I joined BOAC in 1969 and in 1971 an Act of Parliament merged BOAC with BEA to take affect from 31 March 1974, which would create British Airways.
The UK had joined the Common Market, as it was called then, in January 1973, so the merger of the two government-controlled airlines made sense.
BOAC was a small cargo unit at Manchester Airport so it was obvious that the dominant partner would be BEA, who were focused on Europe, as against the global focus of BOAC.
The writing was on the wall for the BOAC staff, so I started to look at my future and perhaps changing jobs, but my skills were limited, except in transport.
So, I decided to go back to school, or to be exact a college that was connected to Manchester University, to study transport. I did this while working shift work at BOAC.
During my time studying I considered going back to sea on short trips to perhaps the Mediterranean ports. The wine trade from Spain and Portugal looked interesting, but this would still require me to be away from my wife for several weeks, which was not an attractive idea.
One weekend I saw an advert for a deck officer to work on the supply boast to the oil rigs in the North Sea.
I had seen pictures of the oil and gas rigs and thought, not a problem, so I applied and was invited for an interview in Great Yarmouth, which is in Norfolk, UK.
To get to Great Yarmouth from where I lived near Manchester Airport would require a six-hour drive, which I did with great anticipation.
On arrival in Great Yarmouth, I met the manager (owner?) of the supply vessels that serviced the gas and oil rigs off Great Yarmouth. All went well and I was offered the job of 2nd Mate on one of the supply vessels. I was over the moon with happiness.
The Manager explained the details of the job and offered suggestions of whether to move to Great Yarmouth or remain in Manchester and commute when require.
Each ‘shift’ was about a week on and a week off, so I had the choice of commuting.
The phone rang, and the manager answered it and asked me to sit in the waiting room while he took the call.
When I had arrived, I did not spend any time in the waiting room but was shown straight in to the manager’s office.
I sat in the waiting room and looked at the framed photographs around the walls.
Note the flat deck at the stern. This picture is from the internet
I then began to study the other photographs around the wall.
This was not what I had in mind when I thought of going back to sea . . .
The money was good, but was it that good???
Would my stomach accept the violent movement??
The above pictures are from the internet to illustrate what I was looking at while the manager was on the phone.
Eventually he came out of his office and saw me looking at the pictures, ‘What do you think?’ he asked.
I assumed he was asking about the quality of the photographs, but I deliberately ‘misunderstood ‘, and said ‘Thank you, but I don’t want the job.’
He thanked me and commented that I was not unusual once people had seen the photographs, at least he was honest with the lifestyle that he offered.
I drove six hours back home and collapsed into bed. It had been an awfully long day & I would go back to college to study transport.
I was still restless and felt that I wanted a change before the amalgamation took place. There were jobs going in the Middle East working for Gulf Air, which my direct manager applied for and gained the position of cargo manager Bahrain.
I did see an advert for a cargo manager Saudi Arabian Airlines based in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.
Maureen thought I was tailor made for the job. The money was particularly good, and we would have a house in a compound.
I explained that Riyadh was not the place to be for foreign women, and that she would not be able to drive or go shopping without me . . . . plus, the weather in July and August was not for the faint hearted, we lost interest in Saudi Arabian Airlines.
At that time BOAC had engineering staff based in Riyadh, and they refused to fly home with Saudi Arabian Airlines because they were DRY! and they still are as far as I know.
A Saudi B707 plane at Heathrow.
A few weeks later one of my BOAC friends left to work in Dubai, I was not the only one who was unsettled. It would be over forty years later before I met this friend again in Dubai – by this time he considered Dubai to be his home, and he had his own company. Maureen & I had arrived in Dubai off a cruise ship.
In 1974 our first child was born, so I had to pull my head in and concentrate on cash flow.
We lived 32 km (20 miles) south of the airport and the trip to work was through the countryside which was mainly a pleasant drive. I did not have a company car so transport was at my own expense.
