Trevor was born in 1937, in Kilburn, the son of an Engineer, Cecil, and Gladys, who was an aspiring artist. Times were tough during WWII, and the Baylis family struggled as did many others during the time of rationing and international calamity. Barely 9 years old, Trevor was busy working on a milk round in Southall, Middlesex, where the family now lived, waking at 3 am to earn a few pennies each week to help with the household bills.
At the age of 15, he was swimming for Great Britain, missing a place in the 1956 Olympics by only 1/10th of a second, which was a major disappointment. He also started his first proper job, at the Soil Mechanics Laboratory in Southall, who let him study mechanical and structural engineering part-time for a few years at a local college. National Service eventually beckoned when he was old enough and Trevor stayed in the army until 1961 as a physical training instructor. When his service was completed he then joined a company called Purley Pools as a salesman, using his swimming background to boost sales.
Purely Pools made the first free-standing swimming pools in the UK, and moving up through the ranks Trevor found himself in the research and development role. Eventually, utilising his swimming skills, Trevor formed his own aquatic display team who performed stunts and tricks such as diving into a tank of water from a great height. He even performed at the Berlin Circus as an underwater escape artiste, using the money he earned during this phase of his career he set up Shotline Steel Swimming Pools.
Losing a friend during a daring stunt display and through friends injured during stunts over the years, Trevor realised that disability was but one slip away. With this in mind, he turned some of his creative attention to developing over 200 products to help disabled people under the name of Orange Aids.
The Turning Point
It wasn’t until 1991 when the primary reason most people know about Trevor occurred, he was watching a program about the spread of AIDS in Africa and that a way to help prevent the spread of the illness would be via information using radio broadcasts. It wasn’t much time at all before he had created his first prototype of the now famous Wind-Up Radio in his home workshop. The original prototype included a transistor radio, an electric motor from a toy, and a music box clockwork mechanism. He patented the idea and then tried to get it into production, but, as happens with many inventors he faced rejection from everyone he approached.
A BBC program called ‘Tomorrow’s World’ featured Trevor’s design in April 1994, which proved to be the turning point for its manufacture. The money came rolling in from investors and so he formed the company Freeplay Energy. His Freeplay radio won the BBC Design Award for Best Product and Best Design in 1996. In the same year, he travelled to Africa with the Dutch Television Service to produce a documentary about his life, and he was also awarded the 1996 World Vision Award for Development Initiative.
In South Africa in 1997, production of the new generation of Freeplay radios began, these units were a smaller and cheaper model designed for the western market, which incorporated rechargeable cells and featured a crank generator as well. Trevor was also busy conducting tours and interviews all over the world, and he was also presented with an OBE in the same year.
Electric Shoes and CBEs
Never one to sit around for long Trevor kept inventing, demonstrating his ‘Electric Shoes’ during a 100-mile walk across the Namib Desert, these shoes create electricity while the user walks which can charge a small battery which in turn could power a radio transceiver or a mobile phone. In 2015 Trevor received a CBE to match his earlier OBE and a selection of honorary degrees from various universities, an impressive haul indeed. Trevor also won the fabulous accolade of Pipe Smoker of the Year, which cheered him no end, having been an avid pipe smoker since the age of 15.
Despite the success of his wind-up radio and several other manually charged products including a torch, a mobile phone charger and an MP3 player, Trevor received little of the profits.
Because of the many facets of patent law, the company he went into business with to manufacture the Freeplay Radios modified his original design, which caused him to lose control over his own product. By his own admission, he always maintains that he is an inventor and not very strong on bringing his products to market successfully. Trevor is campaigning for changes in the Patent System to prevent such occurrences in the future and as a result set up another business, designed to help inventors.
The Trevor Baylis Brands PLC. provides inventors with professional partnerships and services to help them establish their inventions originality, to patent and protect it, and get to production faster. The main goal of the company is to secure license agreements for inventors, and they may also consider starting up new companies around good ideas as well.
Trevor still lives alone on Eel Pie Island in a home he built himself, spending his time watching television, sitting in his hot tub in his garden admiring the view and walking his trusted dog, Ike. During the summer months, he cruises around in his vintage E-type Jaguar, visiting the emporiums on Twickenham High Street and partaking of a decent bag of fish and chips when he has the chance. And, of course, Trevor is never far away from his workshop, where he continues to invent and tinker.
Trevor is an old friend of DesignSpark, officially launched DesignSpark Mechanical in 2013 and was involved in our Power Hack event back in 2013 as well, and for that, we are eternally grateful, thank you very much Trevor!
For more information about Trevor Baylis Brands, click here.
Sadly, and with deep regret, DesignSpark learned of Trevors passing in early March 2018, he leaves behind a colourful legacy of innovation and creativity and always served as an inspiration to many, he will never be forgotten. RIP Trevor Baylis from all at DesignSpark, you will be sadly missed.