The end of May saw the end of another Chem Resist era, after almost 44 years Barney (Richard Balmforth) retired. He joined on 1st June back in 1978; we look back.
“The name Barney comes from when I was about 8 years old, there was a guy a bit older than me, he started it off from my last name Balmforth and it stuck, so it’s always been Barney. Well, 50 years ago I left school and took a course in horticulture, I did a 4-year City and Guilds RHS course through the local council, before Kirklees council existed and worked there for 6 years. I then saw an advertisement in the paper for a gardener for Mr Armitage and Mr and Mrs Armitage gave me a start on that job, that’s how it all started. Maybe 6 or 7 years after that, Seamus (Quinn, now Chairman) opened A.C.E (Advanced Chemical Equipment) and he set me on doing fibreglass at Butt End Mills. We bought another small building next door and me and Old Lad (Old Man Garforth, he’s now 85) were put in there. Now fibreglassing is a messy job, there’s a lot of grinding at it which makes like talcum powder which settles, so without proper extraction it ends up everywhere. The fibreglassing caper was doing alright and then they decided to move down here (Lock Way) and decided to not do it anymore, that’s it like. So, I was thinking what am I going to do now? I was basically thinking it’s curtains!
“But as it happened, they didn’t have a proper site team back then, so I did that. It involved working away, mainly in the UK, but I went to Belgium 5 times. We also didn’t use all the haulage firms like we do now, I could be out 3 days a week delivering tanks. We had our own articulated truck and I drove that. I’ve been lost on many occasions. To be honest when I first started driving, I didn’t even know how to get to Sheffield. I wasn’t in the front row when I was at school you know! I was alright with Brid, but I’d see the list of where I was delivering to and it was like, ‘Whoa!’
“After that caper, Seamus came back from Germany and dragged us all into the Library, and gave us all a talk about HDPE. I only knew about Polypropylene as 90% of what we did was in that. So, this was the start of spiralling, I was still working on the shopfloor and then was approached to see if I’d move to spiral but it was on nights. Reason for nights was the electricity bill, cheaper electric. I’d just had bairns like, but I said ‘Ey’, and it was meant to be just a couple of weeks and it ended up being 3 months. I was then asked to go onto the machine, ‘Hell Fire!’ it was like learning to drive first time. Anyway, after a while like, I got going. Then I ended up getting the crane license, and I’ve spent the last 25 years spiralling.”
Simon Hewitt (MD) adds, “Barney was a key contributor to our early spiralling efforts and over time refining and improving to find the very best ways of working. Since those early days, he’s been involved every step of the way in spiralling, we owe Barney a big thank you”
Barney continues, “I’ve seen lots of people come and go, it’s a bit scary in a sense. Mark Simpson was an apprentice when I started, he was only 16. I used to go down to the workshop and Ian (Guest) was the foreman and I used to go down and do stuff and Ian used to tell me and Mark to go and tidy the back shed. So, I’d only be in my 20’s but because his dad was a lorry driver and my dad was a lorry driver, we had a very lot in common. I’ve worked with Mark on many many jobs like, and really enjoyed working with Mark. Mark comments, “Barney is one of life’s real characters, always cheerful and he could always be relied on to make everyone laugh with a cracking sense of humour. I’ve worked with him for nearly 38 years and he’ll be missed”.
Seamus remembers, “Barney predates my joining Chem Resist as he worked for Mr Armitage as his gardener. When I joined the fabrication team at Butt End Mills, Barney joined soon after and introduced me to the other code of Rugby. I went to watch him playing full back locally, when a huge forward bust through the line with only Barney in his way – to this day I remember him dropping to one knee and felling this huge guy and saving the try. This quiet lad has been a constant at Chem Resist and many people don’t realise what a brave guy he is.”
We asked Barney about his biggest challenge, “Getting up on a morning! I’m terrible now at sleeping, I’m asleep at 7 o’clock at night, but then I’ll wake up on my own at 1.30 with the light and TV on. For 10 to 11 years, I did shift work, either 6-2 or 2-10, so I’m accustomed to that. Recently, I went to see Odelle and my hours are now 8-4.30 which is great but my sleep pattern’s all over the place. I’ve been up since half 3! I’ve had 3 bacon sandwiches and 2 pieces of black pudding, made my sandwiches for work and hung all the washing out.
“What am I going to miss about working here? Allsorts like, I don’t know what to say about that really, I’ll miss not getting as much brass as I do now and the lads, they’re good lads now like, but over the years they’ve all looked after each other.”
“I hate clocks, computers and numbers they give me terrible anxiety. I’ve got a tablet, but I’ve not taken it out of the box yet, but now I’m finishing I’ll have more time to pick these things up. We haven’t really planned ‘owt, but we’ve got a little holiday booked to Llandudno, just a little break. Now and again, I still do a bit of gardening but my grandkids take up a lot of my time. This week I took my grandlad down by the river bank and we’ve been cycling and walking. It’s nice being right with them. We’re helping them out with childcare which is really tiring too because they don’t stop! I play harmonica, I’ll do a bit more of that when I retire.”
The conversation ends with Barney playing the ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ theme tune.
On the 27th May, Barney’s last day, Simon said a few words, Barney wore a mullet wig and we all celebrated his retirement with fish and chips.
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