Margaret Thatcher and 'That Mr Broad' did not see eye to eye - scroll down for more
Margaret Thatcher and 'That Mr Broad' did not see eye to eye - scroll down for more

My authorship of local history and interest in genealogy led me into Heraldry. An ancient tradition in which so-called ‘notable persons’ could apply to The Royal College of Arms for one of their Heralds to work together with the individual to create their own ‘Coat of Arms’.

A ‘Grant of Arms’ once made is hereditary and follows the male line and must be unique and normally has characteristics or ‘devices’ that reflects an individual’s personality and accomplishments. Originally used for the combative Knights in Arms to be recognised on the battlefield, it is still a major British tradition compulsory for Knights and Lords of the realm but also for significant Gentlemen of ‘Rank’.

Now, during the highlight of my computer career, forming and leading the Microcomputer Industry, I was approached informally by a Department of Industry official with the suggestion that an honour might be in the offing. There was no promises of course, but he suggested that I should consider getting a grant of arms. In the end, my fractious relationship with ‘The Iron Maiden’ , Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher put me in ill favour.

I had led Computer Industry deputations on Downing Street visits to argue the case for support ‘as Thatcher saw it’ or ‘a level playing field’ as we saw it.  I became ‘That Mr Broad’ and all possible recognition or honours were vetoed. Sad, but never regrettable, as it was a hugely worthwhile endeavour as we then had over 25 British owned and controlled computer manufacturing companies that I led in the BMMG to try to save this national asset and now we have none!

Anyway, I had returned from my last meeting with Thatcher having failed to persuade her that the UK computer industry had a future in manufacturing and so I saw the 'writing on the wall' and immediately sold my Comart Group for £2.5million, £1.8million after CGTax. Many of my industry colleagues thought I was mad but almost all of them lost their companies and all their money since.

I had tried to 'do my bit' having founded and chaired the industry trade association with 26 member companies, the BMMG. All gone now. A tragedy and a major regret which will always be in my thoughts. I took the money and moved on and, though I led the industry trade association in an unpaid roll for a few more years, I turned down further opportunities in politics after being disillusioned. Could things have been different had I risen to this final challenge?

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Anyway, my interactions with my ‘Royal College of Arms Herald’, the ‘Rouge Dragon Pursuivant’ led to my grant of arms and heraldic achievement anyway and I remain very proud of it. To explain its design with reference to its appearance on the front page of this journal, this is a brief and simplified image with the full Achievement of Arms’ sporting a further banner and badge (not shown) which was only granted for leadership which recognised my roll in the Computer Industry. This badge would be worn on arm bands by followers one of which would carry the banner on medieval campaigns, which could be seen to reflect my (fruitless and unrewarding) efforts to save our UK computer industry. Given that Charles Babbage invented the computer in Britain and Alan Turing worked so hard at Bletchley Park to successfully break wartime codes with ‘Colossus’, we felt we deserved better from government.

So, starting from the top ‘That Mr Broad’s coat of arms featured a crest of a Heron holding an arrow-shaped ‘pheon’ in its claw barbed and engrailed on the inside. This pheon heraldic device featured on my former wife’s (and mother of my children) Jackson family coat of arms granted when her grandfather was the Chief Justice of India in colonial days and is still worn on her brother Charlie on his arms. I have lived many years in a Broads riverside home ‘Heronshaw’ the old English name for the Heron. The helmet below is a ‘Gentleman’s helm’ after I missed out on a knighthood with its ‘mantle’ of blue and white as a ring on the helm but also flowing on each side.

In medieval times, the mantle prevented the knight wearing the helm from overheating in the sun. Then to the main shield held by the left hand in battle or jousting with his lance in the right. The two anchors ‘major’ (at the top) reflet my nautical achievements (detailed elsewhere in this journal) and the wavy horizontal lines ‘per fez major in Latinwith blue watery shading signifies my river exploits and residence in waterway homes these last 50 years. ‘Emblazoned’ upon this are three microcomputer chips. Now it is unusual to persuade the College of Arms Heraldic artists to adopt new devices, but I did and now the microcomputer chip had subsequently appeared on others after I pioneered it. Below the ‘lightning strike’ motive reflecting my BSc(Hons) in Electrical Engineering when, without my speciality in Computer Engineering, I would never have been able to manufacture, sell and service the same.

Last, but not least, the motto below. Often expressed in Latin and unique to the grantee, my career motto was registered in English as ‘Everything is Possible’. Often proved to be the case and could also have been if I had had a few more minutes arguing with Maggie when she was literally dragged out of the Downing Street conference room by her aids when the two of us were arguing the case for the computer industry. I owned at the time, the largest UK Microcomputer Group employing 200 people turning over £20million annually in 1984 with Comart Computer manufacturing, a MicroServe nationwide field maintenance service network and a chain of Byte Shop/Computerland retail shops sporting IBM’s first personal computer retail outlets numbers 1 to 7.