Saturday, 12 November 2011

IRE 50th Anniversary Ball

The Institute celebrated 50 glorious years in style at the historic (“hidden gem”) Cutler’s Hall in Sheffield.

In total 245 members and their guests attended including 21 past presidents dating back to the 1970’s (C.K Walker “74/75 & M.J.Mason “77/78).

It was a marvellous opportunity to assemble the President’s for a group photo and this was arranged in the VIP suite prior to the dinner. It was also pleasing that the Master Cutler (Mrs Pam Liversidge,OBE) wanted to join the proceedings and subsequently posed with the “team”.

Following an excellent dinner; I gave a short speech expounding the virtues of refractories in society and consequently why the Institute was key and then with other members proposed a toast to “Our Guests”.

Neale Parkin, Managing Director of DSF Refractories & Minerals replied on behalf of the guests.

The Master Cutler, prior to her toast proposal to the Institute, delivered an excellent speech outlining the history of the Cutler’s hall, the ceremonies, the company officers and explained the origins of the rather strange looking elephant on Company of Cutlers’ Shield. She also noted how important refractories had been to the metal forming and working industries in Sheffield.

Ken Walker (Past President 1974/75) replied on behalf of the Institute.

A presentation of an artisan glass bowl was made to Mr Alan Hey in acknowledgement of all his hard work as General Secretary & Treasurer.

The “speech” was given by acclaimed after dinner speaker Mr Peter Slack (Derbyshire Hill Farmer) who regaled us with stories of his experiences with ramblers around his farm; quite frankly he was hilarious.

Speeches over; the band “Private Lines” played on till carriages arrived at 1.00 a.m.

All in all, an absolutely excellent evening, nearly two years of planning and everything combined beautifully.

It is important to note however that such events require considerable organisation, in this capacity I would specifically like to thank Jayne Woodhead, Paul Bottomley, Jon Masding, John May and someone I forgot to thank on the night; Ingrid Pears who handcrafted the gifts of glass cuff- links and heart shaped paperweights.

Here’s to the next 50 years!



Thursday, 3 November 2011

President’s Column November 2011

Dear Members,

Over recent months I’ve had many thoughts in preparation for my opening column for the Refractories Journal, however things change so quickly on both a local and global basis that none of these initial ideas seem to apply.

Consequently I’ll begin with a few facts; the refractory industry is a hard discipline to be involved in; striving for long hours to beat targets which ultimately will mean less refractory is utilised; a self-defeating strategy you may think.

Refractory engineering is an almost hidden industry; intrinsic to the manufacture of virtually every other material that underpins modern society; it literally took us out of the stone age.

So why am I and countless others involved in it! It is of course immensely rewarding; in few industries can you determine so directly the influence of your input.
I’ve been in the industry for 22 years now; spent innumerable hours on integrated steel works and watched sunrise over ConocoPhillips refinery; it doesn’t get much better.

Being elected the 48th President of the Institute of Refractories Engineers is a great honour and pleasure for me and I hope to continue the good work established by Peter Rooney, Trevor Staton and Sam Franklin.

As an Institute we always face challenges, however the finances look fine and we are growing with a net gain of members.

The recent Annual meeting was very well received and the training day has raised a considerable amount of interest; such that training will form a major part of our strategy over the next couple of years.

(It is my intention to circulate to the attendees the papers presented at National Conference on a CD-ROM pending author approval).

In my address to the National Conference I mentioned that a major part of my “manifesto” would be communication.

There are six aims of the Institute, however the first is the foremost “to foster and promote the skills and science of refractories engineering”; it is my intention in this 50 th Anniversary year to do just that.

Consequently to achieve this aim I would like to guide the Institute to current methods of communication and interaction with the refractory engineers’ community; texts, blogs, facebook; all fostering a communal spirit.

We need a global presence with the feel of a local community; strength is in inter-action. I realise that the fortunes of the refractory community is inextricably linked with other manufacturing industries; specifically it appears that global steel prices are in flux, however on a National level it’s pleasing to see steel production returning to Teesside with the SSI purchase thus continuing over 150 years of steel manufacture.

At this juncture I will not attempt to predict the fortunes of the refractory industry either on a local or global level, however it does seem (glass industry) that politics are taking a back seat and companies are generally “just getting on with it”; long may it continue.

As President I would like to wish all members a very happy 50th and look forward to our celebration ball at the Cutlers’ Hall on November the 12th .

Chris Windle


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Ingrid Pears glassworks visit

The President, Chris Windle, visited the glassworks of glass artist Ingrid Pears who supplied the glass cuff-links and paperweights for the 50th Anniversary Ball.

Ingrid has been recognised by both government and royalty alike for her export achievements and uniqueness of her creations, however it is her overriding enthusiasm for the art form that shines through.

Ingrid was determined that Chris had a go and supervised the pre-heat of the blow pipe, gather of glass and the blowing of quite a unique form!