Allspeeds, Accrington 1968-1969

Its still there, just looked it up on google, and its seems to be going strong having added other products to its line of Kopp Variators which I remember so well.

My first two weeks were with a pair of semi-skilled men who assembled the variators and were helpful in teaching me how to put them together. Then I was introduced to the fitting department and got on with the job of mating the variators up to a variety of electric motors and/or fixed speed gearboxes.

My initial trepidation soon vanished as the job was so easy and I soon got to know all the fitting staff and joined in the repartee. A basic wage of £21 per week and I worked 2 hours overtime 3 days a week and 4 hours on Saturday morning giving a wage of about £28, more than I’d get if still at the pit and in far better conditions.
A better wage than anywhere else in Accrington as well, don’t know how I’d snuck in there all the way from Nottingham.

It was a bit of a culture shock. I was used to what men looked like in a mining village and was surprised how young some of the ‘older’ guys looked. Also most people lived in their own houses, albeit with a mortgage and it was here that I first found out what a mortgage was in spite of noticing many ‘for sale’ signs over the previous couple of years with the additional cross board nailed on saying ‘mortgage available’. There was a money availability problem apparently. A terraced house could be bought for £850 and one with a small garden in front for £1250. I was never interested in buying one though, much of the conversation at work revolved around how a guy my age should be emigrating to Canada/Australia/South Africa/New Zealand and these thoughts were constantly revolving round in my mind.

On some Sundays I’d help Uncle George out with his building work. One time the job was at a local bakery. By bakery I mean an end terrace house built for purpose with oven in rear and a brick chimney towering over. An elevated view of Accrington showed a sprinkle of these chimneys over the area. Beautiful fresh bread every morning. Sadly they were disappearing even then, and I’d guess there’ll be non left now. The job was the annual ash removal which entailed removing a section of bricks out of the bottom of chimney, shovelling out all the years ash content and re-bricking it up. What joy.

February 1969 soon came and with it my 21st birthday. One of the guys at Allspeeds was leaving and a ‘do’ was arranged at a casino in Blackburn. In a weak moment I let slip that it was also my 21st and so it became a double celebration. However the cat was out of the bag and I had to explain about the shorter apprenticeship with the National Coalboard. I got a bit of verbal off Alf the foreman but that was it as far as the company were concerned. On the other hand one of the fitters congratulated me on my enterprise and then ran off to wind up the 20 year old apprentices about a guy their age getting more money than they were. There’s always someone stirring and trying to get others to fire their bullets. Fortunately it all blew over very quickly.

Wednesdays and Fridays were big night outs for me. Wednesdays was folk night at the Accrington Stanley Football Club and Friday was jazz night in the same venue. Live music, I loved it.

There was a motorbike scrap yard in Accrington, it was at the side of a canal on the ground floor of an old mill. A typical Aladdin’s cave piled with engines, frames, petrol tanks etc. in fact a fabulous ‘pick n mix’ extravaganza of, if I’m honest, junk. So one day I was having a rummage and wondering if I dared to start a project when I noticed a man all booted and suited also having a browse. After a little chat about bikes rather brusquely I said something like ‘what do you do then?’ and he replied that he was a director of an engineering company in Whitworth, just to the north of Rochdale called Minting Machines. I said I was a fitter at Allspeeds and he said they used Kopp Variators and the next few minutes was a job interview, and I got it! The money was less but I was on the move. Something was happening in my life again, restlessness changed to anticipation….errrrr.

Minting Machines had a foreman who lived in Blackburn and already did one pick-up in Accrington and another in Haslingden, so I made a third, bouncing about in the back of the company Morris van. Ouch! So what was ahead of me was a new company, a new motobike, a bedsit in Rochdale and a weird story about the soon to be MP, one Cyril Smith.

Things I’ve never seen since. The milkman did his rounds with a horse and cart, no tax, no insurance, no petrol, no MOT certificate, no depreciation and the very minimum of maintenance. I watched it one day and the horse managed itself, stopping and starting so it was always outside a gate.

Then there was the man on a tricycle with a large green box on the front ringing his bell. He was selling black peas in a little carton with vinegar over. Absolutely delicious.