Ken was difficult to get to know at first, and he ‘didn’t suffer fools gladly’, as the saying goes. In his eyes, I was a b------g Southerner, but our common love of tools and the way they work, brought us together on several occasions. In one of my roles as a tool catalogue editor, I was able to call on Ken’s expertise many times, and finally I was allowed to ‘borrow’ tools from his collection, which was then kept in his two-floor garage, several garden sheds, up in the attic and even under the bed! The attic contained mainly catalogues, photographs etc., but they were so heavy, that the ceilings sagged.
Some 20 years ago, when still employed in industry, Ken first asked me to write a book about the tools he had collected but unfortunately I had to refuse at that time. Subsequently, I was able to use some of the unique tools and industrial artefacts in a major series of fourteen colour photographs in one of the sought after, prestigious Buck & Hickman catalogues often referred to as the ’Bible’ of the industry. Retirement brought me more often into contact with Ken and the Collection, by now housed at the University, and later in a purpose-designed gallery at Kelham Island Museum. It was around this time that Ken asked me again if I would write a book about the collection. I felt greatly honoured to be entrusted with this task. By this time, Ken had nick-named me ‘Bugsy’, because of my photographic work with insects and the world of natural history.
Ken was always a busy man, but generous of his time in a good cause. Somehow we managed to squeeze in some hundreds of hours talking through the selection which by now was about to be re-housed in The Ken Hawley Gallery. We argued over what was to be included and what was to be left out.
After about a year ‘The Ken Hawley Experience’ was published, a 94 page book. Although it cannot possibly do justice to the tens of thousands of items in the Collection, the book is still available I believe, both on-line and in the Museum shop. It is a tangible and lasting tribute to a wonderful, but sometimes irascible man. Ken always wanted more space for the Collection, and I believe plans are in hand for Hawley3, a further extension to the Gallery.
Although The Ken Hawley Collection Trust has a superb band of conservation volunteers, I think that, funds permitting, consideration should now be given to appointing a knowledgeable curator for this world-renowned Collection, which I am convinced will continue to grow, as a fitting memorial to Ken Hawley. ‘The Collector’.as he was often known, will be sadly missed.