"How Life Goes in Full Circles"


​​     Llandaff Technical College​

 ​"In 1974 I was apprenticed to J.G Proger and Sons, a long established local firm of heating and ventilating engineers that has had a yard in St Andrews Crescent near the City Centre since 1840. My wage as an apprentice was just over £40 a week for 46 hours. 

In order to learn the finer arts of pipe fitting and welding, I was sent on six week block release courses over the next four years to the workshops of Llandaff Tech. The two workshops were part of a row of workshops that stood where M block now resides. Across the yard were the Painting and Decorating workshops, their block surviving until they were recently cleared to make way for the new CSAD building. I remember that I spent a lot of time visiting the Podiatry Department​, simply because they had the most comprehensive first aid sit on site!

The welding workshop instructors were as I recall, Harry Parfitt and Gerry Bease, assisted by Reg and the plumbing/pipe fitting workshop instructors were Ray, Peter and John (I think) who were assisted by Arthur Tovey.

When I was not 'in college' I would be out on site work. In 1978 I was on a job in St John Street. When I had finished the job I had to walk back to the yard, I was tired, dirty and had a big bag of heavy tools to lug back as well.  As I came around the corner of St John St into Queen Street I saw Jeff Carne, a school friend of mine who had joined South Wales Constabulary, he was stood on the corner of Queen Street, in his nice clean uniform with a big hat and shiny buttons and was talking to three young ladies who were gazing up at him, transfixed...

I stopped and stared. I look at Jeff and then saw my raggedy reflection next to him in the shop window. I looked back at Jeff and at that point I thought, "I don't want to do this anymore, I want to do that". None of that 'I want to save society' nonsense - I was fed up with being covered in oil, soot and thread cutting grease and stinking of Plumber's Mait*.

On the way back to the yard in St Andrews Crescent,  I had to pass the Job Centre, so I nipped in, dropped my bag down on the table and enquired after an application form for 'The Job'. Having been provided with said form, I duly filled it in and sent it off. I spent the next few months working on a site on the top of Rumney Hill.

By the September of 1978 I had finished my apprenticeship and I had been accepted by South Wales Constabulary as a recruit, so I left J.G Proger and joined 'The Job' on the 9th October. My starting pay there was £160 a month (£1 an hour!).

After my initial training course at Cwmbran, I returned to the 'C' division (Cardiff) and where did they post me....ironically straight back to the building site at the top of Rumney Hill - it was not the new Rumney Police Station!

After 23 years on the street, I applied for and became the 'C' Division Operational Skills Officer. This post required either a Police Trainers Certificate, which meant a period of residence in Harrogate or a part time PGCE/PCET qualification at a local venue. I didn't fancy Harrogate and I thought the PGCE/PCET course would be a more valuable asset when I left so I opted for the two year day release course which, as it turns out, was conveniently delivered at UWIC on the Cyncoed Campus, which is just round the corner from my house...sorted!

After thirty years and three months with South Wales Police (as they became), I finally left at Christmas 2008. I returned for a short period as an external trainer but with the financial crisis getting a grip, all external training was then cancelled. I needed a job.

So I started to look around and lo and behold I spotted a temporary part time 'Maternity Cover' position with UWIC on the Cyncoed Campus. I couldn't believe my luck as the two and a half days a week not only matched my wife's part time pattern but I knew the place as well as I had not long finished the PGCE/PCET course there. I applied straight away and I am very glad to say that I was successful.

And this is where it turns full circle. When I had to sign the contract for the job I had to go to the HR office in M block....the HR office is exactly above the spot where I had started work thirty four years before".


* (In case you were wondering, Plumbers Mait is a jointing compound that has a peculiar, but not particularly unpleasant smell that lingers. If you were in the business in those days, you could always tell if you were stood near a plumber! Today they just use all this hygienic plastic stuff).


Nick Drew
Accommodation Services