Don Foster 1930 - 2019
Table in Yew from 1987 storm damage
.Profile of Don Foster
At the age of 12 years whittling model aero planes was my first attempt at woodcarving, my father was a carpenter and joiner by trade so there were often pieces of off cuts for me to use. During the summer months my Scouting friends and I would load a Trek cart and walk from East Grinstead over to Ashdown Forest to camp most week ends, here I whittled patterns on walking staves but my enthusiasm grew when I carved a miniature walrus, a sea plane which fitted into a matchbox.
Fortunately for me it was decided to open a Technical School in East Grinstead, which I attended for two years where I learnt carpentry, brickwork and drawing. On my l 5th birthday my mother bought me a plane and a mallet thinking that I would be following my father's footsteps, but my father had other ideas and advised me never to carry anything heavier than a pencil !!
At 16 years I left the Technical School and started training as a Draughtsman in a Consultant Engineers Office in London but this was interrupted by National Service for 18 months in the Royal Navy. After National Service I returned to my former job for a short while until l949 when l decided to change my job to work for a large Mechanical Engineering Company that was relocating to Crawley New Town. The department I worked in was responsible for the physical removal of plant and equipment for the factory, foundry, laboratory and offices and the installation of new equipment i.e. electric overhead cranes, furnaces including an arc furnace. During this time I continued my studies attending Day Release at college to obtain my ONC Building Construction Certificate, later on I changed to Mechanical Engineering.
In 1951, with a change of management, I was promoted to Clerk of Works and the factory had completed it's move to Crawley. My home was in East Grinstead so now instead of having to rise very early in the morning to catch the train to Victoria I could enjoy riding my bicycle to Crawley and back everyday, which brings me on to how I met my wife, Hazel.
Being a keen cyclist I was Youth Hostelling with a friend in Devon. It was there I met Hazel who was also Youth Hostelling with two friends
from Tunbridge Wells. We married in 1954 and settled in Crawley and, money being short, I set to and made some of our furniture; the tea trolley is still in use after 52 years! In 1955 we had a ready made family when Hazel gave birth to boy and girl twins. Our first house was rented from the New Tows Commission but we later aspired to buying a plot of land and having the shell of a chalet bungalow built. Hazel and I finished off the Second fixings and decorating which was quite a challenge!
My Studies had now moved on to Plant Engineering at the Borough Polytechnic, which led me on to becoming an associate member of The Plant Engineers.
After 23 years with one employer I decided it was time to move to Gatwick Airport in the BAA Civil Engineering Department as a Clerk of Works. After a few months I was promoted to Inspector of Works being involved with installation and construction of commercial projects and passenger handling facilities. The Department also dealt with State Visits, the crowning glory being the visit of Pope Paul 11 in 1982. After reorganization of the Department I became Assistant Maintenance Manager of the South Terminal Building until my retirement in 1988. But what has all this got to do with my interest in woodcarving I hear you say! In 1985, our family of three children had grown up and 'flown the nest', we decided to move out of Crawley to Scaynes Hill. We visited the SWS exhibition that was held upstairs in those days in the Martlets Hall. I was delighted to find a friendly organization with the same enthusiasm as me for woodcarving.
The following year I entered my first serious ‘carving in the round’, which was a sow and litter in English Yew.
In 1988 when I retired from BAA I decided to make rocking horses as an interest for my retirement amongst one hundred and other things one finds to do when retired! The Vicar at Scaynes Hill Church kept me busy with jobs that needed doing around the Church including a small altar table, the frame for the huge tapestry that now hangs on the north wall of the Church and a carving of the Madonna and Child for the Memorial Garden behind the Church. This has now been cast in bronze, as weathering was not kind to the wooden original. I have also been involved in the SWS joint projects carving the Armorial Shield for Scmallenberg, our Twin Town which was presented to the Bergermaster by Heather Ross who was our Town Chairman at that time, the other was our own Town Armorial Shield which now hangs above the stairway in the Help Point.
Sadly age takes a toll on one's ability but I am still enjoying the friendly companionship of the SWS and never cease to marvel at the diverse skills of our members and am grateful to share their knowledge.