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Frank Ledger interviewed by Steven Guilbert and Thomas Lean (SECTION 1 - tracks 1-6)

Ledger, Frank (speaker, male; interviewee)
2012-05-28, 2012-06-28, 2012-11-27, 2012-01-08, 2013-02-19, 2013-03-05


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  • Title:
    Frank Ledger interviewed by Steven Guilbert and Thomas Lean (SECTION 1 - tracks 1-6)
  • Contributor: Ledger, Frank; Guilbert, Steven; Lean, Thomas
  • Other Titles:
    Collection title: An Oral History of the Electricity Supply Industry in the UK

  • Rights: The British Library
  • Description:
    Track 1 [1:26:38] [Session one: 28 May 2012] Frank Ledger [FL], born Leeds, 1929. Remarks on origins of the name Ledger. Recalls a selection of earliest memories. Description of neighbourhood in south Leeds. Recalls sliding down coalmine waste heaps. Mentions various other childhood adventures. Comments on the proximity of the neighbourhood to the countryside. Remarks on neighbours and the pleasant and supportive environment. [07:30] Mentions interest in stamp collecting. Remarks on Leeds city centre. Comments on taking a tram into town. Description of back-to-back house. Mentions lavatory yard and sharing a toilet with the neighbours. Remarks on cobbled street and horse-drawn traffic. Description of FL’s bedroom. Mentions gas lighting. Recalls the installation of electric lighting during the war. [16:05] Description of playing cricket and other games in the street. Mentions playing football for Leeds Electric and Old Centralians. Recalls numerous childhood friends and other local characters. Short description of keeping animals on local allotments. Short story about FL being dispatched to Grandmothers’s house for Saturday lunch and a share of her meat ration. [26:45] Comments on the quietness and convenience of electric lighting. Description of various non-electrical household appliances. Description of early interest in electricity. Remarks on the modernness, newness, and exciting nature of the electricity industry. Story of father arranging work experience at a local power station [Kirkstall]. [31:24] Comments on failing a grammar school scholarship exam and the four pounds per term fees being beyond the means of his parents. Remarks on electricity and mathematics transforming FL’s life. [34:32] Description of tram-cars around Elland Road [Leeds United] Further description of match days, mentions hearing the crowd from FL’s house. [37:58] Description of father, Harry Ledger, remarks on him being very intelligent. Comments on him being originally apprenticed to FL’s paternal grandfather’s harness and saddle making business in Holbeck [Leeds]. Mentions grandfather’s business failing with the advent of the motorcar. Description of father’s various jobs. Mentions father receiving a defence medal during the war for his work as a air raid warden. Remarks on father’s adventurousness and mentions FL’s parents touring around Europe in a converted van. Short description of father’s work as a higher purchase payments collector. [43:43] Description of family holidays to Scarborough and Blackpool, mentions visiting a spiritualist. Further description of family holidays, mentions New Brighton [Merseyside] and the Liverpool overhead railway. [52:40] Mentions father’s chronic bronchitis. Comments on father’s experiences during the First World War. Remarks on father’s career, mentions him valuing quality of life over ambition. Comments on relationship with parents. [1:01:50] Mentions mother, Doris Lillian Ledger (nee Gale). Description of visits to grandmother’s family in Gloucestershire. Story of FL’s maternal grandfather working his way up, job to job, from Gloucestershire to Leeds. Description of mother, a home maker, who later took on part-time work. Story about accommodating two soldier lodgers in a room with one double bed. Comments on relationship with mother, mentions, after leaving home, going back every two weeks for dinner and tea. Recalls mother always wanting an electrical oven and a garden. [1:15:50] Remarks on maternal grandparents, mentions their house in the Tilbury[s] area of Leeds. Short story about the bombing of a factory close to their [maternal grandparents] home during the Second World War. Remarks on paternal grandparents, mentions their home and business in the Holbeck area of Leeds. Description of paternal grandmother, and her father’s building business, mentions paternal grandmother not receiving anything from her father’s will. Mentions paternal grandfather’s father, a sawyer whose first wife died of smallpox. Remarks on paternal grandfather’s grandmother [FL’s great, great grandmother] and her house in Hunslet, Leeds. Comments on paternal grandfather’s father’s niece [FL’s great Aunt] who had an illegitimate child who was put into the workhouse, mentions this being the only known skeleton-in-the-closet. [1:22:33] Further description of maternal grandparents, mentions his maternal grandfather’s drinking and FL’s mother’s subsequent strong opposition to alcohol. Short story about a family trip to see the Festival of Britain on which FL’s mother was aghast to see FL drinking a pint of beer. Comments on growing up as an only child, mentions liking to have had a sister.

