First Visit?

Posted in General with tags , , , , , , , on 20/11/2008 by Kenneth C. Ryeland
The Author

The Author

Welcome. Please have a look and find out more about my work. The fiction is primarily based on my own experiences whilst living and working in West Africa during the 1960s and 70s; whereas the memoirs are factual accounts of my apprenticeship, my adventures inside secessionist Biafra and my first job with British Leyland after my return to the UK. I will be posting news, extracts from each book and reviews to provide a flavour of the stories. If you like what you’ve read and wish to order any of them, they are available from a wide range of online bookshops in both paperback and e-book format – have a look at the “Ordering” section listed under “Information” at the top of the right hand column to see titles and availability. To return to this page simply click on the “African Tales” title situated at the top of every page.


Review of Leyland Rover “A fascinating read about an era that is long gone”

Posted in Birmingham, British Leyland, Far East, Jaguar, Rover, Triumph, Meteor Works, Solihull on 16/06/2018 by Kenneth C. Ryeland

During the 1970s the author worked for British Leyland as an overseas service engineer covering South East Asia. In terms of geography, his South East Asian territory covered a wide area ranging from Afghanistan in the west to Japan in the East. In terms of products, these ranged from Austin, Morris and MG cars, through Triumph, Rover and Jaguar cars to Land-Rover and Range Rover.

British Leyland, in its various guises, incorporated much of the British-owned motor vehicle industry with about 40 per cent of the domestic car market. It was also Britain’s largest exporter. Its overseas operations were largely conducted through a network of distributors, each with their own branches across the country in question. Vehicles were either shipped completely built or partially built for local assembly. The company’s history of mergers and acquisitions meant that some markets had multiple distributors.

Throughout the 1970s, Britain was plagued by industrial turmoil, frequently bringing manufacturing capability to its knees. This is nowhere better demonstrated than in the British Leyland car plants in the UK. The British Leyland story is one of lack of investment, weak management, disastrous labour relations, mediocre product design, poor build quality, product shortages, erosion of market share and above all, missed opportunities.

Kenneth Ryeland paints a vivid picture of the work of an overseas service engineer and in doing so reveals the complex operations of a British export manufacturer in a wide variety of countries and cultures. His role was essentially that of international troubleshooter, more often than not acting as the sole representative of the manufacturer. As well as auditing and reporting upon the performance of the distributor, he sought to establish good relations with key distributor management, to praise high performing distributors, help and cajole others to improve in various ways and provide reassurance and advice to customers.

A natural storyteller, Kenneth C. Ryeland’s latest book is a fascinating read and contains many anecdotes from his extensive travels. It should have a broad range of appeal. The book is essentially chronological and most of the countries are given their own chapter. It is an excellent contribution to the history of the British automotive industry of the era – an era that is now long gone.

***** (five stars)

Dr Peter McCree

Review of Leyland Rover “A fine book”

Posted in Birmingham, British Leyland, Far East, Jaguar, Rover, Triumph, Meteor Works, Reviews, Solihull on 10/06/2018 by Kenneth C. Ryeland

COVERV1Leyland Rover is a fine book describing the trials and tribulations interspersed with descriptions of friendship and success of a now largely forgotten time when this country was a major manufacturer with many overseas markets for its goods.

Kenneth C Ryeland was a product of the days when young men with a talent for engineering could progress from school to an apprenticeship; attend Technical College, get that hard to obtain ONC and HNC in Electrical or Mechanical Engineering and then step out into the world of work.

Ken worked for Rover and subsequently Leyland and in this book, he describes his experiences as a young married man, leaving a wife and three children at home whilst he visited Rover’s Far East markets, countries such as India, Thailand, Malaysia etc.

His job? To ensure that the Dealers and Distributors of Leyland cars and Land Rovers provided top class after sales service to their customers.

Along the way, Ken had to contend with not only the language difficulties but also the huge cultural and work ethic disparities compared to the UK. Ken was obviously a dedicated and committed employee and throughout his career he gave of his very best to the company and ensured that Leyland managed to hold on to markets where the lack of availability of its products, extended production times and the lack of build quality against a background of industrial strife, made his job all but impossible.

A lovely easy to read book of a time when despite our decreasing influence in the world, we still made vehicles which engendered a loyalty, which the management and decision makers at home sadly ignored.

***** (Five Stars)

Gordon Stringer.

Leyland Rover Now published as a paperback and e-book

Posted in British Leyland, Far East, Jaguar, Rover, Triumph, Meteor Works, Solihull on 22/03/2018 by Kenneth C. Ryeland

Check out my latest book now available as an e-book on Smashwords and an e-book and  paperback on all Amazon and other bookshop sites. See the description below.

My Latest Book Out Now!

