Stories indeed … oral histories of thirty folks who were there during the founding and expansion of Sellafield.

Hunter Davies Sellafield Stories cover

Sellafield wasn’t called Sellafield until the core of Windscale Pile No. 1 began burning in October 1957. Courage and good luck averted a huge catastrophe, and afterwards, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority decided to change names to avoid bad publicity.

Listen to one female Windscale worker: “I remember the fire, of course. At that time I had a motorbike, this is before I was married. I was going in and out on this motorbike and of course I was wearing a crash hat. I went to Seascale and then along the railway, there’s a track between the railway and the sea which we called the cinder track. I knew something had gone wrong, but then things did go wrong, so you just don’t take any notice. … I was conscious of the smoke coming out of the chimney and I didn’t think that was a good idea.”

A male worker: “I knew the site was on fire on the Thursday night because one of the lads going home with me was a lad called Bill Rothery who was a health physics monitor. We were sitting there going home and he says, ‘Cyril, the pile’s on fire, look.’ I looked and I could see smoke coming out of Pile 1 chimney. I said, ‘You’re right, Bill.’ ‘Oh, maybe we’ll get a day off tomorrow.’”

There is nothing like a fine oral history collection to impart a flavor of what went down with big events.