The crash came on the 25th October 1961 when the Brazilian President, Janio Quadros, renounced his Presidency and fled for sanctuary to a British ship in Rio Harbour. The country tottered to the edge of Civil War and economic ruin; both were averted by a strong army and a frightened Congress; the compromise was to allow his vice-President, Joao Goulart, to take over. It was not general knowledge that this was just buying time because if the USA had been unable to live with the Socialist, Janio Quadrtos they were less likely to accept a closet Communist like his vice.

In the meantime the banks had closed and remained closed, credit was unobtainable and trading, all but at a standstill so that all industrial and commercial organisations were severely threatened while the people had to get by as best they could. These conditions were slowly overcome through decrees from the new President and life resumed its outwardly normal routine for most, if only temporarily. But not for the newly installed factory where B. had started work less than a year ago. (BLOG – from a rural backwater to the fastest growing city in the world) By one of those quirks that seemed to govern his life, in this short space of time he had been propelled to a position where he held almost unfettered control in the operational side of this start up British Diesel manufacturing company near Sao Paulo where production had begun last December. With its only customer being the local Ford factory making Lorries, (or Truck Plant, as the new USA terminology took root), and the expectation was to be the main supplier of an expanding Brazilian truck and tractor industry using the newly developed diesel engines.

Some small technical problem with the six cylinder engines supplied allowed this American customer to return them all for correction and so delay payment which was a survival gambit like many being practiced by the new fledged foreign industries starting up in Brazil at the time. In normal times an engineer could have been sent to correct these faults on site, but the need for economic survival changed all trading norms. The factory’s financial position was threatened as a consequence; with no credit available, international finance loans at exorbitant rates it was realised that the start up was under-capitalised for the turbulent South American operations.

The stable Canadian CEO who was on secondment from a main Canadian tractor company resigned prematurely when an Anglo-Brazilian replacement called Mr MacDonald arrived. Mr MacDonald’s only asset seemed to have been that he spoke Portuguese. Up to his appointment B. was the only Portuguese speaking non-Brazilian on the administration side. It was not long before the new CEO became known as, Mac the knife.’ His reaction to the crisis was knee jerk rather than thought out. Against B’s advice he cancelled all outstanding supply orders so, when demand sprang back within some months our suppliers were not interested in us. He ordered a wide scale sacking of newly trained factory workers and later we were not able to recruit replacements from a very narrow market when the upturn came. He came to mistrust many of the senior expatriates sent from the UK for the start up and began to ask Head Office for their removal while cultivating the lower level British foremen sent out to train up Brazilian replacements. A kind of reign of terror took over the whole operation and the cohesion fostered by the departing Canadian CEO, Charlie Hill, quickly disintegrated.

One day B. was standing in the loading bay watching the four cylinder engines being lifted on to the lorry by the stacker-truck as the driver was moving adroitly between the nearby engine storage area and the lorry, carrying one four cylinder engine at a time. Each engine was secured on to a wooden pallet and the prongs of the stacker-truck lifted the pallet with the engine over the lorry and gently lowered it to a position indicated by the lorry driver who stood in the body of the lorry and called out his instructions. Antonio Garcia, the dispatcher, dressed neatly in his white coat, watched also from the work station nearby. Loading and dispatching engines was still a novel experience and there was the feeling of pleasure and achievement that one had participated in their fabrication. It was the first time in B’s working life that he could see the end product on a daily basis, and it gave him the feeling that almost everyone in the factory seemed to experience, a sort of participatory glow, at one time or another. It was, he supposed, a similar feeling to the team spirit in sporting events, or the group esprit de corps he remembered from his military service. It was a good thing in small doses, but certainly not something to be over indulged in.

The concentrated expressions on the faces of the three Brazilians showed that they were aware of his watching presence, and the studious correctness of the two drivers’ actions underlined this impression. ‘A little more to the right,’ called out the lorry driver, moving his hands to indicate where the next pallet should be lowered, ‘more, more, just a fraction more; now, down.’ His two hands, palms downwards, made as to press down to the ground, and then, bouncing up and down, in a final gesture, and the pallet came to rest. The stacker-truck driver backed his machine away, withdrawing the prongs and wheeled around to collect the next engine. There would be twenty eight in all – a days output, and prompt dispatching was necessary for the invoicing and revenue so badly needed at this time.

When all twenty eight had been put on to the lorry, the driver would lash them down, passing a rope through eyelets attached to each engine and securing the rope to other eyelets on the sides of the lorry. Jair approached in that bouncy, determined stride that conveyed a message to the outside world that he was no pushover, ‘telephone call in your office, senhor.’ ‘Thanks.’ He turned and, in passing Antonio Garcia, gave a brief smile. There was so much to be done and B was only having a break watching the engines being loaded, but demands so often put paid to even that sort of respite.

