Meet the member - Raymond Gorton

Raymond Gorton joined the plumbing and heating industry two weeks before his 14th birthday in 1945, just as the Second World War was coming to an end. He started out as a bound apprentice working for Arthur Bradshaw Plumbing Company, which carried out plumbing work on domestic and commercial buildings.

“A man came to our house to repair a lead waste pipe and I was fascinated with the blow lamp,” recalls Raymond. “It was this experience that led me into plumbing. I was too young to attend technical college as the minimum age was 16, so I joined a basic engineering course run by the education department.”

Once Raymond had completed his two-year course, he attended the technical college in Bury, Lancashire where he achieved a technical and national certificate in building construction. He also went on to gain a City and Guilds certificate in sanitary and domestic engineering.

After finishing his apprenticeship, Raymond was drafted into the Royal Engineers to carry out his national service. He was posted to Elgin, Inverness in Scotland to carry out training as a field engineer.

“The course wasn’t very long and soon after completion I was posted to the Suez Canal,” recalls Raymond. “I was a plumber carrying out pipe fitting during the day and at night I was put on guard.”

Building a career

When Raymond returned home to the UK, he met his late wife Mavis. It was at this point that he decided to study sanitary and domestic engineering at Bolton College. By 1956, he had become a registered plumber.

“In my mid-20s I secured a position in a heating drawing office,” explains Raymond. “It was 1958 and the average home didn’t have central heating, so it was an exciting time.

“It was around 1960 that I went to work for a firm of architects called Scherrer and Hicks, designing plumbing and drainage for universities and chemical factories. I loved designing and calculating the water flows.”

Raymond remained in this position for six years and it sparked his interest in plumbing design. In 1966 he obtained a first class City and Guilds certificate in plumbing design.

“After I had finished my course I joined a multinational engineering company called G N Haydon, which specialised in heating, ventilation and plumbing,” explains Raymond. “I worked in the drawing office and worked my way up to become drawing office manager.”

In 1971 Raymond went to work for the HAT Group as a director, running a small heating and plumbing company in Bolton, with 70 employees. Here he worked on large projects, such as factories, schools and universities.

Raymond’s next position at Christian Salvesen was as a commercial heating manager where he carried out similar work to his previous role. His final post before retirement was with Robert Hayworth as a heating manager. While he was with the company he achieved a City and Guilds heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician’s certificate.

Semi-retirement

Raymond has completed many courses over the years to keep up to date with changes in the industry. “I am proud of my craft and I still have all my tools,” he says. “The saddest thing today is the lack of apprentices. In the drawing office we used to take apprentices directly from the grammar school. I have always believed in apprenticeships, but I don’t think we push hard enough for them.”

Although Raymond retired at the age of 60, he went on to build two houses and carried out the plumbing work and even the lead work to the dormer windows at 91 years of age.

“Despite the fact that I officially retired some years ago, I have continued to have involvement with plumbing work,” admits Raymond. “Plumbing has given me a very good living and it has been my life. Once a plumber always a plumber.”

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