    Track 2 [1:33:29] [Session one: 28 May 2012] Comments on domestic chores, remarks on their not being many to do. Mentions father having Wednesday afternoons off, recalls going for picnics with him in the school holidays. Description of mealtimes, mentions mother’s cooking and mother in law's tendency to boil everything. Comments on local chipshops. Further description of mealtimes, mentions shepherd’s pie and custard as favourite foods. [07:40] Remarks on bathing and washing routines, mentions the communal toilets. [09:40] Description of visits to Roundhay Park [Leeds], mentions the magic of the military tattoos. Description of small country bungalow near Adel Woods [Leeds] which parents bought to aid FL’s recovery from glandular tuberculosis. Remarks on glandular tuberculosis and a number of other childhood illnesses including scarlet fever. Further description of time spent at country bungalow, mentions going for country walks and climbing Adel Crags. [18:38] Comments on going to the cinema, names a number of local picture houses. Mentions various indoor games and amusements FL enjoyed playing. Remarks on parents leisure interests, mentions taking the Yorkshire Evening Post and Daily Mail. Description of FL’s interest in aeroplanes, mentions taking the publication Modern Wonder, a magazine on science and engineering. [25:22] Description of cycling activities, bicycle and routes, mentions no health restrictions. Comments on cycling to places for fell-walking, rock climbing, mountaineering and potholing from Leeds to the Dales. Remarks on other sporting activities and holidays. [32:30] Description of parent’s tour of Europe in a modified Ford van during the 1940s and 50s. [34:36] Description of war time memories, the day war was declared, air raid shelters. Comments on Leeds not being a major target, aeroplanes flying over to Manchester and Liverpool; noise from German aircraft and anti-aircraft guns. Mentions looking for shrapnel from anti-aircraft shells as souvenirs. [38:10] Comments on friends being evacuated but coming back within months, FL never evacuated. Remarks on school being closed for months. [39:42] Remarks on father seeing war as inevitable. Comments on hearing bombs whistling. [41:19] Comments on father working as a gasman, collecting hire purchase payments for a company, and as air raid warden. Comments on attending Junior Technical School, getting scholarship to do an Ordinary National Diploma in Electrical Engineering. [43:26] Description of starting Beeston School, Leeds, age three and a half. Comments on stamp collecting. [48:14] Comments on school subjects. Remarks on his father educating him. Comments on teachers and teaching methods. [55:05] Comments on Junior Technical School, age thirteen for three years. Remarks on importance of realising FL was good at maths; benefit of researching projects rather than being taught. Mentions parents suggested technical school.

    Track 2 [cont. from 58:27] Comments on interest in electricity. Description of Technical School in Gower Street, Leeds; location and travel. Description of time at Technical School; playtimes, lunch, subjects. [1:06:10] Comments on dislike of history teaching style, English as pedantic. Comment on appeal of maths and physics, electricity covered simply. [1:10:48] Description of classmates, games, and their later careers. Remarks there was no bullying. [1:13:44] Comments on school reports. Comments on importance of not getting a scholarship to grammar school. [1:16:43] Remarks on being prefect. Comments on getting Leeds City scholarship at Leeds Technical College to do an Ordinary National Diploma in Electrical Engineering, age sixteen for two years. Comments on choosing to become an electrical engineer. Comment on studying at Technical College. [1:22:12] Remarks on alternative route of apprenticeships and benefit of Diploma. Comments on curriculum; less interested in light current, which is dominant now. [1:26:11] Mentions lack of women at college. Comments on lecturers, part-time work as a lab assistant. Remarks on work ethic, memory, and examinations. Comments on friends Bill Gibson and Brian Chappelow. [1:31:05] Mention post-diploma became Student Apprentice with Leeds Corporation Electricity Department for the new Skelton Grange Power Station in 1947. Remarks on sense of achievement in full time education.

