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Jim Fredericks

(Electrical Engineering, 1947-52)
fondly remembers the unofficial firework display on the Albert Memorial steps

As a year group we were interesting in that we had an cosmopolitan mix of students, some of whom came straight from school and others like myself who came up after spending some time in the forces. Certainly we formed very strong bonds with one another and for the 50 years since leaving The Guilds, a group of us have met for dinner every other year. I suspect that this alone constitutes some kind of record.

We also had, as all students should, a healthy disrespect for authority and this was clearly displayed in some of the antics I shall mention.

London ParkDuring our time at Guilds, the whole country celebrated The Festival of Britain. As part of the festival there was a great exhibition in Battersea Park and a prominent feature was the Skylon, a tall structure, a bit like a rocket on end, which was supposed to demonstrate a universal desire to reach the heights. There was to be a great bank holiday fair in Battersea park and we decided that we too would build a Skylon and take it in procession to the fair. When the great day arrived we loaded what I can only describe as a vertical erection of some splendor into the boot of Harry Marland’s small sports car.

In order to ensure that it stayed up, as it were, we had guy ropes with students at the ends. The whole contraption was quite heavy and we had to park one student on the nose of the car to keep the nose down and maintain steerage. We processed successfully down Exhibition Road and through various back streets to Battersea Park taking with us a substantial proportion of the neighboring overhead telephone lines. We all had a great time but the GPO eventually caught up with us and later we had to make a substantial payment towards the cost of restoring those wires.

FireworksFireworks night was always an opportunity for some fun and one year we decided that we would like to have a firework display on the steps of the Albert Memorial. Secret plans were made and the Chemical Engineering students set about making a supply of our own fireworks. A large flat trolley was constructed and hidden away after being loaded with combustible material. I think there must have been a slight leak in security because the police suspected that something might be afoot and on Guy Fawkes Night there were a large number of policemen gathered in front of the Albert Memorial. I imagine they suspected that there would be a rush of students across from the front of the Albert Hall. Indeed we had a diversionary group there to help in the deception. When the police were suitably occupied we trundled the trolley down from behind the memorial where it had been hidden, poured on a can of paraffin and Lo! a splendid bonfire! The Chemical Engineering students let off their fireworks and we soon had a colourful and noisy display with rockets landing on the roof of the Albert Hall. At this point the Fire Brigade arrived and hordes of students took over the fire hoses and a good time was had by all.

Not all our memories are quite so extrovert. During our first year we used to spend one afternoon each week in the Drawing Office at the top of the Guilds’ old Edwardian red brick building in Exhibition Road. I think we were designing power transmission lines for The Grampian Scheme. Anyhow to while away the idle hours we used to sing, setting new words to popular tunes. I propose now to regale you with one or two although after 50 years it is hard enough to remember the tunes - let alone the words.

Aided and abetted by my colleagues who by some stroke of good fortune have been issued with hymn sheets let us begin.

One of the real characters on the staff in our time was Professor Albert Rushton, of blessed memory. He was Head of Power, a Mancunian, raised in the Salford Works. A man of blunt speech and firm opinions.

To the tune of The Vicar of Bray we sang this Hymn to Him.

In Albert Rushton’s golden days
When students did work hard, Sir!
When Manchester was all the world
And three feet were a yard, Sir!
When men were men
And workmen then
Were paid for by the hour. Sir!
I bet that Albert never thought
He’d be Professor of Power. Sir!

Professor Rushton, being one of the old school, clearly thought that the Head of Power should be the head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and was, I suspect, uncomfortable to be second to an electronics man.

There was also a second verse to that song, now lost in the mists of time, but it ended:_

But whatsoever prof may reign
He’ll still be Professor of Power. Sir!

Albert Rushton was a vivid teacher although he struggled to teach us fancy electronics boys the mysteries of the winding of electrical machines. He did however have one chant which was forever imprinted on my memory. It went like this:-

Up in the top and down in the bottom!

I don’t think I ever discovered what it was that was UP or what it was that went on DOWN IN THE BOTTOM!

The Head of the Electrical Engineering Department was Willis Jackson, a brilliant and delightful man who always found time to lecture to his first year students, particularly on atomic physics. He was fond of using the words ‘hypothesize and postulate’ and one of his lectures was about Niels Bohr’s views of the structure of the atom. We had a little ditty for him, to the tune of the Jumping Bean:-

Bohr postulated a hypothetical particle
With K Shell, L Shell, M Shell, N Shell ……..

There were other examples, but I will bore you with only one more. In this, with the inexplicable logic known only to students we seem to have combined references to CR Urwin’s Transmission Lines with Doc Haywood’s Thermodynamics. Cyril Urwin, many will remember, never pronounced a final ‘g’ at the end of a word.

After 50 years you will realise that this last masterpiece has acquired a new and special significance. It is entitled:-


Exponentially we all decay
Exponentially we fade away
Correspondin’ly, as Urwin said,
Its only a reflection comin’ back along the section

Isothermally, we all expand
Adiabaticlly, to the Promised Land
Isentropically, there is no gain.
The total work done is the same
Neglecting friction!
The total work done is the same!

I now have done my work
Thank you Guilds for a wonderful education
Thank you Guilds for an interesting and rewarding career
It’s a Great Life
Don’t Weaken!

  © 2007 Imperial College London

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