In December Barbaresi and Round went to the retired employees Christmas lunch. it was great to begin to get a sense of the social side of life around the power plant, and how that evolved over the last 40 years.
Rachel (Barbaresi) spoke to a retired employee who worked at Didcot power station from 1978 - 1991 as an Engineer. Before this he was at Oxford power station. When Didcot power station was built there was a need for experienced personnel to help with many aspects of the power station. The employee worked as a fitter, and skilled staff were recruited from all over the country. The closure of ship yards in Scotland provided the kinds of skilled workers that Didcot needed and many Scottish workers and their families settled in Didcot. He helped run the services department (of about 100 people) looking after the roads, buildings, cooling towers and involved in fire fighting and general maintenance. When we chatted he described how the power station was on a completely different scale to anything that most of the engineers and personnel had ever worked on. It took a while to get it functioning well and was a challenge that they all had to work on. He talked about his days at Oxford power station and described how this struggled to service the needs of the city. When the power station couldn't provide the wattage needed they would switch off electricity in some areas of the city to cope. Frequent power cuts were a feature of the post-war era as power stations had not been maintained and modernised to cope with growing demand. He remembered an incident when Oxford power station was working at full tilt and producing a lot of soot. This spoilt the washing of a local lady who came into the manager's office, dumped the washing on the manager's desk and demanded compensation! Incidentally, at one time there were over 250 small power stations like Oxford's all over the country, and these were eventually replaced by a handful of large power stations.
We met another retired employee who was famed for walking in the snow from Newbury to Didcot to carry out his shift at the power station. He arrived at 2pm after a long walk. This kind of dedication was common as there were greater demands on the national grid in cold weather. Despite the difficult conditions the employees tried hard to get to work.