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Forgemasters stalwart brings up the half century mark

19 February 2010

A Sheffield Forgemasters veteran is taking a well-earned retirement after half a century working for the manufacturing specialist.

Phil Willoughby, 65, who worked as a QA engineer, started at Forgemasters as a 15-year-old apprentice on January 4 1960 and retired 50 years later on 29 January.

Phil, from Aston, Sheffield, is one of three generations of Willoughby men to work at the Brightside Lane site, with his son currently part of the sales team. Phil’s father also worked for the company when it was English Steel Corporation, and Phil has him to thank for getting his five decades at Forgemasters started.

Phil said: “I had just finished school and my father said I should apply for a probationary apprenticeship. I went along, passed a couple of tests and ended up spending half a century there.”

Having spent his entire working life at Forgemasters, it is no surprise that Phil has seen the company change considerably. But he has managed to avoid ever using a computer, preferring to keep information in books and his head.

He said: “I’ve escaped using one because I’ve never really had the time to be trained up. Forgemasters has changed in many other ways since I started - the site is smaller and there are a lot less people. There were times when six or seven thousand were employed.

“However, everything is a lot cleaner and tidier than it used to be and it’s a lot more environmentally friendly. The staff are also more flexible than they have ever been – it’s no longer ‘one man for one job.’”

Phil added: “I’m sure I’ll miss Forgemasters, it’s a good company with good people. If it wasn’t I’m sure I wouldn’t have spent 50 years working there!”

Whilst he is looking forward to a relaxing retirement, Phil says his wife of 25 years may have other plans.

He said: “I plan to do a lot of relaxing – a bit of walking and cycling, that sort of thing. I’ll also do some work on my motorcycle because it hasn’t been on the road for 15 years and is gathering dust in the garage.

“We’re off to Tenerife and it would be nice to do a few more holidays. But I’m sure my wife will be lining up a few jobs for me – I think she’s got me down for some decorating already!”

Modest Phil, one of 28 Forgemasters employees with over 40 years’ service, had not planned to celebrate his retirement with anything special. But his colleagues ensured his 50 years ended in style by throwing him a surprise party.

Graham Honeyman, chief executive at Sheffield Forgemasters, said: “Phil has given Forgemasters 50 years of dedicated service which is a truly remarkable achievement. Throughout his career he has displayed both loyalty and commitment to the company, something that we are very grateful for.

“Forgemasters has changed considerably since Phil started back in 1960, but his hard work and enthusiasm has always remained, making him an invaluable member of the Forgemasters 

“Everyone will miss him, and, whilst we are very sorry to lose Phil, we all wish him a relaxing and happy retirement – he certainly deserves it.”

Photo caption: Forgemasters stalwart Phil Willoughby