    Track 3 [1:10:30] [Session Two: 28 June 2012] Comments on fortunate timing of Leeds Corporation wanting a Student Apprentice; description of next step of professional progression. Remarks on starting the student apprenticeship at Whitehall Road power station, Leeds. Comments on FL’s goals for getting the Technical State scholarship and taking additional night courses. [07:16] Mentions wanting to operate power stations; no preference whether public or private run. Comments on researching history of the utility company, originally Yorkshire House to House Electricity Company. Remarks on use of traction engines for peak demand. Remarks on the expansion and technical development of electricity industry. Comments on starting apprenticeship age eighteen, working in Drawing Office in Whitehall Road and involvement in designing cooling water system for Wakefield Power Station. Remarks on power stations being more mechanical than electrical. Description of student apprenticeship; studying crafts, learning how everything worked. Comments on apprenticeship pay. [16:10] Description of utilities; generation and distribution. Explains about the distribution network and the lack of competition at the time. [19:16] Comments on the household electrical appliances in the home, gas versus electric heating, expansion in building homes. Mentions putting low voltage distribution networks in housing estates and jointing cables. [22:00] Remarks on travelling to Whitehall Road by bicycle and later Kirkstall Power Station. Comments on what FL learnt during the apprenticeship. Remarks on the careers of fellow apprentices. Describes the story of a busbar fault causing an explosion; casualties and injuries sustained. Remarks on FL not considering it an especially dangerous job. [30:25] Description of chain grate boiler and pulverised fuel power stations. Comments on Leeds power stations; age and output. Comments on role of National Grid. Comments on state of electricity supply post-war, consumer demand, using old plant, maintenance. Comments about meeting demand, plans to build Skelton Grange. Remarks on expense of using and maintaining old plant. [41:42] Comments on impact of Electricity Act 1947 and nationalisation. [44:18] Remarks on decision to get leave of absence from the apprenticeship to do a degree. Remarks on the layout of power stations. [46:44] Comments on the change from being an employee of Leeds Corporation to the British Electricity Authority [BEA], in the Yorkshire Electricity Board [YEB] division, responsible for generation and transmission. [48:24] Comments on the most important lessons learnt from the apprenticeship; people skills. [49:49] Comments on External London University Degree at Leeds Technical College, subjects studied, and the different backgrounds of other students. Comments on value of apprenticeship to degree. Comments on value of degree to practical work. [57:16] Description of designing the water cooling system for Wakefield Power Station. [59:39] Comments on advantage of doing the degree to FL’s career; getting into the Navy for National Service by joining Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve [RNVR] via School and University Entry. Mentions training on HMS Implacable in Portland Harbour as Able Seaman RNVR; comments on public school educated volunteers. Comments on getting National Service in the Royal Navy relevant to career, marriage benefits, and training. Comments on working on the destroyer HMS Obdurate, being part of the home fleet when Queen Elizabeth II returned from her Commonwealth tour following the coronation. Remarks on FL’s role as Watch Keeping Officer on the HMS Ark Royal IV. Remarks on being able to buy first house with wife Alma.

    Track 4 [54:02] Remarks on meeting Alma; mentions visiting the Capital Ballroom, Astoria, and Broadway Hall [Leeds] dancehalls. Description of family life, remarks on birth of children and house moves to Alwoodley in Leeds, Doncaster and Nottingham. Remarks on father’s dementia. Remarks on children and grandchildren. [10:14] Comments on dating Alma, her background, engagement in 1953. Remarks on events in 1953. Mentions wedding reception at Leeds Corporation’s restaurant and ration books on honeymoon. Comments on married life, description of first house in Alwoodley and Ford Popular car. [18:30] Description of rooms and use of electricity at home, heating, and appliances. Comments on demand for electricity. Remarks on television programmes; ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ and ‘The Lone Ranger’. Comments on leisure interests, activities of Bradford Potholing Club at Gaping Gill [Yorkshire Dales]. [28:42] Remarks on work after Royal Navy; Site Engineer at York Power Station. [30:29] Comments on involvement as a father; extent of sacrifice because of work. [33:57] Comments on moving house to Doncaster and birth of second son at home. Story of missing birth of first son. Mentions working at Thorpe Marsh Power Station. Comments on family holidays; owning a caravan. Mentions being Station Manager at Cottam Power Station. [42:04] Comments on house and garden at West Bridgford, Nottingham. [43:01] Comments on social circles at home and work. [46:16] Remarks on memorable events; mention of 1948 London Olympics, seeing Sputnik, winning the World Cup 1966, Cuban Missile Crisis, assassination of JF Kennedy. Comments on music and record collecting. [52:44] Remarks on disciplining the children.

