In 1938 I was 12 years old. That was
the year that the city of Glasgow hosted the British Empire
Exhibition at the Bellahouston Park.
Countries from all over the world were asked to come and display
their wares and the things that the countries were most proud of
and known for. Come they did from far and wide.
In due course it was announced in the
East Coast of Fife that a special train would be made available
for school children to make an early in the morning till late in
the evening, all day visit to see the fair. The upcoming
trip created a whole new level of excitement in our lives.
Finally the day came and with brown
bag lunches in hand we all got on the train which took
us right into the park. Oh what a
sight met our eyes. The place was a wonderland and a beehive of
activity. My first amazement was to see people of features
and colour unlike anything I had
ever seen. I knew that such people existed but to actually
Maories, peoples from the
Philippines, India, Africa and many other countries was a mind
expanding experience to say the least.
Along with these peoples came their
animals; lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, reptiles,
koala bears and many more. To a young boy from the remote
village of Earlsferry all of these
new sights and sounds created great excitement.
All day long we went from pavilion to
pavilion and ooh-ed and
aah-ed at all the amazing and
different things that were on display.
As our day of wide eyed wonderment
was coming to a close, one last exhibit stopped me dead in my
On a pedestal stand was mounted a
cut-away Rolls-Royce, V-12 Merlin aircraft
engine. Attached to it was an electric motor that slowly
turned the engine over to show all of the inner working
mechanisms of the engine. Gears meshed, the crankshaft
rotated, connecting rods and pistons went up and down, intake
and exhaust valves opened and closed, all in perfect timing. To
me it was a mechanical marvel.
I'm pretty sure that moment in time
decided my future. I was completely enthralled.
I forgot all about elephants and
tigers. My world would be the world of machines and
As events transpired when the future
and the very existence of Britain hung in the balance it was
the power and reliability of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine that enabled the brave young men, who piloted Spitfires and
Hurricanes to win the Battle of Britain. It was the inspired and dedicated people at
enabled Winston Churchill to pen his words of national gratitude.
"Never in the field of human conflict has so
much been owed by so many to so few"