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Alan Wilson
Alan Wilson

Historian Alan Wilson - (1932-2023) (aged 90 years)

Alan Wilson went to university under pressure from his parents and largely because his older brother was there. His own ideas were to leave school at sixteen and attend a Technical College as he far preferred the idea of life in industry or commerce, and he was never comfortable with academia.

In those days one could do a Pass Degree in two subjects if not selected for an Honours course, so he took a Pass degree in three subjects. Economics, History, and English and was glad to get it over and done with and do his two years National Service in the army.

The problem was largely that large numbers of ex-service persons were still leaving the 5 million strong wartime army and the several million of the Navy and Air Force and large numbers were claiming that they would have gone to University but for the war. They were all sorts of ex-Captains, Lieutenants, and so on up to thirty years old and eighteen year olds were lost in the dominance of this group.

He did not really decide what he wanted to do with his life until in his late twenties when he discovered the systems of Pre-determined Time and Motion techniques and organized Methods techniques that were becoming the industrial vogue. Suffice it to say that he rapidly achieved a management position running a Planning Methods and Time & Motion study department for twelve factories in a steel re-rolling and manufacturing group. He moved on to another large company with six major factories before being head-hunted by a large international consultancy.

The projects were virtually all located in Shipyards and boiler-making plants. It was actually best to know very little about ship design, as the problems in the United Kingdom were massively organizational. Everything depends upon organizing the flow of materials and the provision of the necessary tools and services in the right order and in the right place at the right time. This had to be done for 10,600 men in a Belfast shipyard, for 3,400 in a Glasgow yard and so on. Thousands of men in a large number of different trades, with millions of man hours, dozens of departments, hundreds of machines, and all dependant upon Work Orders, Job Numbering, and services especially cranes and fork-trucks.

Alan Wilson had found his little bit of work heaven. He worked at Three Sunderland yards under an American Alec Boyt who had been employed at Pearl Harbour working to refit USA battleships after the Japanese attack in December 1941. This man was a mine of information and Alan was needed to do Planning and Analysis and to try to help to negotiate the consultancy team through the chaotic and dangerous minefields of British Trade Unions.

Someone should write a book about the comic opera mixture of disaster and hilarity of these situations.

After this he was sent to Belfast where a new Danish Managing Director had been appointed at a very high salary and he had chosen to bring in the Swedish branch of this USA International Consultancy. Well, this hugely offended the British Branch of the organization, and Alan Wilson found himself in the middle of trench warfare between the Management and the Unions and the Swedish and British Consultancies. It was another Alice in Blunderland situation. So with ninety four staff working for him and located in the old Works offices on the south east side of the new dock he followed a directive on methods planning laid down by the Swedes. The problem was that the Managing Director and the Swedes were proposing to introduce new methods after they finished building the next three 325,000 ton super-tankers. So nothing would be changed for around two and a half to three years.

It took Alan and Joe Dykes a Shipyard manager about one hour to draw upon a simple bar chart based on Weekly running costs of the yard and the known total predicted income that would accrues from ships built in the next 2.5 to 3 years. It meant that despite a huge government cash grant that was given to upgrade the yards and meet costs, the shipyards would be bankrupt for around 18,000,000 in that time. The plan-whatever it was- would not work and the yards with its 10,600 employees was going to go bust. The detail of what transpired in the chaotic new management structure was actually more than dramatic.

Against a background of the IRA letting off bombs in Belfast, and No-Go areas being set up and with road-blocks and masked men all over the place it was quite something. The routine devolved into meetings between the Management and the Swedish consultants, who would generally arrive on Wednesday in time for lunch and disappear on Thursday after a free lunch.

Alan was routinely told "your presence will not be required" and then he sat by the telephone with Joe Dykes waiting for the urgent call for him to come and referee the simmering conflict between the two parties. Looking back, it was a situation that no novelist would dare to write, you couldn't invent it.

Alan was Welsh and not English and therefore not offensive to the warring Irish and his father was a Catholic and his mother a Baptist, and so he offended no one in Northern Ireland.

