Jan­uary 30th, 1914 – April 6th, 2015

The Oban Times - - Births, Marriages & Deaths -

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.

Ali­son Chad­wick

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