Bunhill: Steeled for shocks

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IT never rains, so they say. A few weeks ago Jack Walker was walking on water. He had poured around pounds 25m into building Blackburn Rovers into one of the finest teams in the land. But even this was only a small percentage of the pounds 330m British Steel had paid him and his brother for the family's steel stockholding company. Then came Trelleborg - and Merlin. The Swedish part-timers ignominiously dismissed Walker's starry 11 from the UEFA cup, while the aptly named wizard started to spread rumours that Walker Bros had supplied sub- standard steel in the 1980s.

Walker dismisses the allegations as 'ridiculous' and claims that he knows who Merlin is: 'an ex-employee who was dismissed more than 15 years ago. Since then he has been plaguing me with these kind of allegations'.

The editor of the local paper got into the act by asking readers to phone in if they knew Merlin's identity.

One person who fits the description is Peter Jowett, who admits he was sacked by Walker back in 1975 and has been brandishing sheaves of telexes which, he alleges, show that mild steel had regularly been supplied instead of the high- tensile steel that customers had specified.

Unfortunately his firm denials that he is Merlin have become a bit hysterical following an unpleasant incident at the paint factory where he works when the loudspeaker boomed out: 'Will Merlin please come to the phone?'

Meanwhile, British Steel is keeping mum, denying that there's any problem and claiming that it has even sponsored a recent golf tournament to promote the Walker steel name. Nevertheless the name has been removed from the five- foot facia on the firm's head office. And the purge has even extended to the initials of Walker pere, who founded the business with pounds 80 back in 1945.

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