Anyway the crunch came when one day three "bright young men" arrived from London and that afternoon they finally arrived at Alan's office. They had a huge bundle of papers that constituted the Government's gift of many millions to the Shipyard in order to carry out the Plan. Alan patiently advised them that he had never ever actually seen the Plan and so he was unable to say that it would work. In fact he and Amos Sutcliffe the Shipyard Manager were both of the opinion that from the little they knew it would result in an 18 million deficit in around 18 months.

It seemed that neither the very highly paid Danish Shipyard managing director Mr Hoppe, nor Leonard Gustavson the Swedish Managing consultant wanted to actually sign their own plan. Hoppe had finally told them to get Alan Wilson to sign it. Alan decided that as he had never seen the "Plan" and rumour had it that there was no plan he simply decided not to sign it as the management was Danish with Hoppe and his three aides, and the Consultancy was Swedish. Hoppe was enraged and he told Alan Wilson to leave the yard by 5 pm and Alan said "Thanks very much", and went home.

Eighteen months later Alan arrived at the Robb-Caledon yard in Dundee and was told that Amos Sutcliffe who had left Belfast and was now General Manager at Dundee wanted to see him urgently. He found the usually quiet and soberly conscientious Amos in high spirits, bubbling over and ordering tea and cakes to be brought in. "Have you heard the news?" he asked and Alan said "No", wondering. Well right on time and target Harland & Wolff in Belfast had gone bust for nearly 18 million. That was a heck of a lot of money in the early 1970's.

Now after thankfully leaving Belfast, Alan was told by Joe Lands that the Swedes had another great job for him at Govan in Glasgow. This was like being invited to ones own business funeral, as the Govan Shipyard was the largest of the four Upper Clyde yards and it had teetered into near bankruptcy five times already. Finally the workforce had ejected the management from the shipyard and barricaded the gates. The workers then proceeded to work without any management and office staff. The whole action amounted to insurrection and the Prime Minister Edward Heath who had openly stated no further government cash would be given to industrial "lame ducks", was in a mess. He did not send in the army to quell insurrection, but he did do a somersault on the No More Lame Ducks.

After previous fiascos a non-British consultant was wanted, and so the "Swede" chosen for the job that no one else wanted was Alan Wilson. Glasgow was another "divided city" with the Protestant Rangers Football Club and the Catholic (Irish) Celtic Football Club.

The situation was hilarious as Alan arrived on time on Tuesday morning and drove his old Jaguar car in through the deserted gates and entry yard. He found his way into the deserted main office block alongside the main road, and reasoning that the main corridor would be "the golden mile" where the directors had their offices he finally found an office with a secretary in it and she led him to the Managing Director. The story from there on is amazing but the two Swedes due to arrive diplomatically failed to come and came the next day when Alan had cleared matters for entry.

The conduct of this strange affair saw the Swedes fleeing for home when the Management rejected their "plan" and refused to co-operate. The upshot was that Alan Wilson remained and together with the Management he constructed an entirely new prospective plan. It is a long story but all ended well at that time. Alan Wilson was in seventh heaven with a whole shipyard to play around with and after five weeks the Swedes who were supposedly doing the job began fortnightly or weekly flying visits, in one lunchtime and away the next.

Everything worked out and it would take a long and interesting book to describe the hilarious mayhem of British industrial life. Govan got the money from the government and the emergency plan developed by Alan Wilson was put into action. As usual whenever a Project succeeded a whole army of hitherto unknown carpet-baggers appeared as if from nowhere, all eager to grab their unearned share of the glory and financial spoils.

From Govan Alan joined Terry Granell to see what might be done at the terminally ill Robb-Caledon shipyards at Leith and Dundee. It was there that he learned the sad but somehow pleasing and entirely predictable news of the collapse of the Belfast yards

After Govan Alan went out to Italy where he was appointed to Masterplan the work organization of the new to be built shipyard at Riva Trigoso to build the Lupo Class Destroyers.

