Letter from a past employee

We were delighted to receive this letter from a past employee of James Troop & Co.

JT Pasted Empolyee

Dear Mr. Robert Troop

I am an ex apprentice of James Troop circa 1956-64 and I am so pleased to find you still in business and still retaining the family name, a rare accolade in these times. I took my wife on a nostalgic tour of my life around the Toxteth area some years back and was sadden to see the Pleasant Hill St. premises empty and among all the changes I assumed “Troops” had succumbed, as had all the docks and shipping lines and repair yards. I found you quite by chance whilst “doing the family history” thing and I was overjoyed to find you still alive and kicking. I owe “Troops” a huge THANK YOU for training me to be a Fitter/Turner, I can honestly say I have enjoyed every single working day of my life, thanks to the skills learnt at Pleasant Hill St.

I was taken on as a prospective apprentice by the machine shop foreman, Mr. Walter Peek, (peekie, but not in hearing distance), and packed off for about 9 months to Bridge St works in Birkenhead until a vacancy arose in Hill St as the apprentices moved up a year.

Your dad very kindly authorised the firm to fund my night school fees (my mum was a widow), provided I passed my exams and most importantly, didn’t mention it to anyone else, and until now, I never have mentioned it. Looking at your web pictures of your present workshop, it is a far cry from Hill St machine shop in the late 50’s and early 60’s, in the winter, if the pot-bellied coke stove went out overnight, as it usually did, there would be a covering of ice on the lathe beds, the labourer not being allowed to relight it until his other work was completed. The senior apprentices and the craftsmen were allowed to take a big lump of metal down to the blacksmiths shop to heat to red hot and then gingerly placed on the floor under your lathe for some heat to your feet! Occasionally you would get a job sheet on which was written in big letters IBH (in a B—–Y hurry), or “leaving on the next tide” ! which meant a rush job, the ship was about to sail. I was asked one day to work through my dinner to finish a valve spindle, when it was complete, to give it to the driver to take to the ship as she was leaving on the tide. Job done, it was handed over and off he went. When he arrived at the berth she was gone, off he raced to the river locks to find her about to leave the lock and away. After a lot of shouting he managed to get an engineer to take the valve spindle off him, that was a bit close, but “Troops” didn’t let them down.

Mr. Ingliss had a deep blue Wolsley 6/110 which was parked under the offices near the foundry and at least twice a week it was washed and polished by a labourer who fussed over it and wouldn’t let you near and I think your dad had a convertible Sunbeam Rapier. One summers evening at knocking off time, your dad was very carefully rolling back his soft top when one of the lads got into his old American convertible, fired it up and then parked by the side of your dad still rolling the top back. This lad then pressed the button and his top folded back electrically in a couple of seconds, everyone enjoyed that one.

The ships were going and the repair work was dying, we seemed to be moving into manufacture, 50’s of this and a load of that and I didn’t like it and I left to find maintenance work, eventually leaving Liverpool and moving to Wales were I ended up as a supervisor at the maintenance workshop at Stanlow Refinery, where it was back to IBH, but not “leaving on the tide”.

I still practise the skills I learnt at James Troop and Co. Ltd., I have a small workshop, (thinking about it, still unheated), and I occupy myself making steam engines, that’s me, waiting on the signal man for a green light. Made the engine myself, sheet metal work, silver soldering, turning and milling, all learnt at Troops, so you can see why I was so pleased to see you are still going strong.

I wilt finish by wishing “Troops” every success for the future, although I must say those engines in your workshops are a lot smaller than the big “Doxfords” I remember! !

With best wishes

John Cafearo