7 dec 2017






school photos






           All original writing

           2014, 2015, 2016, 2017            Ian McLauchlin



Born a very long time ago in a village far far away oop north. As a child, fed ducks with the chewed crusts of loaves before they’d arrived home (the loaves not the ducks). Fond of a very friendly dog called Towser. It had wheels and a handle.

Was described in a report by Primary School headmaster as “systematic”.

An early breakthrough: discovered that if you ate pickled beetroot your wee turned pink.

From a very young age I realised that I didn’t understand people, but did understand things. Clearly a future in science beckoned.  On the way, I operated the school cine projector and tape recorder at functions, developed and printed my own photographs, made crystal sets, an automatic noughts and crosses playing machine (which in a fit of tidiness my mother threw out), battery electric shock circuits, and nearly wiped out my own brother by getting him to sniff the chlorine I’d just made. I also built balsa model aeroplanes with doped tissue surfaces. The dope smelt illegal. Most importantly I realised that you could diminish those teachers who frightened you simply by imagining them stood there in only their underpants.

Beware the wrath of a patient man. After years of being bullied at Grammar School, I’d finally had enough and hit this boy hard in the jaw. He must have wondered what hit him. After a few hours, the cut on my fist became seriously infected and a red inflammation crept slowly up my arm . . . .

Wrote various pieces for the school magazine - still haven’t got that out of my system . . . . O levels included French and Latin. A levels - Maths, Physics and Chemistry - fairly standard in those days.  To celebrate, hitch-hiked and Youth Hostelled round Belgium and Luxembourg. No, that was the year before.

Hitch-hiking and waiting at a bus stop???

University and Metal Science and Metallurgy Degree. And first car (see articles). Also first near encounter with a computer (Atlas I think) which was housed in its own large air-conditioned building, was tended by religious fanatics who wouldn’t let anyone near it, and was available for worship on two special days a week. I decided that I needed to know more and eventually I did. For example, I know that you’ve got more computing power in a corner of your mobile phone than that huge expensive and demanding beast had.

Why settle for one degree when you can have two? No metal physics was going to get the better of me. Time to show it who’s boss, particularly in the aluminium-copper-lithium field. This was the 1960s so I had to alloy my own alloys, roll my own sheet strip, coax my own electron microscope into action and recondition my own car engine at the weekend. There were no readily available copying machines so there were only four copies of my thesis - one top copy and three carbon copies. All figures were hand drawn and all electron microscope images and diffraction patterns were hand developed and printed.They don’t know they’re born these days . . .

The Electricity Generating Industry was recruiting and the Nuclear Power side took a fancy to me. (I’d previously worked at Windscale one summer, signed the Official Secrets Act and only now can I tell anybody about it . . . I think. If I’m wrong, I may have to kill you.) I was very interested in the effects of a nuclear environment on the behaviour and integrity of materials and structures and was able to indulge that interest with mutual benefit. It was around this time that I wrote a Pantomime with music and songs to perform in the local Village Hall. (This was an offshoot of my contributions to the Laboratory Xmas Lunch cabaret show . . . ) In spare moments I played Trombone here and there and also went sailing a lot. Tendency for instrument to get caught in the rigging, but great in fog.

Learnt to like dogs after daughter befriended a wonderful collie-cross called Murphy. One day I was mid-rant about something, Murphy felt that this was unwise and told me so by putting his front legs on my shoulders and staring me in the face at close range. That shut me up and I’ve marvelled at it ever since!

The personal computer became a gleam in IBM’s eye. Meanwhile, Digital Research had produced their PDP8 computer which was now available in a large instrument rack at the end of a corridor. No magnetic storage. All input and output was via a teleprinter and punched paper tape. I knew that I needed to get into this, which was fortunate because I was later able to solve by computer many complex equations that I’d devised which couldn’t be solved analytically. (I was also able to computerise a horrendous task of my wife’s, who was a teacher, imposed nationally by City and Guilds. They liked it so much, they bought the Company!)

And we’re nearly here. After a few major health scares, I was able to retire by the seaside and live happily ever after.