This project was an outstanding success, and the weird goings on between Swedish journeys to the USA, to Britain, to Italy, and Russia began to disturb Alan Wilson. Sweden was not a member of Nato and had remained neutral in both World Wars whilst supplying Nazi Germany with masses of iron ore, and now they were involved in a new Nato country warship yard and also having access to UK and USA shipyards, whilst negotiating with the Russians.

As part of the major reconstruction of the Italian shipbuilding industry Japanese consultants were active in some yards and so were the Swedish branch of the USA company. Alan Wilson found himself on his way to Ancona where the Italians had requested for him to be sent to do the same type of work as had been immensely successful at Riva Trigoso. Alan Wilson always felt that work was best done by a committee of three with two of the three permanently absent.

At Ancona there was another vast playground of around 6,500 men for him to deal with, and so another master planning project was developed. Panamax 70,000 ton ships, millions of man hours, thousands of jobs, dozens of different trades, hundreds of machines, masses of consumables and equipment, dozens of departments. Everything needed to be methodically marshalled into a system that brought everything to the right place at the right time with the right materials and men and so on. The Project was deemed to be another outstanding success.

Anyway after further work in Robb-Caledon and at Riva Trigoso Alan Wilson had had enough of the whole business. British consultants and management were still suffering from the aftermath of the lunatic "low wage economy" devised by a post war Labour Government and the Brain Drain out of Britain was still on.

At one angry meeting where the British in the company demanded parity with the American and European consultants employed, it was stated that British people did not require the same pay as Europeans and Americans because they did not live to the same high standards.

Brian Todd of Manchester was rightly furious when he demanded to know how the hell we could live to the same high standards if we were lower paid. By British standards the rewards and fat expenses were good, but who wants to do the same job - and often do it far better - as an American or Swede or other European colleague, who is getting three times the money, and most often was not as capable?

The detail can be told in a book one day but suffice it to say that the moment came when Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett got together to "Masterplan" the research into Ancient British History using industrial techniques that would leave the average academic standing like a one legged man in a sprint race.

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Baram Blackett
Baram Blackett

Anthony Thomas 'Baram' Blackett - (1959-2023) (aged 64 years)

In 1976 Baram Blackett and Alan Wilson decided to hold a meeting regarding a project into the study of Ancient Britain. Baram listened intently to Alan when he described what he was doing in industry, and he proposed that Alan should try to use the same techniques on all the jumbled mess of chaotic misunderstandings that bedevil British history.

This is how the Project to find Arthur I and Arthur II began to form, and from that point onwards one thing led to another, and that then to another, and another. A quite brilliant idea from Baram Blackett that worked exceptionally well.

Baram first decided on a simple solution to finding the Arthurian battle sites, and his first move was to buy maps. He soon found that the "untraceable" Battle of Camlann was very clearly marked at Mynydd Camlann (Camlann Mountain) in mid-Wales above Camlann Valley.

The equally "untraceable" Battle of Mynydd Baedan (Mount Badon or Mons Badonicus in English minds) was on Mynydd Baedan at Maes-cad-lawr = "Field of Battle Area", in the Maesteg Valley.

So Baram Blackett began working with Alan Wilson to put the scattered straws of the British Historical haystack back into place, keeping the files and organizing the data.

The skill that Baram Blackett brought to the Project was an uncanny ability to spot the one tiny diamond in a pile of generally unwanted historical data. He has a talent for setting aside irrelevancies and going straight to the core of the problem. For example his plan to establish burial customs as used by the ancient British nobility, led to the easy identification of sites.

The realization that religious customs practised in their original homelands by the ancient British migrants from Syria around 1550-1350 BC, and the Khumric-Trojan migrants from Asia Minor and Palestine of c 500 BC, would be repeated in Britain. Finding ancient temple sites became predictable.

British migrants to America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere, took their Alphabet, their Language, their religion, their burial customs, and so on with them. Finding parallels became a major part of the success of the several Projects.

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