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Sunday, 21 August 2016

R.I.P. Crane Driver Alan Sowerby

During the course of converting and restoring the water tower we had the privilege to meet many many people without whom we could not have got the results we did.   Some stood out as being absolutely on top of their game.

Alan Sowerby was the crane driver for the mighty lift of our 13 1/2 tonne roof room.   A good deal of planning had gone into this operation just before Christmas 2011.   I first met Alan when his massive 90 tonne crane came down Station Road on the morning of the big lift.   A man in his sixties I guess and a veteran of a working lifetime of lifts this was just another day for him - but one where his skills would be pushed to the limit in the unforgiving gaze of television cameras.

The first problem was that the Station Road entrance to the site was far too small for this monster crane.   It would have to go round the block to The Sidings which meant going under two railway bridges with limited clearance.   I therefore climbed into the cab - a scary flight of steps it was too - to show Alan the way and to see him under the bridges.   I had never travelled in such a big vehicle before or since.   The cab was like a ship's bridge  - bristling with controls and computer screens.   We squeezed under Cammock Lane Bridge with millimetres to spare thanks to CCTV cameras atop the crane.   Here was a man who was taking no risks and knew what he was doing.

There were three great lifts to be done - getting the structure off the lorry that had brought it from Hull, lifting it over our telephone wires and then the big lift to the top of the tower into a prepared landing pad where it would sit for ever by gravity alone.   The lift had to be millimetre perfect in every dimension.

Today, one of our visitors was the very man from Jardines who had done the calculations for our job.   He had seen it on TV but never in the flesh.   Sadly though he had to report that Alan Sowerby had died - very soon after retiring from Jardines.   In the hurly-burly of the day I did not get a proper picture of Alan Sowerby but I do have these dramatic shots of him in action in his office.

click to enlarge

R.I.P. Alan Sowerby.   The crowning glory of our tower sits there precisely where you put it.   Testimony to your skill.

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