The Northern Association of Model Engineers was established in the second half of 1945 at the instigation of a Mr R O Harper, then Chairman of the Eccles and District Model Engineering Society. At its inception the Association consisted of 14 Societies representing some 500 members. The declared objectives of the Association were "to promote, encourage, develop and organise the model engineering movement in the North of England".
Progress was slow initially and it was not until 1st February 1947 that the first A.G.M. was held and the following officers were elected. Chairman: Mr R O Harper (Eccles), Vice-Chairman: Mr W Tomkinson (Altrincham), Honorary Secretary and Treasurer: Mr A F Duckitt (Merseyside), Publicity Secretary: Mr F W Waterton (Altrincham), Competition Secretary: Mr R Lawton (Whitefield) and Messrs. S Lees (Oldham), J Denton (Bolton), T Crooks (Rochdale) and J W Clarke (Manchester) were elected Council Members.
Delegate meetings were then held on the first Saturday of each month at the Y.M.C.A., Peter Street, Manchester. Later the meetings moved to the premises of the Temperance Union, Deansgate, where the proprietors insisted on no swearing, smoking or drinking during meetings; progress indeed!
It may be interesting to note that Mr R 0 Harper and Mr A F Duckitt. who were known personally by the writer, were in themselves people with unique knowledge and experience. Mr Harper was the Managing Director of Graham Bros., Vauxhall Main Agents of Stretford. He had, however, previously been a partner in the firm of Newton and Harper, who built cars after the First World War in a purpose built factory at the junction of Talbot Road and Chester Road, Stretford. Their product was the HARPER runabout, a three-wheeled vehicle. Mr Harper competed in TT races in the Isle of Man with one of his products in the 1920s. Indeed, he retained the competition vehicle up to the time of his death. He was also the holder of many patents in the automotive industry. Mr A P Duckitt was the internal auditor to the Cunard and White Star Shipping Company and had a profound knowledge of the Company and its ships.
The first of a long series of technical meetings was held at the Houldsworth Hall. Deansgate, Manchester, on 24th May 1947, when Mr E T Westbury gave an illustrated lecture on "The History and Development of Model Petrol Engines over the last 20 years". It will be recalled that E T Westbury was a prominent contributor to Model Engineer for many years and was the subject of the book "Trustee from the Toolroom" by Neville Shute Norway, himself an accomplished model engineer, aircraft designer and founder of the Airspeed Aircraft Company.
Many of the founding societies no longer exist, some are known to us under new titles, the following come to mind: Eccles and District Model Engineering Society (the precursor of Urmston & District MES), Merseyside Live Steamers, Mancunian Model Engineering Society, Oldham Society of Model Engineers, Altrincham Model Power Boat Club, Bolton and District Society of Model Engineers, Sale Model Engineering Club (not to he confused with the current club of a similar name) The time was one of "austerity" and material shortages. few clubs had permanent track facilities, power boats ruled, open expanses of water cost nothing, many societies were therefore at this time more associated with water than steam - indeed, the official NAME "water" was in Heaton Park, Manchester, whilst other societies adopted "water" in Altrincham, Wilmslow and Platt Fields. Manchester. The first "Northern Models Exhibition" was held 25th - 27th March 1949 in the Corn Exchange, Hanging Ditch, Manchester, and exhibitions were held annually at that venue until the 12th exhibition in 1960. The exhibition attracted over 10,000 visitors and was acclaimed to be a great success in Model Engineer. The disastrous financial outcome of an accident to a member prompted Mr Sam Fox of the City of Bradford Society and a member of Sydney Packett &, Co. Ltd., Insurance Brokers of that City to propose the introduction of compulsory Public Liability and Personal Accident insurance cover for all members of NAME as part of the subscription to the Association. This was adopted and remains the mainstay of NAME activity. In addition to the insurance aspects of NAME activity a scheme was operated for many years whereby member clubs could obtain short term interest free loans repaid over a period of 12/24 months.
Following the successful 12th exhibition a considerable bout of apathy set in and the writer who had occupied the post of Treasurer since 1955 was obliged in 1964 to call an extraordinary general meeting in order to wind up the affairs of the Association. Commonsense prevailed however, and it was agreed that in future the affairs of the Association would be handled by a member society for a three year period. The member society would provide the principal officers and run one exhibition during their period of tenure. The first period of tenure was undertaken by the City of Bradford MES, and their first exhibition (the 13th) was to have been held at the Victoria Hall, Shipley. from 31 st March to 2nd April 1966. but was postponed until 25th-30th April 1966 owing to a general election. The second period of tenure fell to the Urmston & District MES and they held the 14th NAME exhibition at Flixton Senior Girls' School, Urmston on 30th, 31st May and 1st June 1969.
During the Urmston term and following several "near miss" incidents plus the more than usual interest of the insurers, the writer, together with D Ashton. I R Law and A Throp, formed the NAME sub-committee that in February 1972 issued the first definitive memorandum entitled "Code of Practice to Ensure the Safe Working of Steam Boilers". This document has been updated over the years in the light of new legislation and is now universally accepted and forms the basis of NAME insurance policies. Membership has grown too and now numbers some 110 affiliated societies.
P Win Tomlinson
About the author: Peter Tomlinson served as Hon Treasurer of the Northern Association from 1955 through to the sixties. He was a member of Eccles SME at that time, a founding member of the Northern and precursor of Urmston SME of which he is still a member