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We Tangye trainees enjoyed a spear throwing contest

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 05, 2014

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AFTER leaving Rowley Regis Technical/Grammer School, Wrights Lane, in 1949 aged 15 on a Friday, I started the following Monday at Tangye's as a trainee, with the prospects of becoming an apprentice at 16 for five years.

The working week consisted of a basic 44 hours plus 4 hours' overtime on a Saturday for £1-4s (£1-20), and the actual work for a trainee was hand filing or grinding castings to a smooth finish, plus being errand boy to other departments, canteen or shops.

Considering the factory covered two thirds of Cornwall Road on both sides you soon realised you were at the bottom of the pile.

But, at the same time because the company was family orientated you belonged in the said family.

At 16 you were welcomed into the Company Apprenticeship Scheme, when you and your parents signed an agreement to bind you for five years to the company who would train you in every aspect of each manufacturing department.

The apprentice was allowed one day per week for college and was expected to attend two or three nights per week when required.

At the same time he must still fulfil the remaining working week.

To distinguish you from other employees they supplied you with three sets of Brown boiler suits with the Tangye 'Cornish' emblem on the pocket, which as you progressed through your training gained you respect from the older employees and gave you a sense of pride in the company.

The Tangye family spent part the year abroad either in the south of France or on safari in Africa from where quite a number of souvenirs came for storage on site or even to Birmingham Museum for display.

But the family, Sir Basil and Chris, always returned for Apprentices Day. This was held on a Saturday with a factory Open Day for parents and siblings who came from all parts of the UK. to tour freely with their son on the morning.

This was followed by an afternoon of sports events for all employees of which 120 were apprentices at their own Sports and Social Club on the Birmingham Road close to the West Bromwich Albion ground.

One memory springs to mind with reference to the souvenirs.

When as trainees we became bored at lunch time we went exploring down into the cellar which covered both sides of the road.

There were shields and spears which led to throwing contests, possibly a sacking offence if we had been caught.

Sadly, it came to an end on reaching 21 and on leaving I joined the Merchant Navy as a junior engineer.

But that's another memory.

George Ward,


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