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Grandfather Who Inspected Boilers Dies From Asbestos Related Cancer

By Chartered Legal Executive, Industrial Disease

Grandfather Who Inspected Boilers Dies From Asbestos Related Cancer

A former Merchant Navy engineer who travelled the world during the Second World War went on to die as a result of deadly fibres he inhaled later in life.

The family of Allan Sutherland said they remembered him coming home in a boiler suit “covered in grime and who knows what else” when he worked as a boiler inspector after leaving his role on the ships.

Allan’s children are desperate to find out more about what their dad did to cause his death. If you worked with Mr Sutherland or did a similar role to him – inspecting boilers - for a different company we would like to speak to you.

But it was only decades later when the dad-of-three stopped eating and would refuse to get out of bed for days that the dangers posed by asbestos exposure were mentioned.

Following a chest X-ray and Mr Sutherland having to undergo a painful drain to clear the fluid on his chest, doctors diagnosed mesothelioma – an asbestos-related cancer that develops in the lining that covers the outer surface of some of the body’s organs.

His daughter Jeannie Crossfield said: “He used to work as a boiler inspector for Insurance Engineers Limited who had an office on Spring Gardens in Manchester in the early 1950s. Dad was quite a small chap in his day, 5 foot 6, and as part of his job he had to crawl all over and actually inside the boilers to inspect them. I remember his boss was called Mr Blackier and he had a friend called Fred Spedding who had a caravan in Anglesey.

“It was in this job that he met my mum Gladys. She was a typist and they’d go out for lunch together. This was in the days before everyone took sandwiches for their lunch! Dad was 13 years older than her but she remembered him as the ‘young boy’ at work so his colleagues must have been older.

“He retired in 1980 and mum a year later. They were both fit and well and did a lot with the U3A (University of the Third Age). My father learned French and German and mum went to art classes. They also did a lot of coach trips around the UK.”

Mrs Sutherland went on to develop Alzheimer’s and although he had recently lost his sight, Allan was there to prompt her and they were able to continue living in the family home in Heaton Chapel. However, after Allan’s death at the age of 98 last year, Gladys has struggled.

Jeannie added: “Since my father died, my mother is absolutely lost on her own. They had been married for 64 years and they actually had their wedding anniversary whilst dad was in hospital.

“He missed out on seeing his first great grandchild born as well. My daughter was pregnant last year and he was excited when we told him. He died in April and the baby was born in July. I’m sure he would’ve loved to have him on his knee.”

Lawyers at Slater and Gordon, who have been instructed to handle the case by Allan’s family, are appealing for people who may have worked with him at Insurance Engineers Ltd which were taken over by Guardian Royal Exchange Ltd and then AXA anytime from the 1950s to 1980 to get in touch.

Emma Newman, who is an industrial disease specialist at the law firm, said: Allan’s children are desperate to find out more about what their dad did to cause his death. If you worked with Mr Sutherland or did a similar role to him – inspecting boilers - for a different company we would like to speak to you. 

“While asbestos was widely used until the 1980s, employers should have been aware of the risks and taken appropriate steps to protect their employees. Despite having to walk inside boilers as part of his job, Allan’s family doesn’t remember him having a mask or being warned of the dangers whatsoever.”