Hugh Gibbons' references and extra information
hunnybone for January 2016

for pharmaceutical physicians, colleagues and friends

at Work
PPhood for
PPhurther Education:



this very month, I met my first pharmaceutical physician - when I joined Riker Laboratories (a precursor of today’s 3M Healthcare) in Loughborough.

Eric was typical of the many affable members of medical departments I encountered over the next three decades or so. Offset by a few banana-heads.

I’d spent two years as an advertising writer at Notleys, a leading London agency famous for its creativity and poets on the payroll; in an office shared with two designers, the novelist William Trevor, and an executive’s usually continent corgi, parked for the day under our desks. As the only job applicant turning up with a pen, at Riker I was a shoe-in for Chief Copywriter in Marketing.

My new office home appealed. Allegedly a former sock factory, it had wavy wooden floors where machines had clacked energetically for decades. From the big windows there was the Grand Junction canal and coal-dust-spiked sunsets over Charnwood Forest on one side, and a vista towards rural Leicestershire on the other. On Streetview it still looks a cheerfully characterful head office.

I found it a warm-hearted workplace, where people made time to talk face-toface and share their family and local community lives beyond the office. They were proud that Loughborough is the home of Taylor’s, the world’s biggest bell foundry, whose work you can hear in the town’s carillon and St Paul’s Cathedral. And in Clemerson’s furniture department Nick Alkemade was to be found, famous for falling 18000 feet without his RAF parachute on to a snow-covered forest.

Just a leg sprain, since you ask. And PTSD.

Unlike socks or bells or sofas, pharma products are rarely seen by their office staff. But one day I found a cache of small packs hidden behind a radiator, presumably stored for some private enterprise marketing. They were GP samples of, ahem, Durophet-M - the phet reflecting the main ingredient. Fetching a pound a capsule down the pub, Eric said...

The world of office work had a few significant differences from now. Most noticeable, no keyboard or screen on your desk. For document production, many executives shared an Audiotyping Pool. You dictated thoughts into a tape recorder and took the cassette along to Edith, in charge of the team of typists (some of whom doubled up as babysitters). She’d sometimes have to remind you to ask for 3 carbon copies at the beginning of the tape rather than the end, please. But dictating gave you the long-lost benefit of hearing the words, and speaking short sentences, and organising thoughts before committing them to cassette and paper. And it lent you a crucial second mind, that of someone with secretarial training prepared to say Did You Really Mean That?

When us male executives volunteered for some in-house clinical research for Eric, we had to carry our urine samples past the Pool, while the audiotypists laughed their headphones off. But it proved that a pharmaceutical physician could organise a piss up in a sock factory.

(Having waited 50 years for the chance to write that, for me it’s Mission Complete).