January 30th, 1914 – April 6th, 2015
THERE are not many people who have led such an extraordinary life as that of William Taylor ( Willie or Jock) of Lyndhee, Ganavan who passed away on Easter Monday, April 6, 2015 at the grand age of 101.
Unassuming and modest, his experiences spanned three generations and took in so much that we take for granted in our everyday lives.
Willie saw the advent of television and atomic theory development. To the end he remained curious about everything the world had to offer – he claimed this helped his longevity. Most importantly he was a veteran of World War II in which he contributed hugely to the Allied cause through his work as a wireless mechanic.
His parents hailed from Fife and Willie was the youngest of five children. He was born on 30th January 1914 in Alloa, Clackmananshire. He grew up in Troon after his father had to move there with his work as a chief wood machine operator at the shipyard.
As a youngster he was always fascinated by developments in science and, in particular, John Logie’s Baird’s invention to send images over the wire which became the first television signal.
Willie was actually present at the John Logie Baird meeting when the first images were sent.
He said this was a pivotal moment for him and made him realise he wanted to learn more in this field. He was then only ten years old.
Only two years later, on one of his many visits to the National Museum in Edinburgh, Willie was to find himself face-to-face with none other than King George V1. The King was present to open the new museum extension. Willie had found his way into the foyer and was mesmerised by the model liners in glass
cases when he came face to face with King George about to perform the opening ceremony. He said: ‘ King George had come in to open the museum but I had already opened it!’ Clearly Royal security was not what it is today.
Willie studied at Ayr Academy boosting his science knowledge through the local library and graduated in Maths and Philosophy from Glasgow University. He was later to be a principal teacher of mathematics.
In 1930 he bought a crystal radio receiver for £1 and was able to listen to the BBC Services both at home and overseas. In 1933 he recalled the introduction of atomic theory when he was at Glasgow University.
With the advent World War II the RAF called in all HAMS radio operators to operation stations. Willie volunteered for signals work and was subsequently called up to join an elite band of 17 men who were qualified wireless mechanics. The group had a simple if complex mission - to jam enemy aircraft signals which would prevent the German bombers hitting their intended locations. The work had top secret status at the time and the team was called into action immediately following the aftermath of the bombing of Coventry in 1940.
Willie’s unit came under the command of 80 wing of the RAF. The blocking machine was codenamed BROMIDE and literally assembled out of a large van where required emitting frequencies to block the LORENS homing system. By preventing bombers being able to drop their weapons accurately, this unit save countless lives.
During the progress of the war, radar developed and, in 1942, Willie’s role switched to being a wireless
mechanic with a new RAF squadron-175 HH Squadron based at Wormwell.
The squadron was trained as a ‘servicing commando unit’ and preparations made for the invasion of Normandy. Willie first worked on Hurricane fighters and finally the Hawker Typhoon fighter aircraft as well as the occasional Spitfire. From late 1942, the Typhoon was equipped with bombs and from late 1943 ground attack rockets were added to its armoury. Using these two weapons, the Typhoon became one of the Second World War’s most successful ground attack aircraft.
Willie was an invaluable member of the ground servicing team keeping the planes in the air and always at the cutting edge of wireless technology.
After the war, he returned to teaching and ran a school for the deaf in Ayrshire initially in a converted farm building that had been used in the war effort. As demand for specialised teaching grew he secured funding from the government for a new purpose-built school.
Willie also developed the technical systems in the school and was immensely proud of his achievements in helping so many youngsters with their education.
He met and married his wife, Miriam, during the war and they finally retired to Appin in Argyll where they indulged their love of gardening, the sea, wildlife, birdlife and walking.
Finally the Taylors moved to Ganavan enjoying nearly 20 years there until Miriam passed away.
Willie celebrated his 100th birthday on January 30, 2014 receiving honours from the Queen and the British Legion. His greatest wish was to visit RAF Leuchars to see the modern day Typhoon after working on its
predecessor for so long. Just before the base closed and for the occasion of his 100th birthday, he was extended a VIP invitation and had a chance not only to see the Typhoon at close quarters but in fly past training.
Willie was a highly intelligent and motivated individual in everything he did. He never failed to be interested in everything and everyone.
His innate curiosity never failed to keep a conversation interesting. He always claimed his key to long life was keeping his brain active and being as mobile as possible. Even when his movement was restricted he operated a high tech communication centre in his house.
Willie was a doyen of science and technology, politics, agriculture, history, archaeology and music. Indeed there were not many topics Willie could not converse on with his immense knowledge. His family and close friends meant the world to him. Miriam’s nephew and family visited him regularly and he was also re-acquainted with his own niece, Celia, through a chance article on his centenary birthday. He celebrated his 101 year in January 2015..
Willie was a remarkable individual who will be much missed by those who knew him for his wisdom, wit, intelligence and understanding. Many more should have had the privilege of knowing him.