Page 3.   Shelvoke & Drewry Enthusiasts' Club Newsletter - Spring 2018.

IN KEITH STEWART’S FOOTSTEPS?
 
When I was an SD apprentice in the 1950’s my favourite author was Nevil Shute. He later also became a favourite of my late wife, Dorothy. On my bookshelves I have thirteen copies of Nevil Shute novels in paperback that Dorothy carefully collected from charity shops.

Nevil Shute was the pen name for Nevil Shute Norway a distinguished aeronautical engineer who in 1929 was appointed Deputy Chief Engineer to Barnes Wallace (of bouncing bomb fame) on the R100 airship project. This was a successful design competing with the ill fated government funded R101. Later Shute formed Airspeed Ltd. which produced over 8,000 Airspeed Oxford multi-engined trainer aircraft for the R.A.F.



Nevil Shute Norway 1899-1960.
 


Nevil Shute produced 24 novels between 1924 and 1960. He believed in the basic goodness of people and was a wonderful story teller. To the present day reader he is somewhat outdated. For example his heroes are all smokers as this is part of daily life, but the story he tells is still gripping. Five of his novels were made into films. I remember A Town Like Alice starring Virginia McKenna and Peter Finch, which was released in 1956, enthralling me.


His What Happened to the Corbetts published in 1938 foretold the bombing of Southampton in the Second World War. The Government were so impressed by his insights into what a modern war would mean that they purchased a large quantity of copies to distribute as a civil defence training aid. The 1957 On the Beach examined the effect of an atomic war.

Both Dorothy and I were quite disturbed on reading it for the first time, imagining what could have been a possible future for all of us, especially after the 1962 Cuba brinkmanship crisis.



But this article is inspired by Nevil Shute’s final novel from 1960 – Trustee from the Toolroom. Its hero is Keith Stewart an engineer working in a London based company making aircraft parts. His sister and brother–in-law set off on an adventure in a round the world yacht journey but the ship is wrecked in the South Seas, and as trustee of their estate Keith sets out to retrieve the inheritance due to their daughter – his niece.


As a hobby Keith is a highly skilled model engineer who writes a series of articles in Miniature Mechanic magazine. He describes the tiny petrol powered engine he has created that drives an equally small generator that can illuminate a small lamp bulb. Plans for the models are included in the magazine and many readers try to emulate Keith’s creation. As they encounter difficulties his readers write to him for advice, and Keith meticulously answers their letters working away at his desk after a full day’s work in the Toolroom.


The novel made a big impression on me when I first read it. And a recent re-reading was once more very enjoyable. I like to think that in a very much less knowledgeable way I am following in Keith Stewart’s footsteps as I try to answer the emails I receive asking about various features of the Shelvoke & Drewry story. More recently this activity has expanded to the Facebook Group. I often wish I knew more about the Company and its products, but over the years I’ve been doing this, my understanding of SD’s history and its products has increased, and it’s good to be able to point people in the right direction.


Like Nevil Shute Norway I’m an engineer and a writer, wouldn’t it have been nice to have his skills?

 

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