Tom Pollard CEng FIMMM (Obit)

Fellows' Lounge
1 Apr 2009
Tom Pollard

Tom Pollard CEng FIMMM, who died on 10 February 2009 aged 87, was one of the foremost longwall mining engineers of his generation.

Educated at Roundhay School, he read Mining Engineering at the University of Leeds. He was sent to Manton Colliery in Nottinghamshire for the practical part of his training, where his mentor proved to be his future father-in-law.

Career history

Having worked as an Area Mechanisation Engineer, he was appointed Manager of Dinnington Colliery, later of Firbeck. He became Agent/Manager of Maltby Colliery, one of the largest in Yorkshire, during a period of major reconstruction and development into a new coal seam. The historically high injury and fatality rates among miners were of major concern to Tom. He believed modern mechanised mining techniques were the way forward.

In 1957 he left the National Coal Board (NCB) and joined Gullick Ltd (later Gullick Dobson) in Wigan. Gullick had accumulated expertise in the use of hydraulics. This culminated in powered roof supports, the socalled ‘walking pit props’, which revolutionised longwall mining worldwide. Tom was instrumental in overcoming the teething problems of this new technology.

By 1968, longwall working using these supports had been adopted on nearly all coal faces in Britain, some 800 in total. This success was mirrored in a major expansion of Gullick. Tom recruited and trained teams of people who interpreted customers’ technical needs, designed, built, installed and serviced the equipment.

For many years Gullick’s dominant customer was the NCB. Tom’s forte was in building and handling relationships with all strata of NCB management, from colliery engineers to Board level – never more so than with Chairman Lord Robens. Tom always represented the company with considerable elan and professionalism.

Tom’s passion extended beyond UK coal mining and he had an urge to market the company’s products overseas, into the major coal producing regions of the USA, South Africa, Australia and China. He developed a network of overseas subsidiaries and agencies, including Joy Global Industries, which now owns and operates the business that Tom did so much to build up.


Spare time and retirement

Tom spent much of his spare time studying plants, becoming knowledgeable in their cultivation. He and his Lakeland garden earned praise from the many horticultural professionals whom he and wife Ilene entertained.

Having retired, Tom joined the Lakeland Horticultural Society and served on its Council, becoming Chairman for five years. He improved its facilities and raised the standard of the Society’s gardens at Holehird. Here, many of those who worked with Tom speak of his green-fingers, his patience as a teacher, interest in propagation and delight in growing plants of all kinds. Others remember his organising and negotiating skills. As Chairman, he oversaw additional buildings and grounds being
taken over from landlords, seamlessly integrating the spaces into the rest of the property managed by the Society.

When he retired as Chairman he continued to garden enthusiastically, being an expert in propagation, specialising in roses, meconopsis, primulas and rhododendrons.


Family life

Despite this busy life at work and in retirement, Tom always placed his family first. He travelled extensively with Ilene during their 60 years together. His three children and five grandchildren have benefited from his enthusiasm and ability to pass on his knowledge and skills.

He introduced his sons and daughter to sailing and waterskiing. Eventually a boathouse was sought. It came with a house and two acres of garden, in which for over 35 years Tom built his plant collection, with meconopsis propagation at one end, species rhododendrons at the other, and many specimen plants in between.

Tom will be greatly missed by his family, Ilene, John, Peter, Alison, his five grandchildren and all his friends.