EACH year, the most outstanding apprentice at Cleveland Bridge receives the Ron Maddison award which is named in honour of the training school manager who oversaw about 700 apprentices in his 51 years at the bridge-making company in Darlington.

In preparation for this year’s award, the company has just rediscovered a couple of pictures of Mr Maddison in his hat with his apprentices making a pontoon for Hartlepool Yacht Club. It looks a sturdy construction and it is believed to be still in use – unlike the rather less sturdy bike extension that Mr Maddison constructed for his young family.

Mr Maddison joined the Bridge in Smithfield Road at the age of 14, still in his shorts from Eastbourne school, in 1939 – his father, John, was a plater there. After a couple of years on trial, Mr Maddison was taken on as an apprentice, eventually qualifying as a template maker.

In 1965, the company decided that it needed to run its own apprenticeship scheme to ensure the young people were trained to meet its needs, and Mr Maddison was appointed as training school manager, a role he filled until his retirement in 1990.

Stewart Oliver, from Darlington, was accepted into the training school in 1968. “The photographs were taken in the second year of the apprenticeship and me, Ray Patterson and Geoff Standding were apprentices in the mechanical discipline, from the maintenance department,” he says. “Two of us were fitters, one was a turner and the rest of the apprentices in the photograph were boiler makers.”

Mr Maddison liked to give his apprentices proper tasks rather than just practice pieces, as the Hartlepool pontoon shows.

Whether the apprentices were involved in the construction of the Maddison family bike is not known. Mr Maddison was a keen cyclist – he would cycle over to Blackpool each year to book the family’s summer holidays.

He and his wife, Aileen, had three children. Aileen would ride her own bike, so Mr Maddison bought a tandem on which his eldest daughter Leslie rode behind him. Then he built a one wheel extension onto the tandem for daughter Carol to sit on, and then he added a sidecar for the youngest, Ken, to sit in.

“There was some weight on it and it may not have been as straight as it might have been and we were going down Blackwell bank when a policeman stopped us and asked where the devil we were going,” remembers Ken. “Dad said ‘into the country’, and the policeman said ‘if I were you, I wouldn’t go too far with that lot’.”

Nevertheless, the four-Maddison bike made it as far as Cleasby, Manfield and Richmond.

Mr Maddison died in 2015, and the award was instituted in his memory with Carol and Ken helping to choose the winner.