Working as an electrician has always been a popular choice of career. You learn a skilled trade and the work is varied, rewarding and frequently challenging. However, not everyone who trains as an electrician stays "on the tools." Many individuals who've gone on to be famous in other fields began their working life by apprenticing as an electrician before that lightbulb moment when they realised their true vocation. Some of these selections may shock you, but we're sure that you'll find them illuminating and that they may spark some interesting conversations.
The founder of Solidarity and the president of Poland from 1990 to 1995 was originally a humble electrician. Indeed, when Wałęsa lost the 1995 election, he announced his intention to go back to his old trade at the Gdańsk shipyards, though he eventually opted for a lucrative career on the international lecture circuit.
Wałęsa graduated as a qualified electrician in 1961 and began work in the shipyards six years later. His illegal trade union activities and involvement in strike organising led to his persecution by communist authorities and the secret police. He was fired in 1976 but continued as a jobbing electrician, though his union activism meant that he was frequently laid off and spent long periods out of work. In 1980, Wałęsa was instrumental in bringing about the Gdańsk Agreement and founding Solidarity, Poland's first independent trade union under communist rule. Two years later, Solidarity was banned. However, in 1983 Wałęsa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while still trying to work as an electrician. His campaigning eventually led to Poland's first free elections in 1990 when he was elected president. A controversial figure, Wałęsa was nevertheless instrumental in breaking up the communist bloc and so ending the Cold War.
Renowned as one of the greatest directors and producers in cinematic history, Hitchcock was known as the master of suspense and a pioneer of unsettling psychological thrillers with a highly distinctive style. The creator of classic films such as Rear Window, Psycho and The 39 Steps was born in Essex in 1899 and left school aged 16 to become an apprentice electrician at Henley's, a manufacturer of electrical cabling and appliances. It was at Henley's that Hitchcock's creative talent first found an outlet, as he contributed several creepy short stories to the house magazine, the Henley Telegraph.
Hitchcock went on to join the fledgling British film industry in the 1920s and directed his first film in 1925. Lured to Hollywood in 1939, he eventually made over 50 films, hitting a creative and commercial peak in the 1950s. Known for his innovative editing, long shots and characteristic themes and plot devices, Hitchcock always worked closely with his scriptwriters and enjoyed making cameo appearances in his movies. His meticulous attention to detail would certainly have stood him in good stead as an electrician, but the trade's loss was definitely cinema's gain.
The much-loved British actor, famous for his roles as Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses and Inspector Frost in A Touch of Frost, worked as an electrician for six years before committing to acting full-time. A working-class Londoner, Jason longed to follow in the footsteps of his elder brother by becoming an actor, but their father insisted that he first learn a trade.
By the late 1960s, Jason was a regular on satirical comedy shows on radio and TV, and become a frequent foil for the great Ronnie Barker. Between 1976 and 1985, the two starred together in the sitcom Open All Hours, and in the early 1980s Jason became a voice artist for animation studios Cosgrove Hall, working on Danger Mouse, The Wind in the Willows and other productions.
His most iconic role arrived in 1981 when he was cast as Del Boy Trotter in Only Fools and Horses, which ran for ten years. From 1992 to 2010, he played Jack Frost in ITV police drama A Touch of Frost. With other notable roles including Pop Larkin in The Darling Buds of May, Jason hasn't fallen back into his original trade yet.
He was the lead guitarist in the world's most famous band and an extremely talented songwriter in his own right, but did you know that "the quiet one" in the Beatles originally worked as an apprentice electrician at Blacklers department store in Liverpool? George was already playing in a skiffle band with Paul McCartney and John Lennon when he left school at 16 to become an in-store electrician. This promising career was cut short, however, when the Quarrymen evolved into the Beatles and started their famous residency in Hamburg. This ended when Harrison's age was discovered and he was sent home for being too young to work in Germany's nightclubs. Nevertheless, by 1962 the Beatles had signed to EMI Records and the rest is history.
After the Beatles broke up, Harrison enjoyed a successful solo career and was known for advocating peace and love, supporting good causes and championing Indian classical music. He also founded Handmade Films, which produced classic movies such as Time Bandits and Withnail & I. In 1966, Harrison told an interviewer that he got "dumped" from his electrical apprenticeship because he "kept blowing things up." Clearly his love of experimentation served him far better in pop music than in the electrical field.
The father of modern physics was actually the son of an electrical engineer, and prior to developing the theory of relativity and postulating that E=MC², he briefly worked as an electrician's mate, running cables and hanging electric lights at Munich's Oktoberfest. This was the first such event to be electrically lit, with the power coming from a steam-powered generator. The young Einstein had to check that all the lights were working. His father and uncle manufactured electrical equipment, but the company floundered because they lacked the budget to switch from direct current to alternating current.
The family then moved to Italy, where Albert studied electrical engineering, but he soon left and completed his schooling in Switzerland, where he excelled in maths and physics. He then embarked on a glittering academic career, becoming the world's most prominent scientist and a noted pacifist, despite his work leading to the development of the atomic bomb. He settled in America in 1933 and lived there until his death in 1955, by which time the name “Einstein” had become synonymous with “genius.”
Not bad for an electrical school dropout!