It was in the afternoon that the awful news came through – all twenty eight engines had slewed off the lorry and been scattered around the Anchieta Highway on the way to be delivered to the Ford factory. Every load of engines delivered meant the money earned to pay off the debt incurred when money had been borrowed to make good the shortfall during the last crisis. To lose the value of these twenty eight engines at this time was little short of a disaster. There was the insurance, of course, but that would take ages. He met John Wilson, a quality inspector, on his rounds. I’ve just been speaking to MacDonald,’ he burst out in his staccato Glaswegian accent, and he asked me what I thought about these engines. I told him that both the lorry driver and the stacker-truck driver should be sacked immediately.’ ‘The stacker-truck driver has nothing to do with the safety of the load.’ ‘Oh, yes he does.’ ‘How,so? ”He loads the engines on to the lorry.’ ‘Under instructions from the lorry driver.’ ‘That is why they are both responsible.’ You can’t split a responsibility like that; the engines didn’t come off the lorry because of the way they were put on; they came off either because they were not secured properly or, because the lorry driver took a bend too fast, or both.’ B remembered his days with the Blue Line Shipping Company, and added, ‘it’s not the stevedore who is responsible for a ship’s cargo loading, it’s the duty officer who supervises the loading.’ ‘No, no, no, I told MacDonald they both should go.’ ‘Oh, belt up, John, you are wrong and you have no argument. Even MacDonald couldn’t accept that.’ ‘You will see,’ said Wilson, ominously. And see, an exasperated B did, in due course.

Adelino, the Personnel Department Supervisor came to his office later with a paper to sign. It was for the dismissal of the stacker-truck driver, Jose Carlos. ‘Who gave the instructions?’ asked B. ‘Senhor MacDonald. ‘And the lorry driver?’ ‘His Chefe will sign his dismissal notice.’ ‘And they are both to be sacked?’ So Senhor MacDonald says.’ ‘Well, I can’t sign this, Jose Carlos is in no way responsible.”Shall I tell that to Senhor MacDonald?’ ‘Yes.’ This was putting his head in the noose and B knew it, but his sense of justice would not allow him to be a party to this act. Adelino left and B waited for the inevitable call.

MacDonald was sitting in his office with the Peterborough foreman, Fred Cleaver. It seemed he no longer had confidence in his fellow Directors and sought advice from supervisors like John Wilson and Fred. His office was being enlarged and already looked enormous. He and Fred seemed cosily intimate and somewhat conspiratorial at the far end. MacDonald did not beat about the bush, but fired straight at it. ‘Adelino says you would not sign the dismissal form of….’ He glanced down at a paper on his desk, Jose Carlos.’ ‘That’s right, it is the lorry driver who is responsible to ensure his load is safe. The stacker-truck driver does what the lorry driver tells him when loading.’ ‘I think otherwise.’ B wasn’t going to argue with someone like MacDonald. ‘Then, I’m sorry.’ ‘So am I. If you cannot support your Management you shouldn’t be in the position you are.’ B stood there in silence; there was nothing further to be said. MacDonald picked up the dismissal form, signed it and put it into an OUT tray. ‘That will be all.’ Fred Cleaver was looking on with an expression of mixed curiosity and embarrassment, at the spectacle of someone voluntarily arranging his own nemesis. B turned on his heel and left the office, with the feeling that it was now only a question of time before he would be following the two dismissed drivers into looking for another job.’

This became a fact when, in the small pool of an industrialising Brazil, it became known that a new Production and Material Control Manager was required by a prominent Diesel Manufacturing Company in Sao Paulo and B waited for the inevitable consequences. Much as MacDonald might have liked to make a summary example by sacking B this was now impossible through the depleted ranks of the Management by his previous actions and by now, a thoroughly alarmed Head Office in the UK were realising their error in appointing Mr MacDonald. Shortly after this episode a meeting of all remaining senior staff was called to the Conference Room and when the remnants had gathered there, a London Director entered by a side door leading to the CEO’s office together with a stranger and Mr MacDonald. Mr MacDonald was seen to be crying. The Director proceeded to make a short announcement. Mr MacDonald was having to resign for family reasons after heading up the Brazilian Company in difficult times. In his place the stranger, introduced as Mr Winstanley, who would take over responsibilities immediately. That was it. Mr MacDonald waited, still tearful but no one in the room approached him to shake his hand or wish him well. He moved slowly back into his ex-office following the other two and was never seen again.

The new Management cancelled the search for B’s replacement instead, re-affirming him in his position, and rewarding him with a generous pay increase.