    Track 5 [1:11:21] Comments on resuming work with the construction group at Yorkshire Division of Central Electricity Authority [CEA] after National Service; being 4th, then 3rd Assistant Engineer. Comments on Operational Research during the War and the Herbert Report. Comments on FL’s recruitment in Operational Research Group; problem-solving. Description of applying planning to the maintenance of generating units, saving money by reducing time required. Comments on statistical analysis for working out the optimum level of stores. Comments on progressing to Senior Engineer and Head of Operational Research, responsible for Yorkshire and Newcastle regions. [07:43] Comments on planning, logistics and critical path analysis. [11:50] Remarks on communication between divisions and regions. Comments on formation of Central Electricity Generating Board [CEGB], period of transition from divisions to regions. Description of regional responsibilities. Remarks on lack of integration between electrical maintenance engineers, mechanical maintenance engineers, and instrument engineers. [15:40] Comments on FL’s place in hierarchy. Description of typical day at York Power Station. Description of floating safety-valves for boilers, mentions British Standard Specification, reports and progress meetings. [21:01] Mentions Operational Research at St Mary’s Road, Leeds, old Yorkshire Division headquarters. [21:15] Remarks on Christopher Hinton’s appointment as Chairman of CEGB; removing management. Comments on fast-track career advancement to Deputy Station Manager at Thorpe Marsh Power Station in 1962, with Jerry Vickers [JV] as Operations Superintendent. Description of Thorpe Marsh Power Station. Description of recruiting staff. Remarks on using psychometric tests when Station Manager at Cottam Power Station. [30:32] Remarks on commissioning and testing of plant. Comments on CEGB construction groups. [33:42] Comments on appointment as Station Manager and influencing design of Cottam Power Station. Remarks on recruitment based on youth and ability rather than experience. [37:05] Comments on turbine generator sizes and implications. Remarks on lack of prototyping. [41:24] Comments on concerns of efficiency versus reliability. Remarks on manpower issues; training from scratch. Comments on building relationships with project people and contractors. [46:50] Mentions leaving Cottam Power Station before it went live. Mentions Hinton set up new management level of Group Manager. Remarks on responsibility of Group Manager, FL appointed to manage five power stations in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. [49:11] Remarks on number of people FL would have been responsible for at Cottam Power Station. Description of staff hierarchy and responsibilities at Cottam Power Station. [53:34] Description of Group Manager responsibilities; mentions power stations at Ratcliffe, Nottingham, Leicester, Northampton and Castle Donington. Remarks on Ash Disposal Scheme at Peterborough. [55:07] Comments on fast career progression. Comments on increasingly managerial nature of work. [59:20] Description of the changing organisation of the electricity industry, evolution and privatisation. [1:03:17] Comments on Magnox programme and development of nuclear power. [1:06:20] Comments on FL’s career progression. Mention of job offer from Atomic Energy Authority. Mention of why FL was not Director of Generation in a region. Comments on moving from practical engineer to manager.

    Track 6 [1:07:28][Interview Three: 27 November 2012] Remarks on family: initial FL living arrangements in London whilst family remained in Nottingham; anecdote about not being able to help son with homework; support of family during stress of second miner's strike; sons David and Robert's education; children not becoming engineers; anecdote about son's teacher saying he was good at physics; sons' educations at Hatfield and Bristol Polytechnics and careers in computing and insurance; anecdote about taking children around electricity industry; wife Alma's feelings about his work; work social occasions involving wife, example of taking wife to Japan on a work trip. [05:35] Remarks on later membership of international ESI organisations: CIGRE international organisation for transmission networks; UNIPEDE European ESI organisation; importance of conferences to exchange views; stand-alone nature of British ESI compared to continent; value of personal connections, such as with Italians, in managing relations with French over DC cross-channel connection with France; frequency of conferences. [09:03] Remarks on social life connected with electricity industry: long term friends from industry; friendship with other couples from industry, such as Hugh and Pamela Matthews from Midlands Region, Jerry and Audrey Vickers, from Thorpe Marsh power station, Vic Brown, from FL apprenticeship and later work at Nuclear Electric; frequent moves making friendships outside industry difficult. [12:10] Remarks on moving around country for work: family reactions to moves, effects on sons' schooling; FL flat in Shirley whilst working in Midlands; parents' feelings about FL living far from them; [14:15] arrangements for care of FL father during his illness; CEGB support for rent and providing a flat in Birmingham. [16:23] Remarks on salary: unions role in ensuring good rates for engineering staff; civil service pay structures constricting top post salaries; anecdote about appeal to Minister over FL low salary whilst deputy Chairman of Nuclear Electric, and replacement by 3 people who were each paid more than him. [18:29] Remarks on FL feelings about industry: feeling underpaid but feeling wedded to industry; glamour of working with electricity early in career; later sense of public service and meeting challenges; anecdote about turning down UKAEA [UK Atomic Energy Agency] post at Chapel Cross power station; meritocracy nature of CEGB promotions; FL work causing him to be noticed, example of payment productivity initiatives in Midlands. [22:00] Anecdote about talking about work with colleagues outside of work. Anecdote about reunions with former colleagues still involving talking about current energy policy. [23:13]

