Item OM/476 - Norbert Abeles papers

Identity area

Reference code

GB 249 OM/476


Norbert Abeles papers


  • 2007 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

1 volume

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Name of creator

(b. 1923)

Biographical history

Norbert Abeles was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1923. Following the incorporation of Austria into Germany under the Anschluss, he fled to the United Kingdom in December 1938 where he attended a farm school for refugees. He was transferred to Glasgow in 1941, where he completed an engineering apprenticeship and enrolled at the Royal Technical College (RTC) as a full-time student in session 1947-1948, qualifying for the Diploma in Mechanical Engineering (1948). He was granted a Naturalisation Certificate by the Home Office on 2 February 1948. After working in the aircraft industry in England for two years, Abeles returned to Glasgow and took a further year of study at the RTC to qualify for its Associateship in Mechanical Engineering (1952), plus a BSc (Hons) in Engineering from the University of London (1951). He then became an Assistant Lecturer at the Constantine College in Middlesborough, England. In 1956, having joined Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service, he took up the post of Head of the Mechanical Engineering Section at the Yaba Technical Institute (later renamed the Yaba College of Technology) in Lagos, Nigeria, where he was promoted to Acting Vice Principal. Abeles left Yaba in 1964 and registered with the Resettlement Bureau of the UK Ministry of Overseas Development, briefly serving as Lecturer in Charge of Mechanical Engineering at the South Australian Institute of Technology in Whyalla, Australia, from April 1965 to November 1966. He then become Head of the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering department at the Kenya Polytechnic, in Nairobi, Kenya, where he progressed to Acting Principal. In December 1968, he was transferred to the post of Principal at Mombasa Technical Institute (later renamed Mombasa Polytechnic). Abeles left Mombasa in 1972 and took up a one-year United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) appointment at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He subsequently accepted a second UNESCO post on a Teaching Aids project in Lagos, where he was charged with overseeing the maintenance of the science equipment in the Federal secondary schools throughout the Federation of Nigeria, designing new equipment and training counterparts. From 1976-1979, he was employed as a training manager for the Dunlop (Nigeria) Ltd factory near Lagos, and from 1976-1983 he worked on a partnership project between the International Labour Organization and the Ministry of Labour in Lilongwe, Malawi to encourage entrepreneurship, improve the training of technicians and craftsmen and to train counterparts. When this particular contract ended, he remained in Malawi and spent two years as a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at the Malawi Polytechnic. He then worked in private industry in Lilongwe before retiring, aged 69, in 1992 and moving with his family to Nkhotakota, Lake Malawi.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Donated by Norbert Abeles, via the University of Strathclyde's Research and Knowledge Exchange Services and the Alumni and Development team, in July 2018.

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Scope and content

A personal account of former Royal Technical College student Norbert Abeles's working life in the UK, Australia, Kenya, Nigeria and Malawi, compiled with a view to participating in an oral history project on the experiences of former colonial officers who progressed to careers in international development or related fields.

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  • English

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