Kenneth Street, GM3ENJ, December 2015

| January 13, 2016
Ken Street, GM3ENJ (SK)

Ken Street, GM3ENJ (SK)

Kenneth Street, GM3ENJ, passed away in December 2015 at the age of 91. He was an engineer and inventor at the forefront of the microelectronics revolution in avionics and defence. He was a rare breed of engineer, who had deep expertise in a whole range of engineering disciplines, including mechanical, electronic and radio engineering. He inspired generations of engineers, both professional and amateur during his long life.

Ken was born in Dunfermline on 7 June 1924. His father was Robert Leitch Street and his mother was Minnie (neé Callander). They lived in Street’s place, Townhill, which was called after the family name in recognition of his family’s contribution to the town. One of the larger projects the family firm was involved with was the building of the Glen Bridge. Following his education at Townhill Primary School and Dunfermline High School, Ken started work at the family business as an Apprentice Engineer in 1941. In parallel with this, he attended Heriot Watt College (now University) and obtained his Higher National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. Even in his early days of work Ken made his mark. His first reference in 1946 noted that “Ken was an honest and industrious workman with a high degree of technical ability with regard to Internal Combustion Engines.” A very happy period was then spent as a maintenance engineer at Hay and Robertson Ltd in Dunfermline, keeping the huge number of weaving looms in action at this famous company. Ken told many stories about this time of his life.

It was around this time, in 1948, that Ken became a licenced radio amateur, a hobby that was to dominate his much of leisure time for the rest of his life. Ken’s professional life also changed around this time. Following a period as a Temporary Draughtsman at the Royal Naval Armament Depot, Crombie, Ken joined the Ferranti Company in Edinburgh in 1951. This, of course, was during the Cold War, and the race was on to develop the latest technological systems in advance of the Soviet Union. Ken worked on many projects over his career, some of which he could not talk about for obvious reasons, but he loved every minute of his time in Ferranti until he retired in 1989 as Chief Engineer of the Microelectronics Group. Together with the company he held 3 patents related to microelectronics.

Up to the age of 42 Ken remained a bachelor, until a chance meeting in Edinburgh with his childhood sweetheart, Norma Grant (also from Dunfermline). They married in 1966 and he subsequently adopted her two daughters, Laura and Shona. Now a family man, Ken could not devote quite as much time to his hobby as a radio amateur as before, but he sometimes quietly disappeared and could be found in his shack uttering the words “This is GM3ENJ…”, his callsign recognised by many far and wide. One notable exploit as a radio amateur, with colleagues including Harry Mackie, GM3FYB, Charlie Rattray, GM3HYX and Jimmy Priddy, GM3CIG, was in the mid 1960s when they bounced a radio signal off the moon to work a station in Puerto Rico. More details, including cine film of the day, can be seen here.

Following ken’s retirement in 1989, he rekindled his passion with mechanical engineering, spending many hours in the garage working on the lathe that he inherited from Harry Mackie in 1986. There have been many things produced on the lathe, but perhaps the most notable is a beautiful model steam engine that he built from scratch. He also found time to develop his lifelong interest in fishing, and had many holidays in the north of Scotland trying to catch his dinner. Returning to his radio activities, Ken’s last communication was on 6 December, exactly 67 years and one month since his first transmission.

Tribute by Mike Brennan

Category: Silent Keys