This year the steel city is pre­par­ing to hon­our one of its great­est men.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Seven Days -

ARRY Brear­ley was an orig­i­nal, a one-off from a unique mould. He dis­cov­ered some­thing while he was ac­tu­ally look­ing for some­thing else and it changed the world – stain­less steel.

But first he in­vented him­self. The prod­ucts that even­tu­ally flowed from the re­source­ful hands and brain of this sci­en­tist and in­dus­tri­al­ist be­came known in ev­ery house­hold. Yet he had never been to univer­sity nor had any busi­ness train­ing. In­cred­i­bly, he had never even been to school prop­erly.

His ca­reer flour­ished be­cause he al­ways re­mained his own man and had a fe­ro­cious ca­pac­ity for work. His method was to progress one step at a time and then only af­ter the next move had been ver­i­fied by his own tests, ob­ser­va­tions and judge­ment.

That’s the prag­matic side of the man. But sketch out his per­sonal story and you have the mak­ings of a plot for one of those mas­sive three-decker Vic­to­rian nov­els by Ge­orge Giss­ing.

In­deed Harry, a man of broad sym­pa­thies and imag­i­na­tion, did con­sider a ca­reer as a writer but re­jected the idea be­cause it was too in­se­cure. In out­line, here was a boy from nowhere, vir­tu­ally starv­ing on Sh­effield’s streets, who went to work at the age of 12.

Young Brear­ley rose up the lad­der of one of Sh­effield’s great­est steel­mak­ers and even­tu­ally found him­self in charge of a steel­works they owned in Riga in Latvia, then part of Rus­sia.

It was 1905 and the Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion kicked off not long af­ter Harry took over. The steel­works were torn by strife – hit­men turned up on the site and mur­dered the fore­man and the work­force was riven by strikes and in­trigue. Harry, a so­cial­ist who be­lieved skilled work­ers knew bet­ter than the masters when it came to work­place de­ci­sion mak­ing, found it a bruis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

He came back in Sh­effield in 1907 and in the year be­fore the First World War he dis­cov­ered how to make stain­less steel – an in­ven­tion which his em­ploy­ers promptly pooh-poohed.

They saw no value in it and the story went round that Harry was the in­ven­tor of “the knife that will not cut”. When they did see the light and the money that was to be made from Harry’s new ma­te­rial, they fought tooth and nail for years to deny him his fair share.

Some peo­ple are born with a sil­ver spoon. Harry’s was base metal. In­deed there seem to have been hardly any spoons at all in the house of Jane Brear­ley. She and her steel­worker hus­band John were al­ready bring­ing up seven chil­dren in a house in a back­yard off Spi­tal Street when John was born on the 18 Fe­bru­ary, 1871. The cou­ple were to have nine off­spring all told and their house has since been lost un­der a Tesco.

Harry’s be­gin­nings were not so much hum­ble as des­per­ate. But his

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