Posted in British Leyland, Far East, Jaguar, Rover, Triumph, Meteor Works, Solihull on 07/02/2018 by Kenneth C. Ryeland

COVERV1Leyland Rover is an account of Ken Ryeland’s several tours of the Far East as a service engineer for British Leyland during the early 1970s. After serving an engineering apprenticeship and several years working in Nigeria, Ryeland and his family returned to the UK, where he joined the Rover Company at Solihull. His task was to audit the company’s UK distributor network, checking the quality of service offered to car and Land-Rover customers. Twelve months later he joined Rover/Triumph’s overseas service department and further reorganisations under the British Leyland International banner added Jaguar and Austin/Morris vehicles to his responsibilities. Ryeland’s apprenticeship, previous overseas experience and thorough knowledge of the products paid dividends, enabling him to ensure that Leyland’s Far East distributors conformed to all operational and engineering standards. Not easy when strikes, poor build quality, indiscriminate sales policies and sheer bloody-mindedness conspired to frustrate his efforts; and that was just the UK side of the business. The culture and different working practices in the various countries presented even greater challenges for Ryeland. Held hostage by the military in Malaysia; interrogated by police in Afghanistan; hospitalised in Thailand and summoned by the king in Nepal; just a few of the trials and tribulations faced by Ryeland when attending his ‘patch’.

It’s a sequel to The Up-Country Man, and is available as an e-book on Smashwords and an e-book and paperback on all Amazon and other bookshop sites now.

My book is now available on Amazon and Smashwords!

Posted in Apprenticeship, Birmingham, British Railways, Training with tags , , , , , , on 25/03/2016 by Kenneth C. Ryeland

apprenticecover4amTime Well Spent is the prequel to The Up-Country Man and a personal account of Ken Ryeland’s training as a motor fitter in Birmingham, where he served his apprenticeship with British Railways (London Midland Region) from 1957 to 1963. (Presented in both e-book format and paperback)

Birmingham, the veritable “Workshop of the World”, could offer a limitless variety of industrial and clerical jobs during the 1950s. Work was so plentiful in those days that it was possible to resign from one company in the morning and start work at another by lunch time on the same day. Many skilled men took advantage of this happy situation by changing jobs if they could secure an extra few pennies an hour over their current rate. Any young man wanting a job could find one easily, so when Ken Ryeland was about to leave school at the age of fifteen to venture into the world of work for the first time, he had plenty of scope. However, rather than allow his son to settle for any old job, Ken’s father was determined to guide him into something worthwhile. Young Ryeland was told by his father that he could aim for any job he liked, provided he agreed to serve a proper apprenticeship. Little did Ken realise at the time how much of an influence this wise fatherly advice would have on his future life.
Cover Photo: Bill Aldridge Collection. A fitter and his apprentice (identities unknown) removing the engine from a British Railways'(London Midland Region)Scammell Scarab, circa 1957.

Review of The Up-Country Man “An Absolutely Riveting Book”

Posted in africa, Biafra, Civil War, nigeria, Reviews, Tribalism, West Africa on 27/06/2013 by Kenneth C. Ryeland


An absolutely riveting book! The events in Biafra in the sixties seem like an age away, so this is real, living history. It all happened less than 50 years ago and is reliably and entertainingly recounted by the author who lived through it all. An excellent book if you were alive at the time and want an inside view of what was happening, or for younger people, who are bored by the safe, gap years of today’s litigious culture and yearn for the days of real life and death adventure.

***** (five stars)

Are You a Fellow MV Isonzo Refugee?

Posted in africa, Biafra, Civil War, nigeria, West Africa with tags , , , , , , on 10/04/2013 by Kenneth C. Ryeland
The evacuation ship: MV ISONZO

The evacuation ship: MV ISONZO

On a hot, sultry afternoon in July 1967, a small Italian freighter eased itself away from the quay at Port Harcourt in Eastern Nigeria, or Biafra as it had become by then. On board were 800 or so expatriates who were being evacuated from Biafra to the comparative safety of Lagos in Federal Nigeria. The ship, the MV Isonzo, was the only way out of the rebel enclave as Federal Nigerian troops closed in on the township for the final assault. There were many nationalities on board including British, American, Dutch, Israeli, Japanese and Italian, all of whom had previously worked in Enugu, the regional capital, or Port Harcourt the region’s major sea port. An account of my adventures in Biafra is detailed in my memoir entitled The Up-Country Man, which is featured on this page. It’s the story of a young British engineer, (me), straight out from England, who was posted to Enugu just as the Nigerian civil war began and the book relates some of the problems and difficulties encountered by a white man living in an enclave of determined indigenous people. Roadblocks, marauding Biafran soldiers, food shortages and the secret police caused many problems for the small contingent of Europeans remaining in Enugu, not to mention the trauma of the final evacuation itself. Since the evacuation, I have only managed to make contact with one or two people who were aboard the Isonzo, or resident in Port Harcourt at the time and I would like to make contact with others if possible. Were you on that small Italian freighter? Do you know anyone who was on that ship? If so, perhaps you would be kind enough to make contact using the comments facility or by means of my e-mail address (top right hand column).