Robert Erskine

My late father a doctor in Greenford, West London, owned two Triumph 2000s, a navy blue late MK11969, and an emerald green MK2 1972, both automatics. He had a patient Ernie Scrivener, gearbox specialist and senior engineer who worked at Western Avenue Service Depot, London PT1.

As a youngster I displayed an early aptitude and insatiable curiosity for all things mechanical, often ending in serious and disastrous trouble. Aged six I managed to ‘remove’ the spark plugs from my fathers Ford Zephyr 6. The ceramic insulators came out but the rest stayed put.

Ernest Scrivener would come to my parents home and carry out tune ups, on the Triumph 2000s, it was here I learnt and was mentored by him. He instructed me on engine timing, setting tappets, balancing the carburettors, and tuning amongst other things. He allowed me to be his assistant and these were very exciting times for me. I even carried out servicing my father’s Triumph. Eventually aged 16\17 I began work at Western Avenue, under a newly introduced apprenticeship scheme and was interviewed by Jock Brown. He kept up a friendly if at times strict contact. I remember his red carnations in his button hole. I also remember the ferment on the shop floor at the time of union disputes and walk out’s driven by the then Shop Steward. There were even physical altercations too on the shop floor. Jock Brown would regularly come down from his top floor office which overlooked the works to intervene and remonstrate. I had arrived into the adult world of work!

At this time the Stag had been recently launched, and early in the mornings there would often be lined up outside the depot on AA rescue vehicles, broken down Stags. These cars were assigned to a team of technicians who had to trouble shoot. I was intrigued by all this and would often go over at lunch break to see the progress. One day I noticed a stripped engine block and spotted a part drilled oil way not completed. I pointed this out to the technician and he explained a batch of engines had oil starvation issues to the valve train, and this may well have been the issue! I felt I had arrived as a fully trained technician, which of course I was not.

After a year at Western Avenue I decided to change direction and entered Ealing Art School to study sculpture and design. Originally I wanted to become an automotive designer and at that time no course existed, so sculpture was my best option.

I am responsible for the stainless steel sculpture ‘Gloria’ at Canley sited on the main roundabout, adjacent to the Triumph Employees Social Club.

I have another story as to how, why, and for whom ‘Gloria’ was created. The bottom line it was for the families and employees of Standard Triumph and Triumph.

With kind regards,
Robert Erskine BA(Hons) MA FRSS OBA
International Beit Award for Public Sculpture Excellence
Fellow Royal Society of Sculptors