Bernard Preece

On coming down from Cambridge University in 1936, I joined the Calico Printers’ Association, initially at their Research Laboratories and Head Office in Manchester. The main business of the Company was the printing and finishing of a wide variety of textiles in about a score of factories in Lancashire and Cheshire. This introductory period included a most valuable training course at the Shirley Institute - The British Cotton Industry Research Association. After 9 months I was moved to of their premier printworks at Accrington.

In August 1937 I obtained a post as a Research and Development Chemist in a small laboratory at Cardington, Bedford, part of what was them known as the Royal Airship Works. However, the only obvious link with airships was the presence on the site of the two huge airship hangers. Indeed, shortly afterwards, the old name was dropped and the laboratory became one more of the many Government 'Scientific Service' Laboratories. Our work was the development, testing and control of impermeable, i.e. gas-holding rubber and synthetic rubber etc., proofed fabrics for the manufacture of a range of inflatable products ranging from barrage balloons to air-sea rescue dinghies and replica inflatable, camouflaged, large dummy weapons to mislead the enemy. The work was heavily dependent on co-operation with a variety of manufacturers.

In 1949 I moved to the Boot, Shoe and Allied Trade Research Association at SATRA House, Kettering (where later Vasek Vohralik was for a short time a member of the staff). Like the Shirley Institute, this was another of the several Research Associations funded jointly by the Government and the relevant industry. S.A.T.R.A. at that time was particularly known for its practical work in assisting boot and shoe manufacturers in the development and testing of the many materials used in footwear manufacturing, and also in providing an extensive customer complaints service to assist arbitration between manufacturers and members of the public having complaints of purchased footwear.

In 1952 I joined the Lotus Chemical Division, Stafford, under Mr. F. G. Mercer. Apart from acting as a technical back-up to Lotus shoe factories, there was also a small manufacturing unit at Sandon Road which made materials for use within Lotus , but also for sale generally to the footwear industry via Vik Supplies Ltd., which of course also acted as the selling agent to the industry for the range of adhesives made by Evode, thanks to the close co-operation at Board Level of Mr. J. F. Bostock and Mr. G. S. Bostock of Lotus and Dr. H. Simon.

In the mid 1950’s it was evident that the future of the Lotus Chemical Division and of Vik Supplies would form a much more rational fit with the future development of Evode rather than of Lotus and this reorganistation was carried out. Since that date I became a member of Evode. Unfortunately, Mr. Mercer died shortly after the merger. A little later the unit at Sandon Road was integrated fully into Evode with the transfer of the business to a large new factory building on the Common Road site and with the residual 'chemicals etc.' of Lotus/Vik Supplies absorbed into the Evode Adhesives factory under Mr. E. Peak. I was then Manager of the Vik Factory which expanded the production of toe-puff materials and the coating of textiles and plastics, notably by the installation of the Greenbank and Revoplast machines. The manufacture of cut toe-puffs continued for some years as did the edge-coating of binding ribbon for the uppers of ladies’ shoes, the latter in part of an old former shoe factory in Marston Road. During these years the supervisory work by Mr. Arthur Clarke and Mr. Geoff Matthews was dedicated and invaluable.

As the years passed I became increasingly involved in other management duties, in particular in the Work Study and Personnel sectors.

In 1972 I was appointed a Director of Vik Supplies with responsibility for Personnel work on the Common Road site. This was an interesting period in the development of Evode with the unionisation of much of the workforce, initially of the hourly paid members with the Transport and General Workers Union as the main negotiating union, and later with the weekly paid and many monthly paid staff with the (then named) Association of Administrative, Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staff.