Ellon Probus Club guest speaker

The speaker at the Ellon Probus Club meeting on September 12 was former club president Charles Fox, a retired engineer and a talented artist.

The theme of Charles’ talk was his lifetime experiences and it demonstrated yet again how a young man entering the labour market with no qualifications can grasp the opportunities of education to carve out a successful career.

Charles was brought up in Consett, near Durham, in the shadow of the Consett Iron Works whose blast furnaces and belching clouds of iron oxide dominated the town. Charles’ dream was to be an artist but economic pressures decreed that he join the local iron works where he trained as a fitter/turner.

After a spell in National Service with the RAF, where he was trained as a radar engineer, he returned to Consett Iron Works to work in the drawing office - indicating recognition of his natural artistic flair. Professional engineering qualifications were attained and he moved to Shell Mex BP to lead a team working on corrosion in pipe lines.

In the 1940s oil supplies were a national security issue and vital to the British economy. Pipelines were constructed to carry fuel from western UK ports to the London and SE hub areas. In the war years the pipelines, and their associated pumping stations, were constructed at night-time to avoid detection.

Using the code name PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) they were later extended to cover mainland Europe to supply Allied forces in their advance on Germany. Surprisingly the pipes used were made with a flexible lead core and were prevented from collapsing by using compressed air.

A vote of thanks was given by Leighton Johnston. The next meeting is on September 26.