Memories of a Happy 5-Years!

Steve Paddock shares his memories from working at Dowty

“I’m Steve Paddock and I spent several happy years working for Dowty Fuel Systems and Dowty and Smiths Industries Controls at Arle Court, back between 1980 and 1987.

Aerial view of Dowty Fuel Systems & Arle Court

I started working at Arle Court on the Maintenance team on a temporary basis shortly after my return to the UK from living in New Zealand for a couple of years.

I went to a locally based temp agency and was placed at Dowty’s for eight weeks – mainly driving a small lorry between Dowty sites and working with the team based in the chippies store behind DHU and made some good friends in that short time who were to be very useful to me when I returned to work at DFS full time.

I had got a full time job working for Cheltenham Shopping Week, the local free sheet newspaper based in the basement on the Promenade.

Then went to work for an insurance company in Gloucester called Trident Life.

There I worked closely with a lady who was the MDs secretary and she left to take a job as secretary to Ray Bull at Dowtys and soon after, called me to tell me there was a job going that was right up my street – working as Assistant PR Manager to Duncan McGaw at DFS.

I was interviewed by Duncan and then by Ray Bull who told me he didn’t really know what marketing was all about (he was an engineer of course!) but he thought I might do a good job! High praise indeed.

I joined shortly afterwards I think in 1982 or 83, and got on well with Duncan and Paul Weir, although Paul left shortly afterwards and joined a small PR agency in Cheltenham.

Although Duncan was my line manager, I was working for Sales Director at DFS Melvyn Leonard and Sales Director for DSIC – Jack Quinn and for the directors – one of my main roles was to put together 35mm slide presentations for each of the directors when they had visitors that needed presentations in the board room – and to sort them out when they decided to change the slides around and blocked the carousels!

The directors at that time included Ray Bull, Colin Cocks, Barry Battman and company secretary was TIm someone… his name will come to me!

My job expanded as the time flew by and as well as loking after the presentations I looked after the in-house newsletter, looked after the Dark Room down on the first floor and began to get involved in looking after the brochures and increasingly in putting the bid documents – nearly all to Rolls Royce – together.

We used a spiral binding system for the documents but the documents got so thick we had to spiral bind several sections and then what was called ‘shepherds crook’ them together using wires. They looked awful – not very profesional and I was instrumental with others in getting different ways of binding these documents in and also for the first time in sending in a short version of the proposals as most people never read the whole thing anyway – so an overview of the technical with the prices!

Ray Bull was promoted to become MD of Dowty Electronics at Acton, and we got ourselves a new Marketing Director, ex-deputy leader of the Red Arrows, Doug Marr!

He was quite fun and was the first boss I ever had who was able to deliver a verbal brief in bullet points!

We were producing a range of new brochures – many of which it is good to see on this site – including one which caused huge grief to Doug Marr.

I took in the finished brochure to show him and get it signed off, he sat back and said this wasn’t what he’d briefed at all and to go away and try again!

I did and presented the next version which was exactly what he had briefed.

Again, he sent me away with a flea in my ear – I had misunderstood the brief – try again.

I was sent away four or five times till I was frankly p****ed off with it so I dug out the first version we had done and took that back in to him…”That’s it my friend… on…..why didn’t we get this first time around?”. I just sat and smiled at him……He responded….”This is the first one isn’t it…? You b*****d!!!”

After that we had a sneaky respect for each other and everything went smoothly!

Had a lot of friends during my Dowty days some of whom I’m still in touch with – Roy Jayne in DSIC – great man and was my best man and still see him three or four times a year.

George Straubs who went out to sell HiPPAG to the Americans and he’s still there, living just outside Washington DC.

Ray Windless who I see once a year or so – still hasn’t finished building his house near Newent!!!

Tony – who had tinnitus and drove a Fiat X19.

Dennis with the beard whose wife Pauline was receptionist on the ground floor of the new DFS building.

Bob Spry – crisp and dry, who married one of the secretaries in the directors suite.

Pat – Jack Quinn’s moany but lovely secretary!

Annie who ran the typing pool. Sure there are many others who will come back to me as well!

Fond memories of the Dowty Club on a Friday lunchtime, the skittles and playing tennis until midnight under the lights until someone complained and me and George Straubs were banned!

Arle Court Sports & Social Club

Being given the job of going round the machine shop to beg machine operators to take down their Sun calendars when we had visits from VIPs – from the MOD usually only for them to mysteriously reappear when the visitors arrived!

Top memory was one day doing a video in the exhibition hall across the road near the house, when Norman Tebbit, then still a cabinet member and ex-airline pilot was making a private visit to the company.

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Block F – Exhibition Hall

Against recommendation, I asked him if he would appear in my video and he agreed – one take, perfectly media trained obviously by the Conservative Party – and my video went from a slightly boring one to one featuring and lit up by the then hated by many, member of the Government who was, I have to say, as charming as he could have been!

Happy days and many more memories starting to leach back into my memory as I prepare to hit the submit button!!!”

Comments about this page

  • My husband Dick (Philip) Tallents used to talk about Duncan McGaw. He worked in several different Dowty factories, first as an apprentice aged 16 in 1966, ending up as an export credit correspondent at Dowty Seals, Ashchurch. Starting on the shop floor as an apprentice was a bit of a shock, having just left Cheltenham Boys College after O levels as apparently he “wasn’t A level material”! It stood him in good stead as he got on with everyone, whoever they were.

    By Sue Tallents (05/06/2020)

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