    Track 6 [cont' from 23:13] Remarks on views on energy policy earlier in his career: three fuel energy policy; FL poor opinion of Magnox; George Brown's economic policy to support planned economic growth with programme of larger power stations; role of nationalised ESI in long term energy policy; FL flexible political outlook, support for long term innovations by politicians, changing views on Margaret Thatcher; energy policy effects on FL voting, example of not voting Liberal. [28:30] Remarks on: careers in nuclear power, split between nuclear and coal power people; FL career path. [29:45] Remarks on FL feelings on aftermath 1974 miners' strike, Arthur Hawkins' desire to return ESI to full operation quickly. [32:10] Comments on relationship between CEGB and Area Electricity Boards [Area Electricity Board]: story about FL communications with Yorkshire Electricity Board to maintain electricity supply to British Gas terminal in Humberside during miners' strike; FL meetings with Area Electricity Board representatives at Electricity Council committee over contingency planning for strikes by miners, water and transportation industries; similarity of CEGB and Area Electricity Board views on emergencies; [36:33] FL attendance of Area Board Chief engineer's conference, whilst System's Operation Engineer, in place of Trevor Broom; anecdote about FL drafting weekly newsletter to Area Electricity Board's on behalf of Arthur Hawkins; unreliability of 500MW plants when first introduced potentially causing problems; difference of Area Electricity Board and CEGB commercial views; anecdote about Treasury view on CEGB; [41:15] FL friends in Area Electricity Boards; regional CEGB and Area Electricity Board joint bodies over labour relations issues; privatisation benefits for Area Electricity Boards. [43:10] Remarks on FL career path: Director of resource planning in Midlands Region, 1975; Director of computing CEGB, 1980. [43:50] Remarks on duties of Director of resource planning: area level of system operation; planning for budget, yearly power station contracts; regional computing equipped with ICL and Burroughs computers used for administration; work study operational research group; FL work at Solihull. [46:39] Discussion about labour relations: 1977 breakaway industrial trade union movement, power cuts, board member for operations Gil Blackman's solution of only paying people who were working as normal; ETU leader Frank Chapple wanting to avoid industrial action; unions knowing responsibilities and power; dramatic reduction of CEGB manpower from closure of small power stations and payment productivity agreements; FL membership of National Joint Industrial Council as CEGB representative in 1980s, facing Frank Chapple; [51:30] description of Frank Chapple; Chapple predecessor Les Cannon's long term perspective and role payment productivity schemes; description of pay and productivity schemes in operation, reduction of staffing at power stations; anecdote about FL duties implementing payment productivity schemes at power stations. [56:25] Comments on National Joint Industrial Council meetings: role of Electricity Council; annual meetings over pay; role resolving disputes from power station works committees; anecdote about discussions about Fawley power station's lathe; atmosphere of meetings. [1:01:05] Remarks on post as Director of Resource Planning, Midlands: position of post in relation to Director General Jim Porteus, Director of Generation Hugh Mathews, and others in senior management team; FL additional role as deputy to Director General ; role of group management to assist power station managers; Director of Engineering responsible for Hams Hall central workshop and for specialists providing expert technical advice to other groups; power station efficiency responsibility of Richard Sochoczewski interesting background as a Polish Jew imprisoned by the Russians; CEGB regional resource plan, produced by Director of resource planning, approved by CEGB.

  • Notes:
    Recording: 2012-05-28, 2012-06-28, 2012-11-27, 2012-01-08, 2013-02-19, 2013-03-05;
    - Ledger, Frank (speaker, male; interviewee);
    - Guilbert, Steven (speaker, male; interviewer);
    - Lean, Thomas (speaker, male; interviewer)
    Recording Notes: audio file 14 WAV 24 bit 48 kHz 2-channel
    Access restrictions: none

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