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Bench Mark

September 21st, 2016 by Chris Hellawell

We have a new addition to the tool library.  Something that has a practical use to us, but also has great personal significance to me.

It’s easy to think of tool donations as useful objects, given in aid of a good cause.  But what we often forget is that every one of these objects comes with a story.  Sometimes it’s a pretty straightforward one – someone bought a drill, used it once, needs the shelf space and so donates it.  Other times there is a whole history to the objects, with great significance and a story attached.

I’d like to tell you the story of our new wood working bench.  Let’s call our bench, Mark.  Mark was delivered into the Northumberland school system in the 1950s, and spent many years helping teachers demonstrate joinery and wood work to pupils at Amble Middle School.  Mark was a trusted companion and a reliable worker.  His only vice was at one end.

He helped boys and girls build stools, learn joints and complete assignments for over 40 years.  With the approaching end of the 20th century, and the advent of computers, traditional wood work became less of a priority in the curriculum, until one day, it was decided by faceless council bods  that Mark should be forced into early retirement.

Luckily for Mark, his boss, headteacher Alan Hellawell had seen him at work, and was aware of his potential for many more years of service.  Coincidentally Alan, my Dad, was also retiring that year, and offered to put him to work in his garage, saving him from the scrapheap.  Alan and Mark had twenty-four happy years tinkering away, helping each other learn, fix and bodge.

Two months ago, my Dad passed away suddenly.  It was a shock to all that knew him and a loss that affects us all still.  He instilled many of the values in me, that have formed the ethos of the tool library – helping others, supporting young people to better themselves, and always trying to make your community flourish at every step.  Without my Dad, the Edinburgh Tool Library wouldn’t be here.

As we were sorting through Dad’s things, we came across Mark – he’s hard to miss.  We knew there would be nothing that would make Dad happier and prouder than seeing his work bench, that had served him so well, help members and trainees of ETL to discover their potential, and hopefully get the same enjoyment from using it as he did.  It’s what tool libraries do – we give objects a new lease of life.

I am incredibly proud to help bench Mark write this new chapter, and happy that another part of my Dad’s legacy will continue to help people, as he did his whole life.

 

Chris