In the winter getting to work could be a problem – Maureen outside our house wondering if we can get the car to start, or even if we should bother because more than likely the roads would be impassable.
The town in which we lived was Congleton and was over 700 years old. It was a quiet country town of about 11,000 people.
The Motto is ‘Sit Tibi Sancta Cohors Comitum’ – To Thee be the band of comrades dedicated.
The town also had the nick name of ‘Bear town’ hence the bear at the top of the town crest, which is from an incident in Elizabethan times when bear baiting was popular (today we leave the baiting to the media).
It is said that the town bear died before an annual holiday period so the people decided to use the money that they had saved to buy a Bible, to buy a bear instead, so as not to spoil the holiday period.
Later a rhyme became popular, which can still be heard, even when we lived in the town – ‘Congelton rare, Congleton rare, sold the Bible to buy a bear.’
We loved the house and the views across the valley with the River Dane flowing through the farmland. (left picture)
As we stepped out of the front door and looked to our right there was more countryside. (right picture).
By now I’d passed my exams and became a Graduate of the Institute of Transport – in other words a right ‘GIT’.
Our mortgage at the time was £5000 or £71,000 (approx. today), and income was £30 / week or £422 / week today, and the mortgage rate was 8.9%.
In 1976 our second child arrived, and things were getting tight, mortgage rate had jumped to over 9%, and would soon reach 11.2%
In 1970 petrol was 33 p a gallon (£4.65 today), in 1975 it was £0.55 (£7.75 a gallon today), I needed more overtime or find a way of earning extra cash.
I worked a five-shift pattern –
Day shift 9am – 5pm / early shift 7 am – 3 pm/ late shift 2 pm-10 pm/ evening shift 6pm – 2 am the following day, and night shift 11pm to 7 am, we were never more than two days on the same shift, so I had daylight time to consider how to add to my income.
The people that I worked with were mostly males, but there were a few females, so I started buying eggs from local farms and selling them to the staff on the airport. Later I branched out by selling potatoes from other farms.
I could see a demand because buying from me saved my work colleagues shopping time when off duty.
Fortunately I had what the English call an ‘estate’ car, which the US and Australians call a ‘station’ wagon so I could carry quite a lot of goods if I dropped down the back seats.
The above was not my car just the same model.
As time went on people started to ask for other items and I found out where ‘end of line’ products went when after the production line changed in a factory. I was now selling frozen food, all branded names such as Birds Eye, it was just that Birds Eye had changed their product line and sold off the excess of the old product to a dealer, and I had found the dealer.
This became so popular that I rented a 20,000 cubic foot freezer chamber from a Congleton butcher, to be able to buy larger volumes at a better price. In addition, I had three chest freezers in my garage.
I then moved into Steak Canadien, which were one pound (in weight) frozen packs of ten slices of beef in single packs. I began selling this item to pubs as well as staff on the airport.
These packs went down very well in pubs because each slice with a little lettuce & sliced tomato on a roll were popular with the public. I sold the packs at £1.00 a pack of ten and the pub sold each slice with the bun and salad for at least £1.00. The profit to the pub was huge.
I also sold packs of four lamb steaks, each steak being four ounces of pure meat, very popular with children, as well as the pubs because one lamb steak and chips was a lunch time meal, and of course everyone would buy a beer . . .
One unusual product, that I have not seen since, was a large frozen custard tart (catering size), which was very popular with families, including mine!
Similar to the above, but frozen so you did not have to eat it all on the same day.
By 1978 I had earned enough profit for the four of us to fly to Australia to attend Maureen’s cousin’s wedding. We would be the only members of the UK side of the family able to attend. Few people went to Australia for a holiday!
Because I worked for British Airways, I could take advantage of ‘staff travel’, the airline sold discount tickets to staff.
Chelsea Beach in Victoria, Australia.
Which was a short walk from Maureen’s uncle’s house.