We ex­pect to make pots

Lancashire Life - - INTERVIEW - WORDS: Martin Pilk­ing­ton Š PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: John Cocks

Some­one once said build a bet­ter mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door. Two men from Lan­cashire have taken the old adage and ap­plied it to a very dif­fer­ent crea­ture

Bob Nor­burn has been in­vent­ing things – very worth­while things – since his teenage years. But the lob­ster trap he and busi­ness part­ner, Steve Simp­kin, are about to launch on the world should be the most sig­nif­i­cant by far, sav­ing lives and, hope­fully, mak­ing pots of money.

The first time Wi­gan bor­nand-bred Bob demon­strated his knack for prac­ti­cal cre­ativ­ity was as an ap­pren­tice at De Hav­il­land in Lostock, when he de­signed and built a de­vice that let one man ma­noeu­vre and work on key com­po­nents of an aero­space en­gine where pre­vi­ously it needed four hefty lads to turn it. ‘I was made ap­pren­tice of the month and given 50 shillings,’ he re­calls. ‘It was the first money I

made from an in­ven­tion.’

Later, a neigh­bour’s golf prac­tice in the garden saw Bob cre­ate a net that kept golf balls where they hit it, al­low­ing the player to as­sess shot ac­cu­racy. Pa­tented and li­censed (for cricket and base­ball too) it paid nicely.

Liv­ing in Canada where he and his fam­ily em­i­grated in 1982, his en­gi­neer’s eye saw another op­por­tu­nity. ‘Canada had moun­tains of saw­dust that were made into fuel pel­lets, but they doused the fire in wood-burn­ers. The mak­ers came up with an Archimedes screw to feed pel­lets in. I in­stalled a home-made stain­less-steel bas­ket used for cook­ing on my fish­ing trips and it burned them per­fectly.’ The pa­tented de­vice was li­censed by the biggest stove maker in the US for $100,000 and a roy­alty on each one sold.

It was sea fish­ing trips off

Nova Sco­tia that started the 20-year jour­ney now reach­ing its end. When a calm sea sud­denly turned to a life-threat­en­ing swell he headed his small boat back to the safety of Hal­i­fax har­bour, pass­ing lob­ster boats going the other way. ‘It’s a hard life, and very dan­ger­ous. Ev­ery year boats are over­turned and the fish­er­men drown or die of hy­pother­mia.

The traps are heavy and have to be stacked high on the deck, mak­ing the boats un­sta­ble. And if some­one gets snagged in a rope from a 100lb trap be­ing dropped they’ve lit­tle chance.’

Tra­di­tional traps, it seems, have changed lit­tle in thou­sands of years. Made of wood, they

ABOVE: LEFT: The new style pots save space on deck and are lighter

Steve Simp­kin and Bob Nor­burn and the new de­sign lob­ster pots at Fleet­wood Docks

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