Richard Ballard – growing up in Retford

Ballards removals - our early days

A few more lockdown reflections about my early life in and around Retford

My home town was, and still is, Retford. When I think back, it was quite an industrial town with several large employers. In no particular order, I can remember Jenkins, who made all sorts of fabrication & metal work and employed several hundred people. Also there was Spicer’s Paper Mill, manufacturing paper products, Waterfields Tannery, Clarkes Cleaning & Dying Company, The Hoisery Factory, Bridon Ropes, The Railway Station and Repair Yard and Rampton Mental Hospital which employed a huge number of staff. Bevercotes Colliery was very prominent, and there were 3 power stations along the Trent Valley; High Marnham, Cottam and West Burton, all employing about a thousand staff each.

Numerous smaller service enterprises providing support for the bigger companies. Within a ten mile drive there were perhaps 10 coal mines, Dosco Mining machinery in Tuxford, Frank England/Fevro Concrete in Land. East Retford Rural District Council had a depot in Retford, various coal merchants, agricultural supplies firms, a cattle market, a furniture auction house ‘Henry Spencers & Son’.

Working down the pit

At 14 years old, I secured a job as an apprentice fitter at Bevercotes Colliery, where I worked as part of a team maintaining the coal cutting machinery. We worked down the shaft, 1000 yards deep then about 5 miles in. It’s hard to believe it now, but I actually enjoyed working underground on the coal face, despite the temperature, which regularly went above 100° Fahrenheit, and the intense humidity. It was a demanding job, and I also attended Worksop Technical College on day release and night school to get my City & Guild qualification in Engineering. I worked at Bevercotes for 6 and a half years, but I knew I wanted to do something more with my life – I just wasn’t sure what!

My time in the Merchant Navy

In 1973 I answered an advert in the Daily Mirror jobs section for P&O Shipping, who were recruiting young men to train as marine engineers, so I applied and started work as a Junior Engineer Officer on general cargo ships. Wow, what a contrast to my previous life – we had to buy our own uniform, we were given a cabin on board and were expected to eat in the officers mess. We were treated very well. I had never seen so much food, served so formerly by stewards in crisp white uniforms, I had to pinch myself!

I took to this life like a duck to water and was good at my job, maintaining the machinery in the engine room. In my time with the merchant navy I served on 9 ships and visited 49 countries, mostly on voyages of 5 or 6 months with no days off, working 4 hours on and 8 hours off, 7 days a week.

Ballards Removals – the start of a new chapter

When I reached 25 years old, I felt ready for a change and I really wanted to try working for myself, rather than have other people telling me what to do! So I bought a transit van and started operating as what now would be called a white van man. I met Janette in 1978 and together, we started building the Ballards Removals Business. You can read more about that in our “story so far” blog. The most important thing to me about growing up in Retford was, and still is, the people of Retford and surrounding area most of whom are hardworking, genuine people who expect value for money and fairness. I valued that as a child, and still do – we couldn’t have developed our business without you.

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