Camp­bel­town’s desert rat turned model maker

Campbeltown Courier - - NEWS - Han­nah O’Han­lon ed­i­tor@camp­bel­town­

A COURIER front page about a model ship do­nated to Camp­bel­town Mu­seum brought the work of one Camp­bel­town woman’s fa­ther to her mind.

On leav­ing school, Betty Cock­burn’s fa­ther, Ge­orge Prior, be­came a mo­tor me­chanic in Dun­can Ram­say’s garage in Ar­gyll Street.

When the Sec­ond World War broke out, he knew it was likely that he’d have to serve, so he signed up be­fore he was called up, join­ing the army’s Royal Elec­tri­cal and Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neers, aged 23.

Mr Prior served first in the UK and then across the globe, in Cape Town, Mom­bassa, Free­town, Aden, Suez, Cyprus, Pales­tine and Aleppo be­fore pro­ceed­ing to the West­ern Desert, where he served with the 7th Ar­moured Di­vi­sion.

The 7th saw dis­tin­guished ser­vice in the war, and its ex­ploits in the West­ern Desert, made it fa­mous as the Desert Rats.


He received seven medals for his ser­vice, and made sev­eral life­long friends dur­ing his time in the West­ern Desert, some of whom continued to visit him in Camp­bel­town for the rest of his life.

Af­ter his war ex­ploits Mr Prior re­turned to Camp­bel­town and Mr Ram­say’s garage where he worked un­til it fell into liq­ui­da­tion.

He next worked at the ship­yard as a store­man un­til he took early re­tire­ment to spend time with his wife, El­iz­a­beth, who un­for­tu­nately died soon af­ter.

In his new-found spare time, Mr Prior be­gan mak­ing model boats, ini­tially fish­ing boats, which he made for their skip­pers, be­fore mov­ing on to puffers.

Betty said: ‘Some peo­ple in Camp­bel­town still have the mod­els he made for them. He gave one to some­one in White­house and you could al­ways see it in the win­dow of the house when you passed on the bus.’

Trick­ier parts

Mr Prior made al­most ev­ery part of the mod­els him­self and never used a kit, only oc­ca­sion­ally re­ceiv­ing help from his daugh­ter Betty with some of the trick­ier parts.

When mak­ing the mod­els be­came too much for him, Mr Prior moved on to mak­ing stools.

‘He never stopped,’ Betty said, ‘When he be­gan strug­gling with the stools, Ken­neth Craig in the hard­ware store would chop the wood so that my fa­ther could still assem­ble it him­self.’ The first model Mr Prior ever made, which was not based on an ac­tual boat. He named it af­ter his niece, Rona. One of the model puffers that Mr Prior made.


Ge­orge Prior in later life.



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