Design Engineer Ken Fisher - his 50th Anniversary at Neville’s!
Not only was it Ken Fisher’s 81st birthday last week (many happy returns for last Wednesday), but the 2nd August was also Ken’s 50th anniversary of joining the business! We couldn’t let it pass without marking this magnificent occasion, so we sat down with Ken to find out more about this long-standing member of the business.
“I started my career in construction as an Apprentice Joiner at HC Janes, moving onto a couple of other companies, before joining Neville’s in 1971 (at the age of 30) as a General Foreman. I reported to John Millet, working at the Halyard High School project in Leagrave. ‘Mr Bernard’ (Henman) was still working in the business, with sons Peter and Michael in charge.
Leagrave looked very different back then; the river came right up to the buildings and the main road to Sundon Park wasn’t there. McDonalds on the roundabout was the Three Horseshoes pub, the garage across the road was a row of terraced houses, built for the workers of Luton’s once-thriving Hat District, and the building that is Neville Funerals was a small cottage and there was a public toilet right where the yard is now!
Over the course of my career, I saw the local area change significantly with the moving of the River Lea and the addition of the main road, and the building as you know it also changed: the now Marketing office was built on top of the flat roof of what was Joinery (it first began life as the Centenary Room where staff could relax and play table tennis and darts); the workshop was added to Neville Joinery; the second floor of Block B was added (which would become my office for a while) and the funeral service offices were built. I was involved in much of the design of some of these projects, and am still involved in the refurbishment of our funeral branches, among other things, today.
A 50 year career brings about some interesting roles (Scheduler in the 70s, Planning Coordinator in the 80s and now a Design Engineer) and contracts: animal enclosures at Whipsnade Zoo; converting properties into restaurants for McDonalds; and even a potential contract for Anneka Rice and her television programme (which unfortunately didn’t air due to the recession in the 90s).
One of the most interesting was a project we worked in 1989 on for the Queen at Windsor Castle. We were asked by the Government to convert a walled garden in the castle grounds into a secure storage unit for her Majesty to house her art collection. Following completion of the work, we were gathered to meet the Queen. Whilst waiting for her to arrive, the Duke of Edinburgh walked in, and looking around said “Is she here yet?” He was told that she wasn’t (“no Sir, no Sir”), so he turned around and said “Ok. I’ll come back later!” and left the room. 10 minutes later, the Queen arrived. She had ridden up to the site on her horse, alongside Major Ron Ferguson (Sarah Ferguson’s father), and was in full riding gear. She came in to meet us - I was surprised how tiny she was - and spent a bit of time meeting the team. Shortly after, the Duke arrived again and joined in. Once the session was finished, the Major took the Queen’s horse back, and the Queen jumped into the Duke of Edinburgh’s Land Rover and drove back to the castle. It wasn’t long after that that a fire broke out at Windsor, and no doubt the storage unit came into its own!
Now, at 81, my children, who were two and four when I started, are now in their 50s and I’m working one day per week (I did officially retire at 68, going down to three days per week, but went to one day in 2015). I still like to keep working, but now I have time for my other pursuits like cycling and golf. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been working for Neville’s for 50 years. Time certainly flies by!”