Goin' darn t' Steelos

I've been on holiday last week so have been visiting some museums and exhibitions, looking what new and interesting A.V and multimedia is being used, what is good and what is bad, any good ideas i can borrow and any i might want to stay away from.

A well as that I've been catching up on some projects, working on code that I wasn't happy with and learning some new things. While i'm working I like to listen to music and quite often put on Folk music.

From  listening to John Tams found that  Spotify  has the music from the 2006 Radio Ballads. The  original Radio Ballads were a set of 8  Radio programmes that were recorded between 1957 - 1964 telling the stories of people from communities,industries and groups of people that hadn't been told before.   Some of these then were thriving industries such as coal miners and ship builders that have now almost completely vanished from the U.K. The programmes on Teenagers and the building of the M1 told stories that at the time were  emergent at the time but have since become major part of life.

Anyway i haven't listened to all of the 2006 Ballads but have listened several times to 'The Song of Steel' This tells the stories of the men and women who worked in the Sheffield Steel industry. There are interviews with men who worked at the forges and rolling mills.  Some of the stories make me cringe, the conditions sound horrendous. Many of the experiences have been interpreted as songs by folk musicians.   'Mucky River' is about the pollution in the River Don. The water was used for  cooling. Cyanide was used to clean the metal that needed to be inspected .

"I had enough Cyanide to poison half of Sheffield"

"Then when were finished at the end of the day What did we do with it , pour it down the drains"

"This is maybe why all the Salmon disappeared from Salmon pastures"

'Crane Driver' tells the story of a woman who managed to get a job on crane because another woman had fallen from a crane onto a pile of Steel Billets, killing her.  The women were able to get jobs during the war but at the end as the men came out of the army were forced to leave.

'Steelos'  that tells of the Firm Steel,Peech and Tozer. An absolutely massive Factory at Templeborough on the outskirts of Rotherham.

"There were 100,000 of us along the Rother and the Don"

"Catching red hot metal coming 40 mile an hour"


After a long period of decline Steelos  finally closed in 1993, I can't imagine any factory or single site in any industry employing 100,000 people today.  The Steel industry in Sheffield employs just a fraction of that now.


The site of Steel,Peech and Tozer has become the Magna Science Adventure Centre  I visited Magna not long after it opened and remember looking at some of the interactives and thinking "I would love to get a job making things like these, but not the faintest idea how to go about it" it took over 10 years before I managed to make that happen and it came about from looking for opportunities not from actually knowing how to get what I wanted.


If anyone thinks that modern Health and Safety rules are " Nanny State" and interfering busy bodies, listen to Fireland,really listen to it and then tell me that today's laws are "Health and Safety gone mad".

"They had a mishap one day and it blew back, it caught 7 or 8 of them and blew hot gas into their lungs"

"I was totally engulfed in flame"

"Seeing all the skin hanging off but lucky to be alive"

"No such thing as Safety boots"

"kid called Mick got a bar through bar through knee, he had to pull it out"

"It were like a hosepipe squirting molten metal on him, obviously he were dead"


I only have memories of the Steel industry during its decline, Seeing buildings in the lower Don valley being knocked down with record times painted on them showing the achievements for that site.  I don't know what those times were for but they must have been important to those that worked there.

At the Science Museum there is a Gallery that was sponsored by companies in the Steel industry, most of these are gone,either merged,closed down or bought out by other companies.

There is  still  some specialised produced  steel for the Nuclear and Aerospace industries. The AMRC  is developing tools and techniques to improve British manufacturing,the days of  thousands of people being employed in the Sheffield Steel industry will never return.

There is a good BBC podcast about the AMRC and the revival of Manufacturing in Sheffield.  At the start of my career I worked for two engineering companies one in Slough one university work placement  and one in Sheffield after university both closed down. After being made redundant from the second one I decided that was enough of engineering for me, time to move on.

Sheffield doesn't really seem know what its doing.  It tried to be the City of Sport, but the Don Valley Stadium closed last year.  It has tried to become a centre for the creative industries but from a conversation I was having on twitter a few days ago that seems to be stumbling, it is losing out to Manchester and London.

I realise that I have written similar words before and I will probably write similar things again in the future.  I might not be in Sheffield but Sheffield is in my head and my heart.
















Comments are closed.