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Rivet Lad - Alan McEwen's lusty boiler stories

Posted on | By Thornton Kay
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Lancashire, UK - Alan McEwen, author and latterday dealer in all things salvage and stoney at the World Of Rough Stones, has written an autobiographical tome about apprenticeship and rise to one of Britain's foremost steam boiler engineers. Entitled Rivet Lad, the book is a self-published sequel to two other recent classics by McEwen, about his friend the late Fred Dibnah's Chimney Drops, and the much sought-after Historic Steam Boiler Explosions.

Starting at 15 he was apprenticed in the early 1960s to Phoenix Boilermakers in Heywood*, a firm then employing 250 men, and became a member of Carrot Crampton's boiler repair squad. Until the early 1970s virtually every northern industrial town would be home to one or more boiler shops.

Different types of steam boilers are described - Galloway, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Hopwood Vertical, Kier's Spherical and Cornish Egg-Ended plus others - and repairs to most are depicted in McEwen's written vernacular, including x-rated 'beddin' of 'bossomy' ladies by Dermot 'Paddy' O'Boyle of Carrot Crampthorn's repair squad into which the young McEwen was billeted.

The book gets to the heart of the down-to-earth mechanics following in the footsteps of men whose skill, tenacity, ingenuity, humour and bravery powered the industrial revolution by building and maintaining the mighty steam boilers which converted coal into usable energy, and which the author witnessed first hand before the gradual demise of steam.

McEwen's depicts vernacular Yorkshire mixed with boilermaker twang. For example: Teddy grunted, "Yon scale is so thick it has to be belted free wi' th'hammer afore U can burn the soddin' vees. I just cannot understand how owd Bolt th'engineer can allow the build-up of watter scale to get out of hand. I bet there's more bloody scale in't boiler than watter …"

Alan’s book, written in his own inimitable style takes the reader back to the exciting days of the 1960s when he was working on heavy structural repairs on Lancashire and Cornish Boilers, a Cochran Vertical Boiler, a Stationary Locomotive Boiler, a huge steam Accumulator converted from a Lancashire Boiler and much more.

The book’s larger-than-life characters, the hard as nails, ale-supping, chain-smoking Boiler Makers: Carrot Crampthorn, Reuben Ramsbottom, Teddy Tulip, Paddy O’Boyle, and not least Alan himself are, to a man, throw-backs to times gone by when British industry was the envy of the world.

RIVET LAD price £35.00 plus £3.00 p&p to UK addresses only.

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* Incidentally, Heywood (aka Monkey Town - why?) was home to William Bell who worked in the ironworks which became Phoenix Boilermakers, was a prominent Chartist, and moved to Rochdale to become one of the founders of the Cooperative movement - ed
Sledgehammer Engineering Press: Rivet Lad by Alan McEwen
Dandelion Stone Troughs & Architectural Antiques

Story Type: Feature