Turning back the clock;Books

22nd October 1999 at 01:00
CLOCK THIS. By Trevor Baylis. Headline. pound;18.99.

The inventor of the clockwork radio is well known to TES readers. We have reported more than once on his passionate beliefs about the failures of education: that schools do little to nurture creativity in science and engineering, and that even where there are displays of genuine inventiveness - in engineering competitions for young people, for example - participants are unprotected against the loss of their potentially lucrative rights as inventors.

Unsurprisingly, he uses his autobiography to reassert his views, and to suggest a way forward, through his planned "Academy of Invention". All this, though, comes towards the end of the book - as indeed does the story of the clockwork radio itself. Before that we are treated to a fascinating tale of a life that began in north London in 1937.

All the expected ingredients are there - the Blitz, the search for bits of shrapnel, the potentially lethal games in bomb-ruined buildings. Later there was national service as a physical training instructor. And, all the time, we see the emergence of what my family would have called a "nankler" - someone who spends hours in a shed with a lathe and bits of metal and wire.

In a parallel development, Trevor became, by his teens, an international class swimmer. When he was held back from the very top by his slightness of build he went on to earn a living first as a stunt diver, then as a swimming pool salesman. He also organised underwater stunts for television - the simulated drowning of Peter Cook, for example, and an encounter between the Labour MP, Austin Mitchell, and a killer whale.

We learn of the dark side in his life, too: how as a small boy he was sexually abused by a priest, an episode that still stirs him to anger.

This is a good, one-sitting read - a warm and sometimes hilarious account of the life of a kind-hearted and genuinely funny man. He's undoubtedly wealthy now, as the result of an invention that is enriching the lives of thousands, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today