Nostalgic return for 1956 apprentice

Nostalgic return for 1956 apprentice

Donald and Alaine Mackay dropped into the information office in Thurso during their holidays.

Donald, from Thurso, was one of the 1956 intake of apprentices at Dounreay.

He went on to become an instrument mechanic and later a successful businessman in the oil industry.

Alaine, from Wick, also worked at Dounreay as well as Vulcan.

The couple moved to Aberdeenshire in 1970 and were back in the north on holiday.

Three years ago, they visited the exhibition at Dounreay and chatted to centre manager Tina Wrighton about a souvenir of the site that was in the couple’s loft back home.

Back in Donald’s first year at Dounreay, the UK Atomic Energy Authority held a competition for apprentices at its sites for the most accurate manufacture of a tool kit item.

All eleven apprentices in that year’s intake at Dounreay took part, each machining and manufacturing a set of six toolmaker clamps.

Donald’s tool kit was the one selected to represent Dounreay in the competition. It was placed inside a special presentation made by John Malcolm in the carpentry workshop and designed by Donald himself.

The Dounreay entry didn’t win the Harold Tongue Cup that year but Donald held onto his box when it came back from the competition judging at Harwell.

After his chat three years ago with Tina, Donald decided to gift the toolkit in its presentation box to the site.

The exhibition at the site has now gone, so on their next holiday back in the north Donald and Alaine dropped into the new information centre in Thurso. DSRL invited Donald and Alaine to visit his former workplace and hand over the toolkit to DSRL heritage officer James Gunn.

“I’ve come across quite a few apprentices from Dounreay in business over the years and a common feature has been a strong belief throughout our working lives in supporting young people getting into industry,” said Donald.

“We all felt that came from the shared background of five years in fantastic apprenticeships at Dounreay, so handing over the toolkit seemed like a way of putting something back.”

Donald is now director of Alford-based Hydro Products Ltd, which specialises in underwater ROVs for the offshore and defence sectors.