Speaker – Dr Tom Hay ‘Some unusualapplications of Water ‘.
Professionally, Dr Hay was an engineer at ICI for some 30 years but, as a hobby, he
became interested in industrial archeology & joined the Society for the Protection of Ancient
Buildings. Tom’s particular enthusiasm is for water mills & other water powered devices. He
has an extensive collection of photographs and data on these incredibly varied & ingenious
devices which he presented in an amusing but informative manner.
Power can be derived from water in three ways: utilizing the weight of the water;
extracting energy from the flow; or exploiting the pressure of a column of water.
for millennia for grinding cereal grains. Water wheels powered the Industrial Revolution in
Britain, powering weaving looms, pumping out coal mines & driving winding gear in tin mines.
Examples of more ancient devices, relying on the weight of water, are bamboo bird scarers in
Japan & irrigation pumps in China. A more modern example close to hand is the cliff lift at
Saltburn. Even sculptures, such as a water lilly opening & closing, can be driven by water
Conventional water mills are easily damaged by flood water, an elegant solution to this
problem in fast flowing rivers, prone to flooding, is to have a floating mill with paddles which are
driven by the flow of the water. Many floating mills exist in continental Europe. Another
clever technique for harnessing the energy of flowing water is in ferries. A boat anchored to a
fixed pivot in the centre of a stream can be manoeuvred across the stream by deflecting rudders
from side to side. Numerous ferries in Canada use this technique. Water turbines generate
electricity all over the world. Electricity can also be generated by using an Archimedes screw in
reverse, which has the merit that fish can still swim up through the screw unharmed.
Water pressure can drive a piston in a cylinder which can drive all sorts of machines.
There are many examples of hydraulically powered devices locally, eg. the lift at the Bowes
Museum. An even more ingenious method of using water is to entrain air in a descending
column of water & release it at the bottom, thus making an air compressor with no moving parts.
Although water powered devices have been largely superseded by electrically powered
machines, water power is still used in chemical works & on oil tankers, where electrical sparks
might initiate fire or explosions.
Finally, Tom closed his lecture by playing himself out utilizing the flow from a jug of
water to drive a musical box.
A vote of thanks was proposed by Keith Waller.