UK Power Networks lauds family that has served industry for five generations

Five generations of one family have carried the torch for electricity, and the passion for the power industry looks set to continue down the line.

Wednesday, 6th January 2021, 5:06 pm

Robert Ball first sparked the family’s interest in the field, working as a night watchman for London Electricity Board.

His son Alfred went on to work as a foreman, grandson Kenny was a labourer, great-grandson Steve, who has lived in Littlehampton since 2018, was a jointer, great-great-grandson Scott is now a jointer and great-great-great-granson Andrew is an aspiring apprentice, meaning a possible sixth generation continuing the tradition in the electricity industry.

Andrew Ball, 15, said: “I would love to be part of the team and hopefully become a cable jointer like my dad and grandad.”

Foreman Alfred Ball’s whistle and fob watch

The Ball family has been helping to keep the lights on in London for around 100 years, starting with Robert, who was born in Mitcham in 1871. His job before retirement was night watchman, which meant keeping guard on the company’s lighting equipment.

Robert’s son, Alfred Ball, left school at 13 and started work at Hackbridge Cable Company, making the electricity cables that his great-grandson Scott Ball still works on today as a jointer in Croydon for UK Power Networks.

Alfred, from Rosehill, joined the Middlesex Regiment in the First World War, where he was wounded and taken prisoner.

When he returned home, he got a job driving a horse and cart for haulage, then joined London Electricity Board as a foreman in charge of a team of up to 20 men.

Jointer Steve Ball and his son Scott Ball, also a jointer

Steve Ball, 69, who moved to the south coast after retirement, said his earliest memory of his grandad was going to school in 1957 and seeing him laying new underground cables down the road where they lived.

Steve recalled: “He was sitting in a metal cabin with a brazier going, watching the men work. He had a whistle and a Smiths fob watch - I still have both of these - and he would blow the whistle to indicate to the men to pull or push the cables underground and to stop and start.”

During the Second World War, Alfred worked on aerodromes in Norfolk and Suffolk, this time in charge of 14 women laying power cables. Steve said his grandad told him the women worked very hard.

In the 1950s, Alfred’s son, Kenny Ball, also from Rosehill, joined the London Electricity Board as a general labourer, working in Brixton, Nine Elms, Streatham and Mitcham before retiring in the late 1980s.

Jointer Scott Ball and his son Andrew Ball, an aspiring apprentice

Steve, who previously lived in Croydon, joined Seeboard as a labourer in 1978 and went on to work as a meter fixer before becoming a jointer in 1988, repairing underground cables.

Steve said: “I lived with my grandad after my mother died, so I heard lots of stories about his work. I also used to read the magazine sent from the company.”

Steve worked at the Croydon depot for 40 years and moved to Littlehampton when he retired in 2018.

The company changed hands several times during his service, eventually becoming UK Power Networks, which has just celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Robert Ball, night watchman, and his son Alfred Ball, a foreman

Steve’s son Scott joined the industry in 2009 as a jointers mate, based at the Croydon depot, and he is now a jointer like his dad, trained to work on underground high voltage cables.

Scott said: “I always wanted to work for UK Power Networks, I even did my school work experience here in 1994 when it was Seeboard.”

Scott, 41, from Reigate, feels a strong connection with previous generations, particularly great-grandad Alfred.

Scott said: “He worked for Hackbridge Cable Company making cables, which I have worked on in the Croydon area. It makes me smile when opening an electric cable that has a line of paper with the Hackbridge Cable Company written inside. It makes me feel very proud.

“I hope my son Andrew will get to work for the company as well someday. That would be a dream come true to continue the family name in the industry.”

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