Interesting actor dismissed

Writing up the Windscale fire/accident of 1957 has taxed me. It’s the first time I’ve attempted describing one of the close-call reactor accidents and I’m finding myself crowded by thoughts. Here’s something interesting. The Windscale factory/plant in rural England was run (behind barbed wire, it was a military reservation) by a convivial Welshman, Henry Gethin Davey. He was running part of a fuel fabrication facility in 1947 when legendary Christopher Hinton promoted him to run the entire plant, including the two plutonium production reactors. He was well regarded locally. When the graphite fire took place in October 1957, he played a role, but behind the scenes, and I’ve made the decision to not include him as a “character.” His one major contribution to the fire storyline is that after the event, he had to front the local community and tell them what happened, but I don’t have room to tell that little story either. So he won’t figure. Tragically, he died on the job three years later, aged only 51, of bone-marrow cancer (which cannot be attributed at all to his occupation).

Look, tons of historical figures cannot be included in any retelling but Davey did appeal to me for a long time. Here he is with a couple of anecdotes:

Leonard Bertin Atom Harvest

…I had a reasonable knowledge of atomic structure and radioactivity. I had … been brought up on Rutherford’s conception of the atom and a great deal had happened in the meantime. There was a great deal to be learned and much studying to be done and I spent some weeks at Harwell. “I used to play games but I scarcely ever do so now. My chief interests outside the job are gardening and music. I am essentially a listener. I am not one of those people who think that playing the harpsichord is like stroking a parrot’s cage with a toasting fork, and I like Beethoven, Handel, Mozart, Bach, Purcell and Byrd.

Bertin, Leonard. 1957. Atom Harvest. Secker & Warburg, London, p. 136.