smoke coming out of chimney. Faulty design in boiler system. Experience of working there.

752 Ladies only in the office.

758 Woodhall tricky site to get into. Difficult for lorries to get in and out. Suggested that lorries go railway way, council refused and put up concrete bollards to prevent them doing this.

784 Concrete steps from railway to mill to stop banking being ruined. Council not happy.

795 Initially family orientated, Dick Blaikie his two brothers and father worked there. Annual dance, one for workers and one for the staff. Staff and workers did not mix. Criticised for going to a workers dance at Bertrams

820 Works dance at Bertrams at Assembly Rooms. Woodhall dance was held at Kestrel. Think the mill paid it for

830 Bertrams had an annual trip. Social life at Culter best as they had sporting facilities.

840 Was starting up his own printing business at the time.

849 Health and Safety did not figure highly at Bertrams. Woodhall Mill accidents, papermaker apprentice got dragged in between the felts and broke virtually every bone in his body. Safety man put in so many guards that you could not have worked the machine.

886 Visit of school children, one boy saw a button and pressed it. It stopped all the machines, pulp went everywhere. Then put hinged guard and stopped all school visits

900 School visits seen as a nuisance. No protective clothing. Had a safety officer who was originally a union man and doubled up as a union man. Union meeting on a Thursday afternoon. 2 shop stewards who would sit in on meetings.

927 Never had any problems with the union men. Men sunning themselves and they were on strike.

941 Two near fires at mill. Fluff gathers on walkway caught fire, fitter chasing flames along the walkway.

956 End.

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