1976 feels like a long time ago now. Since then, we’ve gone from the invention of the first laser printer to the everyday use of 3D printing; from the unveiling of NASA’s first-ever space shuttle to the offer of celebrity-filled flights to Mars.
For Richard Breedon, 1976 has another important meaning as the year he first started working as a crane engineer. Aged just 22 years old, he was employed by Grayson White and Sparrow’s (GWS), acquired by Ainscough Crane Hire in 2000, in the company’s Stockton depot. Now, at 68 years old, he is celebrating his retirement, and thinking about when it all began.
“I left school and began working as a mechanic on trucks and vehicles. But my uncle was a crane operator and he’s the one who really got me hooked by these huge and impressive machines,” says Richard. “When I first started, we had 78 cranes running out of the Stockton depot, which was also the head office. Since then, Ainscough has opened more and more depots around the country.”
Over the past four and a half decades, Richard has seen a lot of changes in crane technology, becoming an expert at their upkeep: “In the early years, it was all mechanical cranes, now they’re highly technical and computer-based, with computer systems which control everything down to the driver’s heated seats. Even now, the company has just ordered new fleet of 37 cranes, with new courses being established to share the knowledge. Everybody is constantly learning at Ainscough. It’s been a really exciting environment to grow in.”
Ainscough has always prided itself on its training programmes and this year it announced the first-ever crane operator apprenticeship programme. This is something Richard is familiar with, having mentored a lot of the new arrivals at the depot.
“It’s funny that it was a family member who got me started in this career because the business has always had that family feel to it,” says Richard. “I’d start every morning in the break room with the other engineers, chatting about the weekend and planning the jobs for that day. I was a supervisor for a lot of the fitters and I spent a lot of my time guiding them through the role, and making sure they were being well looked after by the team.”
Gregg Atkinson, maintenance supervisor at Ainscough Crane Hire, started in the business five years ago with no crane experience and was one of the many new starters who relied on Richard as a mentor. He paid tribute to his friend and co-worker: “Richard’s knowledge and experience was, and is, up there with the very best. I cannot think of a single moment when Richard has told me ‘I do not know how to do that!’
“He has such a contagious drive and positive attitude that has enabled those around him to pull in the same direction and overcome problems. He is always willing to make time for the team and pass on his endless knowledge of mechanical and electrical engineering.
“I think I speak for the rest of the department when I say Richard’s dry sense of humour could liven up any room. His ‘one liners’ would cause hysterics in the canteen and he will be missed immensely as a genuine, brilliant, kind man. I wish Richard, and his wife, Jill, a long and happy retirement together.”
One of Richard’s favourite interests is golf, and he is looking forward to being out on the fairways this summer, as well as spending some more time gardening. That’s something Callum Young, now a team leader at Ainscough’s Stockton depot is also looking forward to, telling Richard: ‘If you ever fancy a knock around the golf course you have my number!’”
“I have worked with Richard since I started at Ainscough seven years ago,” Callum recalled, “and from the get-go he has shown me the ropes and guided me on my way. His motto is adapt and overcome, and ‘can’t’ isn’t a word in his vocabulary. He is a mentor and a role model to us all.
“I haven’t once heard a bad word said about Richard. He would always be willing to help anybody out at any time whether that be at work or outside of work. I can honestly say he will be missed tremendously by myself and everybody else in the depot.”
Nick Wales, field service engineer at Ainscough’s national service centre, added: “Richard is genuinely one of the most insightful and knowledgeable technicians I have ever had the pleasure of working with. He has a wealth of experience gained throughout his career and is more than happy to pass that on to those following in his footsteps.
“I have known him since starting out as an apprentice with the company – his dry sense of humour and witty one-liners often got a roar of laughter in the bait room. His dedicated approach is both influential and infectious. He has an aptitude for electric or hydraulic problems and I have drawn a wealth of knowledge from him – over the years he’s brought on many an apprentice. Rich will be sorely missed both in and out of the workplace, I wish him all the very best for retirement.
Richard has so far been able to celebrate with some sandwiches in the canteen and is looking forward to a few drinks with his colleagues when the time is right.
“Ainscough has been an amazing company to work for,” says Richard. “It is very forward-thinking, with new training always available, and whilst I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years, the company has always been safety conscious and dedicated to looking after its people. I’ll miss the team immensely, and would like to thank them all for some very happy memories.”
On behalf of everyone at Ainscough Crane Hire, we would like to show our appreciation to Richard for all he has done for the business. Thank you, Richard, and we wish you the best of luck in your retirement!
Left to right: Graham Weights- Head of Engineering. Richard Breedon -Fitter and Mark James- Operations Director(South)