Mechanical Technology Archive

Following the passing of Crown’s founding publisher, Jenny Warwick, Peter Middleton remembers his interactions with her and comments on an ABB media tour that took place immediately after Jenny’s funeral.

Peter Middleton Comment Mechanical TechnologyWe at Crown are still stunned by the passing of our founding publisher, Jenny Warwick, who died on the afternoon of June 2.

I joined Crown in February 2007, having met Jenny in the last week of December 2006. I had become frustrated by decisions being taken by my previous employers and I pleaded with a writing associate at MacMillan to “get me out of here”. She immediately forwarded the details of Jenny and Crown Publications, with no more information other than ‘they were looking for someone’.

I sent off a hastily updated CV, not really expecting any response and not even sure I wanted a new job. I was sitting in Jenny’s office within two days showing her the school text books I had been involved in writing. I received a follow up phone call with an employment offer while shopping that weekend. Only then did I realize that I was making a significant career choice, from writing classroom activities to a journalist? The option had never entered my head before.

The post offered was assistant editor to Dale Kelly on Mechanical Technology and African Fusion. But when I signed the appointment offer, that too had been changed, I was to be editor of African Fusion, with Dale’s help, and she would be editor of Mechanical Technology with mine. I was extraordinarily flattered by the confidence Jenny seemed to have in me, but also very afraid. I had no idea what the job entailed.

Crown has always been a family business and Jenny ran it as if all her employees were part of her family. Dale was my ‘sister’ helping me to find my feet and Jenny the ever-supportive ‘mother’. As a boss, she was so uninvolved in my day-to-day piecing together of the magazines that I sometimes felt she didn’t care. But I don’t remember a time that she wasn’t paging through the print advance copy, which she would be so positive about that I felt I had to point out the flaws. I am now sure that she never missed anything of importance.

About South Africa, Jenny was also unfailingly positive, being openly excited about good news and almost irrationally dismissive of bad.

So it was that, during the week of the funeral with memories of Jenny rattling my head, I attended a two-day ABB media tour. As reported in MechTech a few months back, ABB has been installing a demonstration microgrid plant at its South African headquarters in Longmeadow. The company’s global specialists from Sweden, Switzerland and the UAE all descended to join the company’s South African hierarchy for the official switch-on of the system.

ABB’s microgrids are based on the company’s power stabilisation, automation, intelligent control and power management solutions. They are custom-designed to ensure utility-grade power quality and grid stability, whether a grid is present or not.

The Longmeadow facility combines a PV system; a battery store; a backup diesel generator; and the Eskom grid in a solution that automatically optimises power use based on demand, the sources available and the prevailing costs of each. Any combination is possible at any time. It’s a tidy solution to the need to sparingly supplement renewables during low-generation periods with base load or fossil-based generation options. But I hope to share more about this in a future issue.

Following the ribbon cutting of Longmeadow’s microgrid, a tour of ABB installations began. We visited the largest gas insulated switchgear (GIS) installations in the world, currently being installed behind the Kelvin Power station for Johannesburg’s City Power. Following an overnight stay in the Pilansberg, we then visited the Gautrain sub-station in Midrand, which uses ABB equipment to energise the entire network from Park Station to Hatfield and from Sandton to OR Tambo – and the company has also started to refurbishing the ABB traction motors and transformers that drive the trains themselves.

From Midrand, we were taken to the FNB Stadium, where ABB supplied 14 transformers to the stadium prior to the world cup.

In many ways it was a nostalgic tour, revisiting exciting developments of our past. But also, with respect to the microgrids and the GIS switchgear, with strong suggestion of pieces being put in place to secure the future of our beleaguered power supply infrastructure.

The first magazine Jenny founded was Electricity and Control, a magazine that supports the South African electrical industry. I think she might have liked the symmetry of the week of her funeral being associated with some of that industry’s past successes and its ongoing endeavours to improve our future.

There are many regal references associated with Jenny’s company: Crown, Sovereign Street and the Warwick name. In many respects she was our queen. Crown Publications is her legacy and we, Jenny’s Crown family, remain to foster that legacy.

Peter Middleton


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As from January 2017, Chemical Technology and Mechanical Technology have merged to form MechChem Africa.


Title: Editor
Name: Peter Middleton 
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