Guest Post - Author Chris Pownall

Posted on Friday, January 24, 2014 12:01 AM

Denis Varley

Denis was a fitter and very popular amongst his peers. You could see that Mr King liked Denis and I believe there was a little bit of favouritism in the work that Denis was given.

Denis had served in the Royal Navy and had lots of good stories to tell. He was mad on fishing and spent much of his spare time trying to catch a record breaking, specimen Mirror or Crucian carp. He was a bit of a rogue and admitted to catching the occasional duck from the small lake in Macclesfield South Park. He would cast a piece of dry bread to float on the surface of the water and when a Mallard duck took the bait, he would haul it in, pull its neck, and place the dead bird in his fishing basket, hopefully when no one was looking.

I spent a couple of years of my apprenticeship working with Denis and every day there would be some tale to tell from his colourful past. I remember when his mother-in-law died and his wife insisted on the body lying at rest at their home in Macclesfield, for a few days prior to the funeral. They laid the old girl out on a trestle table in the front room, and all seemed well until one morning when Denis’ wife went to check on her mother and she was horrified to find that the pet cat had somehow been shut in the room overnight. The cat was smacking its lips and when Denis’ wife looked more closely, she was distraught to discover that the cat had virtually chewed off one of the old girls big toes.

Denis loved to tell this story, which must have been true. There were two other tales that have stayed in my memory, one being a time he was hard up for money, and when he visited a post box to send a letter, he inadvertently posted his last ten-shilling note, together with the letter. Apparently, the ten-shilling note had been loose in the pocket where he had put the letter. As he was placing the letter into the slot in the post box, he just caught sight of his last ten bob note, but it was too late to stop it entering the post box.

He said he was so annoyed that he couldn’t be arsed to contact the post office and thought the postman would appreciate an unexpected treat, when he came to empty the post box at collection time.

Denis was a very skillful welder and one day he brought a gold ring to work that had been broken. He had managed to obtain a small piece of gold wire and his intention was to repair the gold ring with a neat weld, followed by some fine polishing. He consulted with Johnnie Bradley who was also an accomplished welder. Between them they decided which if any flux should be used to ensure a secure bond at the welded joint.

Denis fitted the smallest jet into the oxyacetylene welding torch, donned the protective eye goggles, and he was about ready to proceed with this delicate operation. By this time, a small crowd had gathered in anticipation of what might happen. The general consensus was that welding gold was a specialised procedure, requiring something much less intense than an industrial gas welding set up.

The flame was lit and Denis adjusted the oxygen and acetylene controls to provide the lowest possible flame. He stood the gold ring on a clean steel plate and very carefully, he directed the heat to where he was intending to deposit the additional metal, from his short length of gold wire.

You could have heard a pin drop, and apart from the gentle hiss of the gas flame there was complete silence. Nothing seemed to be happening, and I was closely observing the proceedings by viewing through a hand held welding glass. When welding ferrous metals you can judge the temperature of the metal by a change in colour. Denis quickly discovered that there was no such indication of temperature change from a gold ring. The process continued with the odd sarcastic comment from onlookers and then, there was an amazing development. Everyone jumped away, as a loud explosion occurred. There was a greenish blue flash accompanied by a kind of splattering noise, and the gold ring was gone. We all collapsed in hysterical laughter as Denis searched the welding bench for any remains of his gold ring. Alas it had disintegrated, but full marks to Denis for providing such good entertainment, that I shall never forget.

Author Bio

My personal life has been enriched with a loving wife Pat plus our two children Tracey and Robert. They have shared in my humour and supported me at critical times throughout my long career.
My first two books are autobiographical works with a humorous flavour, and my third book is very different, telling the true-life story about our son Robert, who at the age of 18, suffered a near fatal head injury. The book describes what happened, and the long battle for Rob to regain his life.
I have now written an industrial and social history book, which is due to be published shortly and my ultimate literary amibition is to write a riveting novel.


Loren Mathis

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