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Trip down memory lane for Forgemasters old boys

07 January 2010

Two Sheffield Forgemasters' old boys returned to the Brightside Lane site for a reunion - one to pay a final visit to his old workplace and one to see how the place has changed.

Ian Howarth, 79, and Rennie Bell, 78, were given a guided tour of their former workplace by director Peter Birtles after asking to come back and visit the historic Sheffield steelworks.

Former central engineering workshops manager Ian, who was recently diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer, and ex-forge engineering manager Rennie both received a Forgemasters stainless steel alarm clock from chief executive Graham Honeyman.

Ian started at the company as an apprentice in 1947 at the age of 17 after turning down going into further education, and retired in 1985.

He said: "I don't know how long I've got and I wanted to see the place one last time.

"I am delighted the management here has allowed us to come back. They are doing great work and I am impressed with the depth of work they are expanding into. It's a real eye-opener. 

"I always wanted to become an engineer when I left school and there were several options available but I thought Forgemasters was the best choice.

"I remember coming down here for the first time and they all spoke broad Yorkshire! Something I wasn't used to!"

Ian was accompanied by his eldest son David, who originally rang to arrange the visit.

David added: "I just want to say a huge thank you to Graham and Peter. I didn't expect to be able to speak directly to Graham, but when I did he was very gracious and exceptionally helpful.

"Peter has given up so much of his time to show my father and Rennie around, and I can see they are both absolutely thrilled."

Rennie, who retired around 20 years ago, recalled his time at Forgemasters.

He said: "The place is the same in many ways, but they are starting to spruce some things up! There's obviously a lot going on.

"It's great to come back and look around because Forgemasters is a company with good people and a very good history."

He also recalled working with one of his more famous apprentices - Sheffield Central MP Richard Caborn.

Rennie said: "He was a good apprentice fitter. I still see him from time to time, sometimes at Bramall Lane."

Forgemasters director Peter Birtles, who worked with both Ian and Rennie, added: "It was an absolute pleasure to see the boys again and I was delighted to show them around. It's always wonderful to hear from former employees and Ian and Rennie are welcome back any time."

Picture caption (L-R): Rennie Bell, Forgemasters director Peter Birtles and Ian Howarth at Sheffield Forgemasters.