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Working with the full size engine at Washpit Mills inspired me to make my own. I was lucky that the local high school I went to had very well equipped  workshops, with lathes, milling machines etc. I was also lucky that a chap by the name of Reg Wilson looked after the machines as an early retirement job from his previous work as a foreman in an engineering company in Leeds. When I was about 14 I started working on a set of castings for a model steam engine. Reg took me under his wing and for 2 1/2 years I benefitted from his immense knowledge and experience of engineering - the fruits of a lifetime spent in industry. This all took place after school and at lunchtime as I was supposedly ‘academic’ and studying metalwork wasn’t for me - such is the legacy of the class system we still have to deal with! I daresay in Germany it would have been different!! Anyway, the engine eventually got finished. The above photographs are of it running recently on my kitchen table, filling the house full of a great aroma of steam and oil!! You can see the engine running recently here.
After school I obtained a sponsorship with Land Rover in Solihull. I worked there for a year and then went on to study on a mechanical engineering degree. I got fed up with this and dropped out, ending up studying music at Dartington College of Arts in Devon. After graduating from Dartington and working back in engineering for a while I started making accordions in 1990 in Great Malvern. Since then I’ve also been involved in music technology and sound engineering. For many years I’ve been using specialist music technology to enable disabled musicians. I continue to work in this field alongside making the accordions, working for an organisation called Omnimusic.
I’ve never forgotten the beautiful Victorian engineering so apparent in ‘AGNES’ at Washpit Mill, nor the amazing experience of being taught engineering by Reg Wilson at school. It’s this great tradition of engineering which I try and bring to my instruments.