By Martin Robins
More than 1,000 people attended Dowty Day on July 1, 2023, at the Cotswold Airport, near Kemble in Gloucestershire, England to celebrate the memory of Sir George Dowty, who was well-known in the mining business for applying the technology he developed for aircraft undercarriage hydraulic systems to longwall roof supports.
Dowty first applied the technology as a single hydraulic prop, known as a Dowty Duke Prop, then advanced to designs of hydraulic self-advancing roof supports, which were known as Dowty Roofmaster powered supports. These supports were designed to yield in a controlled way thus roof control was vastly improved when compared with the traditional wood props of the time. Dowty Mining Equipment Ltd. pioneered roof support systems, which were used underground in mines around the world and eventually resulted in the automated 2-leg shield support systems used today on longwall mining systems globally.
The event passed seamlessly with perfect weather. Amidst a host of aircraft, classic cars, and other fascinating features two events were paramount. The one remaining Lancaster bomber aircraft still flying in this country graced the Kemble sky. This iconic aircraft with the Dowty designed and manufactured undercarriage never fails to stir emotions. Fresh from celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Dam Busters raid, she drew all eyes – many of whom had tears flowing. An event to remember until the end of days.
The other event was the sing-along of World War II songs that so uplifted Dowty employees in the dark wartime days. Sir George Dowty’s grandson-in-law led the singing of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” “The White Cliffs of Dover,” “There’ll Always Be An England” and “We’ll Meet Again.” An occasion to tear at your heartstrings – simply unforgettable.
“My father was always looking to the future and his next product or project,” said Sir George Dowty’s Son, George. “He designed and took out patents on a myriad of products. Some of these were state of the art of the day, such as the internally sprung wheel and even the simplest of products, like the Dowty Bonded Seal. Many not so successful. He was not afraid to give it a go.”
Dowty read a few of his father’s quotes from an autobiography he dictated shortly before he died in 1975.
“I never went anywhere without learning and acting on what I had seen,” Sir George said. “And, I have always maintained that good ideas are more important than money.”
During WWII, England prohibited the shipment of machine tools. While trying to set up a manufacturing company, Sir George was not discouraged. He had the machine tools dismantled and shipped legitimately as pieces.
“It would be no exaggeration to say that we owe our survival as a nation to our native capacity to outmaneuver bureaucrats,” Sir George said. He would have hated the lawyer-driven, risk-averse culture that pervades
the world today.
He put his employees’ interests first. “My father regarded the company and employees as his wider family,” Dowty said. “Even these many years on people still stop to tell me that that they or their father or mother worked for Sir George or did their apprenticeship at Dowty, and how much they respected him. Clearly, I am very proud of his legacy almost 50 years since he passed.”
Sir George considered himself a bluffer, certainly in the early days. He never told anybody something could not be done. He accepted the order first and coped with the problems afterwards. The bluff was based on a measure of courage, hope, and determination to succeed.
Martin Robins is chairman of the Sir George Dowty Memorial Committee. E-mail: email@example.com.