Monday, 28 November 2011

From Horns to Mrs Robinson!

The Worshipful Company of Horners is both an ancient guild and a modern City institution. The working of horn declined over the centuries (although there is one modern use of horn that is carried through from biblical times – the shofar that is blown on the Jewish New Year. This is traditionally made from a ram’s horn.)

However, as the industry declined, the Company had the vision, in 1943, of adopting the manufacturing and use of the modern equivalent – plastics! Hence my headline – for those of us old enough to remember the classic film “The Graduate” – Benjamin, played by Dustin Hoffman is told that for his future there is only one word “plastics”.

This advice still holds good as the plastics industry is a major feature of the UK economy with over 7,000 companies and there is a shortage of qualified engineers.

John and I attended the Horners’ annual lecture and dinner on the 17th November. The lecture was in memory of a former Master, Ralph Anderson, who not only made his fortune in plastics but left a substantial bequest to the Company to support their educational interests, particularly science eduation.

A point of interest for the Needlemakers is that Ralph Anderson’s early career was spent with the British Homophone Company which made gramophone records in the 1930s – for which needles are still available from Needle Industries in India on special order!

The Master, David Williams, has had a most distinguished career in the plastics industry and took us on a whistle-stop tour of the current state of the industry, manufacturing trends – not only reducing the weight of cars thus reducing fuel consumption, but doing the same for aeroplanes with similar savings. Also a very interesting insight into the possibilities of recycling – plastic need not go to landfill and the goal is that no plastics go to landfill by 2020. Their mantra is ‘re-use, recycle, recover’. If you want to know a bit more then have a look at Ralph Anderson lecture.

This was followed by a buffet dinner, all held at the Royal Society of Medicine.

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