Doug Howe CEng FIET, October 1924 - September 2017

6 November 2017
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Doug Howe, CEng FIET

Obituary provided by George Heaton.

Doug started work in 1939, just before the Second World War. There had been rumours that his school at Sale, near Manchester, might become an Air Raid Post. It was a time of great uncertainty so he decided it would be best to start work. At the age of 14 he became an apprentice at Switchgear and Cowans in Old Trafford, where he was initially put to work on ‘metal bashing,’ making shells. The factory was bombed and blasted from near misses but work could not stop.


He continued his studies and in 1943 became a Student Member of the precursor organisation of the IET, the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE). In 1947 he changed jobs and worked for a couple of years for the newly created North Western Electricity Board, Stalybridge District. Equipment was hard to get and house service connections were often made using cigarette tins as junction boxes.


Doug would sometimes attend IEE meetings at the Engineers’ Club in Albert Square, Manchester, sadly now long gone, and his appetite for working in a power station or on the then rapidly expanding transmission system grew. In 1949 he obtained a position at Preston with the British Electricity Authority on the transmission system. Within four weeks he was made a ‘Senior Authorised Person’ so that he could operate on the high voltage network in the North West of England. He was soon ‘on standby’ every other night in between joining in his many family activities. It was a time of great system growth and the establishment of the 275, and later the 400 kV, Supergrid. He was involved in the building of Penwortham and Heysham Substations and the heavy duty overhead line crossing the Pennines to Bradford, over the peat bogs of Blackstone Edge where serious icing often occurred in stormy winter weather. He became Executive Engineer for the Grid from the Mersey to the Scottish border.


After 50 years in the same industry he retired in 1989. To mark his retirement, a road at Penwortham Substation was named after him ‘The Doug Howe Way’. His interest in IEE activities never waned. He became a Member, later a Fellow and joined the local North Lancashire Sub-Centre Committee based in Preston, becoming Chairman in 1982. The Sub-Centre then operated as an offshoot of the Manchester Centre. However, local interest grew and in 1990 Doug, having by that time become Centre Secretary, was involved in the establishment of the Lancashire and South Cumbria Centre. Doug’s experience and advice was frequently sought and much appreciated by many members.


He co-founded the active and very well supported Network’s Retired Members Section, becoming Secretary at the start in 1995, a post he held until his recent death at the grand age of 92. He had been a participating member of our Institution from 1943 until 2017 with 74 years of membership and service. Can anyone beat that?