Upon venturing onto Eel Pie Island, renowned for the British blues explosion of the 1960s and helping to kick-start the musical careers of the likes of Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart, I never knew that the island in Twickenham would be home to such eccentric and interesting people, including that of an inventor.
I and a friend crossed a bridge from the Twickenham mainland to the island and immediately saw a sign next to a house which read 'Studio'. I assumed this was a direction to the studios, of artwork that was being showcased that weekend on the island, so decided to wander further, through the front garden and into the house.
Suddenly we found ourselves in the kitchen and an old man glanced up at us warily from his chair.
There was little I knew about the old man, but he immediately greeted his young intruders with a friendly handshake and with that he proclaimed: 'I'm an inventor', 'I invented the wind-up torch and clockwork radio!'
The inventor then proceeded to introduce us to his workshop, littered with gizmos and gadgets, and I soon realised that this was a dedicated and hardworking man who had made a name for himself through his inventions.
Born 1937 in Kensal Rise, North-West London, a young Trevor Baylis CBE grew up through war rationing to become a phenomenal athlete, honing his sporting talents in swimming and gymnastics. He won medals and trophies in various swimming galas and represented Great Britain in international galas.
After stints in the army, Trevor's diving and swimming displays attracted publicity and he began to work as a stuntman with a range of popular figures in entertainment, including Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, as well as the illusionist, David Nixon.
Trevor began to start his own aquatic display company using a large glass-sided tank in which he dived from great heights and swam underwater. He also performed in a Berlin circus, wowing crowds with Houdini-esque underwater escape acts.
From the money gained from his underwater escapades, earning £350 a day for 18 days, Baylis honed his craft making skills to build a house in 1970 on Eel Pie Island, spending two years building it, using recycled materials. He has been there since to this day and as he continued to show us around his workshop, you could see that this was the starting line for constructing his amazing inventions.
In 1982, a bet from a friend who challenged him to invent something in 30mins, inspired Baylis to earn a new living, as a full-time inventor.
After inspiration from a programme about the spread of AIDS in Africa, Trevor started developing the clockwork radio, connecting those without the electricity and the money to buy batteries, to get connected with the world. His invention granted him TV appearances including an appearance on the BBC's flagship Science programme Tomorrow's World, in 1994. He then went on to invent a range of other products, including the electric shoes which charge batteries as you walk, and the wind-up walking stick with a built-in torch and safety lights.
Although Baylis was lauded for his effects, meeting The Queen and Nelson Mandela, he never made enough money for his hard work, yet his personal goal has always been to assist future generations of British inventors, for whom he has become a role model and a mentor, and he continues to inspire and educate as the president of his company: http://www.trevorbaylisbrands.com/
He lives by his motto:
'The key to success is to risk thinking unconventional thoughts. Convention is the enemy of progress. As long as you've got slightly more perception than the average wrapped loaf, you could invent something.'