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A fitting tribute

Bob Taylor tells Rodney Jack of his four decades working in an industry he continues to serve with great honour

As a young man Robert Taylor never dreamt he would be standing among his peers receiving an award for a lifetime’s dedication to the refrigeration industry.

The IOR’s Lifetime Achievement Award is given to service engineers who have demonstrated high engineering values and accomplishments, and have significant professional engineering experience over a broad time frame.

Bob Taylor’s four decades in the industry certainly fit that bill.

Judges described his contribution to industry as exemplary, adding that his career reads like a who’s who of refrigeration engineering.

Born in 1943 and educated at Tootal Road Secondary Modern school, he left at 15 and started work at Manchester Dry Dock Company as an office boy in the machine shop.

Little inspired with his duties there he moved on a year later and started an apprenticeship as a marine engineer working on the overhaul, rebuild, and installation of marine engines.

He finished his apprenticeship in 1964 and went to work at L Gardener & Sons, a builder of diesel engines, on the assembly line.

The job was not to his liking – “the only time I have ever undertaken work that was so soul destroying”, he says. But unbeknownst to him it had lit the flame for engineering, which would burn within him for 40 years.

His career took him to some of the most recognised names in the trade:

  • J&E Hall where he worked on industrial systems and the installation, overhaul, rebuild and commission of compressors
  • Douglas Rownson of Basingstoke, as its north of England refrigeration engineer working with the R717 (ammonia) William Douglas liquid pump
  • Star Refrigeration stemming from his attention to detail in the build, test, installation and commission of packaged units with the Star Low Pressure Receiver
  • Industrial Cooling Equipment covering the bakery trade, and air conditioning systems
  • A.P.V as a refrigeration technician after Industrial was acquired by York
  • R.E.A. Botts, a national service and installation company, maintaining large screw package units used by Tesco

Although eligible to take retirement, Bob works at Star Refrigeration in Manchester, the company he rejoined in 1997 as lead commissioning engineer.

His manager Andy Smith describes him as a very active member of the team and says he is held in such high regard at Star that for work on R&D systems, and lately CO2 trans-critical systems, he is the first port of call.

The words are a fitting tribute to Bob Taylor, the engineer, but they are also recognition, of how the refrigeration industry and particularly the refrigerants used across the years have come full circle.

Bob says: “When I started in refrigeration the first plant I worked on was CO2, which was replaced by the gases of the day, R12, R22 and R502.

“R12, R22 and R502 have gone or are going and we’ve seen the return of CO2 and R717 – the turnaround is amazing.”

Bob says the training engineers receive today leaves apprentices better equipped to address the technical issues of the day. He believes today’s formalised apprenticeship benefits both companies and the industry as both realise the importance of training.

But his final words are reserved for the industry he has served so well.

“If they enjoy the job half as much as I did they will meet many great characters and make very many friends. It’s an industry I have never tired of working in – and neither will they.”