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High Level Apprentice


Keith Porritt’s poems explore the largely disappeared world of heavy industry, its intensive and awe-inspiring physical labour, its dangers and deaths. Memories of his own work and people, fascination in the detailed processes of that work, celebration of the men who taught him, pleasure in his own craftsmanship: he reveals all these through a language that makes impressive and popular poetry from the hard and resistant materials of industry, technology and science and expresses his pride in Teesside’s heritage and future.

About Keith Porritt

Keith Porritt was born in 1935, a Yorkshireman whose family had lived over many generations in the area around Staithes. He left school aged 14 and worked as a messenger boy at ICI before being selected as an apprentice electrician at the Cargo Fleet Steel and Iron Company in Middlesbrough and attending classes at the Hugh Bell Evening Institute and Constantine Technical College. At 20 he decided to follow the family tradition and join the Merchant Navy, but failed his medical and never realised that dream. He then left the North East to work for British Thompson Houston in their design office in Reading as a junior draughtsman. He worked on systems for conventional power stations and for the first generation of nuclear power stations. He later moved to A. V. Roe and Co. in Manchester, still working as a draughtsman on aircraft and missile designs. Health and other issues prompted a move in 1964 for Keith and Anne and their two young daughters back to their family and Teesside, where he got work in the design office of South Durham Steel and Iron Company at their Malleable Works and was eventually promoted to posts as Chief Draughtsman and Senior Industrial Engineer. During that period he studied with the Open University and gained his degree in Science and Technology. In 1981, disillusioned by changes being made to the industry by Mrs Thatcher and Mr McGregor, he resigned and took a one year post-graduate teacher training course at St. John’s College, York. He taught at Egglescliffe School where he became Head of Craft, Design and Technology before ill health forced his retirement in 1992. Since then he has been a keen adult education student, taking classes in creative writing, history, computing, wood craft and metal craft. He is one of the founder members of Hall Garth Poets and is continuing to explore in his work his experiences in the steel industry and his love of the countryside and of long-distance walks. One long poem in preparation, Summit Ridges and Sea Cliffs, is a celebration of the Cleveland Way.

Price £3.50