The Apprentice Vicar

Westinghouse Brake & Signal Co. Ltd.

I was bowled over to find my name in the Westinghouse list, and was delighted to recall so many names and characters.

Had nearly forgotten the nick name “The Apprentice Vicar” in fact I was the verger at the village church, which was part of my enterprises to subsidise being an apprentice. I used to be paid for funerals and weddings, get paid for digging graves, (not that I could do it now with arthritis), I was projectionist at three cinemas, The Grand at Frome, Vista at Westbury and the Regal at Warminster, I do remember organising that the entire group of apprentices from our year visited the Studio Cinema projection room at the Old Astoria in Marshfield Road, I was also writing articles for the Wiltshire Times and Chippenham News, quite a workaholic.

I stayed at Westinghouse until I finished my apprenticeship, and then joined the Wiltshire Times & Chippenham News, working out of Duke Street Trowbridge, I still kept all the other jobs going, and then took on sports reporting for Radio Bristol.

Ah yes… BBC Bristol, that’s where I lost my identity because they had a Mick Pearson doing the breakfast shift, so we used my middle names Paul David, which got twisted to Paul Davis.

I am never quite sure why, but I became quite successful in the broadcast industry and have remained with it ever since, I eventually did the mid morning air shift that is now occupied by John Turner at Radio Bristol, then I went down to 2CR in Bournemouth doing drive time, then to County Sound in Guildford where I rejoined the four AM in the morning gang to present breakfast for some years.

I was also a continuity announcer for BBC World service, Radio 4, BFBS 2 and for my sins for many years was a voice-over for the famous Pearl & Dean cinema commercials as well as Rank Screen advertising.

For the last fourteen years I was General Manager of Sunrise Radio Ltd in London, but for the last five years I am just a director, and have moved back to the original house I was at when I was an apprentice at Westinghouse!

The last year has been a bit rough with a small dose of cancer, but am now recovered and still a regular at the Dilton Marsh Prince of Wales, which is where I drank as an apprentice!

The last five years have been fun, I bumped into a pal who persuaded me to join him lobbying the Radio Authority for a West Wilts FM licence out of Trowbridge. Part of the exercise was to run RSL broadcasts under the name of Moonraker 106.8FM which of course we did from Chippenham College and also Trowbridge College.

While we were in Chippenham doing the broadcast, I did discover that my old mate Viv Sherman (another Westinghouse apprentice) who was from Malmesbury and the greatest Emmerson Lake and Palmer fan, is now a lecturer at Chippenham College, although it was holiday time and I didn’t track him down.

Apprentice Names I remember… yes most of the ones mentioned in your site, I do remember Michelle who was from Doncaster, Rob Lauder, John Teagle (who had a Ford Zephyr at the time, I believe his brothers had a nifty Toyota?) Yes I remember Alfie, and also Gizmo – yes his dad did run a radio and TV shop.

I do remember Mick Hole being told to change for the presentation, he looked brilliant!

David Barcham came from Marston near Devizes and Westbury, I used to pick him up in the mornings if his bike was knackered.

Stephen Fisher I remember his army gear and the bandanna…

Now as for the instructors.

Yes I read with amusement about Benny Jenkins, who never smoked until he took over from Doug Jones, and then it went with the image.

Bert Wheeler of course used to live in Dilton Marsh, so I would often talk to him, I remember when we would crash the lathe gears and he would say “sort em out, you’ve got a box full there, one will do”.

Rod Howell will always stick in my mind for his comment after the exploding milk carton, yes this carton entirely vaporised! the instructors rushed in as already described and after no one answered Ron Witts who dunnit? Rod said “Must have been the fairies Mr Witts”.

Keith Shepherd was my mate from Westbury Leigh, in fact his mum and dads old house is now the Hollies Pub, he was mates with Instructor Brian Fields who used to motor cycle race at Keevil, we often went to see him. We used to get a lift into Chippenham before we could drive with Steve Teagle who also lived at Newtown in Westbury, God when we were apprentices just starting, that bloody relief road had not been built around Melksham and we used to have to queue for hours at the crossroads.

College lecturers…

One sticks out in my mind and he is still remembered at the college and that is Ken Hill, whose famous expressions used to be Hotdawgs or lets Fuckoffee!

It is sad to think that the Chippenham site will go soon, especially when I remember being totally overawed the first day I went into the canteen and saw how large it was.

Good memories, if anyone fancies meeting up for a pint of Butcombe, it’s an art I never forgot!

Nick Pearce


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