Monday, January 16, 2017

Richard Harwood 1933 - 2016

Richard Harwood's retirement at Castle Carey with his wife Jan, Tony Payne, Roger Lewis and Julie Mavropoulos. Photo Stuart Munro 

Our Dad was an exceptional man; he was a highly intelligent, resourceful and loyal father.
Born in 1933, he lived in Sanderstead, the youngest son of Sydney and Grace Harwood and had two siblings, John and Margaret.
He attended Sanderstead Grammer School where he excelled on the cricket pitch. Following school he went on to study for an HND in Electrical Engineering.
During his younger years he developed a passion for motorbikes, cars and a life-long love for railways.
We have a photograph of him and his mates sitting in his Delage prior to heading off to Spain. He told us that they had had a slight mishap on the journey and a chap in a small garage in the middle of nowhere rebuilt the back of the car in ash; all for the princely sum of £5.
The engine of the Delage eventually gave out and Dad in his normal ‘can do’ attitude managed to find another engine under a sheet in a garage in Croydon and repair the car. He sold it for £70 having paid £60 for it originally.....that car is one of two left in the world and is now worth in excess of seven figures, but as Dad said, in those days cars like this were two-a-penny.
I think though his favourite car was a Mark III Austin Healey. I know that it had tremendous brakes as I still have a scar where my forehead hit the dashboard! No seat belts in those days of course.
My favourite car of his was his 1952 Lancia Aurelia sadly written off on one of our Devon holidays by a US Marine on a motorbike nonetheless I think he missed that car very much.
He was a strong proponent of classical music which often caused consternation on our journeys to school when despite our protests, we were always subjected to Radios 3 and 4. We rarely got our way. When I worked in the workshop with him, Radio 3 was always playing on his Panasonic radio with a Silk Cut as usual hanging from his lips!
An early role for Dad was with a company called Power Sammers who in the 1950s were making British built computers, competing in a small way with the likes of IBM. In reality the only computer they finished was sold to Lloyds Bank; Lloyds then asked Dad to join them to write the first share registration systems for the Power Sammers computer which he did; and pointed out to me that he actually programmed using a 4 digit year thus making the program Y2K compliant in 1960!
He stayed on at Lloyds who then invested in a very early IBM Mainframe which had a Heath-Robinson looking disk drive, the size of a small room with a number of arms sticking out of the contraption to enable the disk to be read; but these arms had to be warmed up before the disk drive could be used. Dad was asked to write a program to do this. He wrote it, but had not finished testing when the next night he had a phone call from the Lloyds data centre saying they had used his program and the disk drive was literally walking around the room!
He was also a man who would not only decide to do something, but do the research and put the time in on the design before starting the project.
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While we lived in Tunbridge Wells he put in an entire central heating system. I remember being under the floorboards with him, and he excitedly pointed out that the house sat on timbers stamped LB&SCR, or London Brighton and South Coast Railway. Especially poignant as the first Gauge One loco he built was Abergavenny an LB&SCR steam engine.
The three of us also remember Dad playing both tennis and badminton on the court in the back garden often playing until the sun finally disappeared behind the horizon on those always warm sunny summer evenings.
He also put nets up on the tennis court to teach me the finer points of batting we had many enjoyable evenings (and frustrasting as he regularly bowled me out!) in the early seventies.
Which brings us on to his love of railways (and I think my sisters will agree, a love that was shared across the family).
His first line was in Tunbridge Wells, with cuttings, tunnels and a figure of eight design; often confusing people running their locos when their trains shot off in odd directions. I remember the get-togethers once a year which Father and I ran with mother ably producing afternoon teas and evening meals for the long-stayers.
Dad was never happier than in his workshop building locos or railway stock some might argue he possibly spent too long in there but over the years he produced in excess of 17 locomotives for himself and later on, for clients. In the summers while living in Tunbridge Wells we would frequently go to others get-togethers around the South East. He even made the poster for the UK National Model Railway Exhibition in London the picture being typical Dad him watering the loco with a cigarette hanging from his lips!
We moved to Somerset in 1977 (he had decided to save his company a huge amount of money by moving the business from Holborn to Bristol). Sadly the company was later sold to a Swedish firm and the UK directors lost their jobs.
Being Dad, and rather than giving up, he decided to turn Scotland House into a B&B, which meant converting the garages into bedrooms for Anna and Kate and me being off-loaded into a static caravan in the drive which was actually pretty cool!
Whilst running the guest house, he also built locomotives for customers so that with mothers income, the house was safe. If there was a downside to the redundancy, it was that Anna and Kate moved from school in Bristol to a school in Wells, and I would have to cycle 4 miles in to Wells to get the 06:58 bus to Bristol everyday!
Kate remembers Dad teaching her to drive. She also remembers travelling at some speed through Bleadney. Dad shouted at her to slow down, but Kate, who in those days thought she knew it all, decided to pull into the forecourt of the local petrol station. Quick thinking by Dad, who had to grab the wheel to avoid Kate driving into the petrol pumps, saved the day!
Dad at that time found a project via a very old friend of his, David Martin-Clark, who is sadly unable to be here today; that project was to build an insurance and claims system for the shipping industry and would be something he worked on for around 20 years until he retired.
In 1987 Dad and I bought a house in Bath where he met Jan; a step on the house-ladder for me and a soul-mate for him!
He then moved down to Castle Cary around 25 years ago where he and Jan have been living happily ever since with regular walks in the country, and afternoons sat peacefully in their conservatory admiring their stunning garden.

Of course another railway was built and many happy days were spent with both the national and local Gauge One society; something Dad loved doing. He was indeed a sociable person, engaging and informative and much loved amongst the society.
I said that Dad was a serious person and indeed he was, but he could and did enjoy a good laugh. I remember when Fawlty Towers first came out in the 70s, that he was struggling to breath through laughing so much, and a good joke would always crack a grin.
He had a full life; excepting that he would never actually enjoy himself on holidays. Whilst the family frolicked in the waves, Dad would be sat on the beach with a sports jacket on – in fact I can’t actually ever remember seeing him in trunks – shocking!
We all have lots of memories of Dad someone we all loved very much, and someone who will be missed massively. God bless you dad. 

Jonathan Harwood 

And from Stuart Munro on our behalf: 

I had the pleasure of working with your father from 1990 when he was setting up and then refining the computer system for ITIC (or TIMIA as it was known first when he worked on it originally in the late 1980s). His innovative and personal approach made it a great success and gave us the flexibility to do a wide range of things on the system that many other vastly more expensive systems available at the time could not do. We were constantly showing off the flexibility of Richard’s insurance computer system to IT gurus  who went away muttering that it would not last (they were wrong there) or it could only be replicated elsewhere for millions of pounds. Eventually it was upgraded in 2003-5 and the weekly visits of your father then ceased although we did endeavour to meet up with him in Castle Carey, occasionally, for lunch. His system is still the basis of our computer system to this day even down to the occasional quirk which still makes us laugh.

I know that many other who worked with your father will wish for their condolences to be passed on, namely Herry Lawford, Tony Payne, Roger Lewis, Julia Mavropoulos, Alistair Mactavish, Andrew Jamieson, Robert Sniffen and Charlotte Kirk.  

Your father, truly, was a lovely man to work with.”