Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Whistle while you work.

The Rugby Ref's tool of the trade is his whistle. The Rugby Ref loves his whistle and for any self respecting rugby referee there is only one whistle worth taking out on the pitch. I am talking of course, of the legendary Acme Thunderer.

Football referees use plastic whistles. They are shrill and high pitched, they are a bit.... "look at me!" Perfect in fact for the prima donna world of footballers. The Acme Thunderer on the other hand is metal, it's solid, dependable and practical. It has a deep commanding tone, it's a man's whistle.

A few weeks ago The Rugby Ref did the ultimate in referee geekness, he visited the Acme Whistle factory in Hockley, Birmingham. Now let's face it. When I say Acme some people think of Wile E Coyote and Road Runner. But referee's only think of the Acme Thunderer.

Acme whistles was founded by Joseph Hudson who worked out of a wash house in his end of terrace house in Birmingham in 1881. The Metropolitan Police had advertised for something to replace the wooden hand rattle that policemen carried at that time. Hudson invented the familiar policeman's whistle which when demonstrated on Clapham Common, could be heard over a mile away. It could also be gripped in the teeth leaving the hands free. The Metropolitan Police immediately placed an order for 21,000 whistles. Unfortunately Hudson did not have enough money to buy the raw materials to produce the order, so the police loaned him £20 and the rest is history. To date over 45 million Acme Metropolitan Police whistles have been sold to over 120 authorities around the world.

The Acme Thunderer was invented in 1884 and has been used in both World Wars, World Cups and Olympic Games. It was Acme who supplied all of the ship's mates whistles to RMS Titanic as standard issue safety equipment. An Acme Thunderer belonging to Herbert Pitman, third officer on the RMS Titanic was sold at auction in 1991 for £31,000.

Acme now make over 200 kinds of whistle, still operating from the factory in Hockley that they have occupied since the 1800's. The Rugby Ref loved that factory, it was a maze of small wooden staircases and narrow corridors. The stairs were all worn from the thousands of feet that had walked up and down them. Every single whistle is still tested before it leaves the factory, exactly as stipulated by Joseph Hudson for his first order of Metropolitan whistles.

Beware of imitations if you are looking for a whistle. There are lots of metal whistles on the market, but only the Acme Thunderer is reliable and durable, with it's crispness of tone. A standard test for the Thunderer is to immerse it in a glass of water for a week. It must then work first time when removed.

A quick search for Acme Whistles on eBay will bring up police whistles, scout whistles, train guard whistles, referee's whistles and even occasionally World War I trench whistles.

The Rugby Ref has started collecting old Acme whistles, because there is nothing The Rugby Ref likes more than whistles and collecting.

So, if you've tried the rest, now try the best, get yourself an Acme....... Acme Whistles

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