Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Uncle Ralph - Introduction

Some pay-it-forward for my nephews about their great uncle who they probably don't remember but one day may be curious about their gran's louche brother.

Following an industrial accident my uncle became a one-armed paperhanger as previously blogged. Whilst doing some genealogical research I realised that there were great gaps in my knowledge of his life story. He managed to live under the radar for much of his life in a shady demi-monde of cash-in-hand, so much so that he was once called in to the local HMRC office for a chat about the lack of income tax payments. He never bothered to register to vote so the electoral rolls provide no information on his whereabouts. 

Ralph at my parent's wedding, June 1951, age 20.

He was working as a mechanical engineer when he lost his right arm. I tried the Institute of Engineers but they had no record of him. I asked Mum (he was her younger brother by four years) where he did his apprenticeship or who he worked for. She had little recollection of her younger brother’s life. I believe he worked in a copper mine overseas; he had a copper ashtray that was supposedly a souvenir of that trip. Again, Mum didn’t know where or when. 

He was born on 7 June 1931 and died of a massive stroke on 4 February 1993 at the age of 61. He was too young to see active service in World War Two but he must have been old enough to be eligible for National Service. After Mum died I realised that I was officially Ralph’s next of kin and could apply for his service records and learn more – which I did and a little conjecture filled in the gaps.

After three years, Ralph’s army records finally came through. From which I learned that he did indeed do national service - basically two weeks army camp every year from ‘52 through to ‘55. It also records that he went to Rugby technical college and did a five-year apprenticeship with BTH Co Ltd, engineering (1948-1953).  That would be British Thomson-Houston.

I am guessing these were contemporaneous on some kind of day release.  I am under the impression that he spent some time in Rhodesia in a copper mine. Given BTH’s global reach, it could well have been with them. Did he continue working for them and was that who he was working for when he lost his arm in January 1965? He was one for the easy life so I can’t see him switching jobs.

There are many tales to tell which will follow...

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