Traveller's tales

Friday, August 11, 2006

Commemorative plaques: our chequered history in names on walls

My good friend, and former colleague, Cameron Smart, recently informed me that he lived near a house with a blue plaque on it - commemorating James Naysmith, the inventor of the steam hammer. Cameron was surprised to see a picture of one of these hammers on a website.

Plaques on walls can sometimes signify worlds very different from the one most of us inhabit. The noisy world of the steam hammer is a world away from our noisy world, although mechanical hammers do still have their uses.

I once played a part in their manufacture, in the clanging workshops of Openshaw Bridge in East Manchester, down Ashton Old Road, now a world away from my present place of work.

The hammers made at B & S Massey Ltd were not driven by steam, but by compressed air and electricity, but they looked a lot like the one pictured above, and had a similar function, had and still have.

A plaque on a wall takes some to a strange world few of us inhabit, and it can sometimes take some of us back to a world we often felt more comfortable in.

Robert L. Fielding

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