Geoff Peake

Born in Blackburn; moved to Mellor 23 years ago; married to Eileen; three children and four grandchildren.

An anonymous quote says “our eyes are placed in front because it is more important to look forward than to look back”. Nevertheless, as requested, here are some details of my past.

Career wise - Following education at Q.E.G.S. I started work in the bank, soon realising that banking as a career was not going to fulfil my life’s ambitions. With apologies to any bankers, I have to say that I found the work too mundane, too predictable and lacking in challenge. However, I stayed with it until I was called up to do two years National Service.

In the bank I was junior clerk and as such had to attend clearing every morning at an alternative bank to clear the local cheques. Whilst doing this I was sometimes asked to do an errand for one of the staff. Frequently, the first cashier would ask me to call at Hargreaves tobacconists and purchase 2oz of Top Mill snuff.

I had never heard of snuff but I had seen the cashier at 3pm when the bank closed, put a quantity on the back of his hand and sniff it up his nose. Curiosity killed the cat so on the next occasion I had to obtain his snuff, I opened the packet took a large pinch and accordingly sniffed it. I could not stop sneezing and my eyes running. When I got back to the bank it was obvious what I had been doing but fortunately, it was all taken in good part.

Incidentally, my salary in the bank was £110 per year.

When I joined the RAF at the age of 18 it appeared that my qualifications enabled me to volunteer for aircrew - which I did. I passed all the examinations and initiative tests only to be rejected on health grounds; it would appear that my eyesight was not up to the required standard - which seems strange considering that I did not need glasses until aged 70, and then only for reading!

Following square-bashing, I was posted to RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire to complete a six months course as a radar fitter. I was then posted to RAF Watton in Norfolk to spend the remaining 15 months of my service. I volunteered at every opportunity for an overseas posting but it was not to be.

At Watton I was working un the Development Dept with civilian boffins; what they developed we had to produce the prototype from the plans, install it in the aircraft and fly with it to assess its use and viability. This way you made sure you did not make any mistakes in the building of the kit.

On demobilisation I returned to banking - now £ 130 per year - and started looking for another career. Much to the chagrin of my parents I decided to go into industry, particularly as I chose the textile industry.

John Duckworth & Son, Roe Lee Mills, accepted me as a trainee; I spent the first 6 months weaving on Northrop Automatic jacquard looms before proceeding to 12 months training as a loom overlooker ( tackler), Incidentally, this was the start of 6 years at nightschool, 3 nights a week to ultimately qualify as an Associate of the Textile Institute. Following my shop floor experience I discarded the overalls and went to work in the Planning Office. After 12 months I was given the opportunity to go into Sales, this was to be a real challenge and the opportunity I wanted.

It was during this period Eileen and I got married and we bought a house on West Leigh Road. The house had a 1/4 acre extra piece of land attached with two derelict 60 ft greenhouses on, these we rebuilt and started a small spare time market garden, growing chrysanthemums in the winter and tomatoes in the summer. Time was fully occupied what with work, the nursery venture, 3 nights at night school, a family, maintaining social interests and activity in sport.

I spent 7 years on Sales for the Mill and thoroughly enjoyed it. I covered selected customers throughout the UK and Europe and the fabrics concerned were jacquard curtain and jacquard dress fabrics. I remember on one occasion going in the Mill Warehouse to collect some samples to find lads arguing—I said “ what’s going on?” and one said “he’s hidden my breakfast.” at which I suggested they should get on with their work. Some months later I called on a very important customer in Manchester, instead of his usual affable mood he was in a foul temper. It would appear they had had a foul smell in the warehouse for some time, the cause was discovered when they opened a bale of cloth and found a plate of bacon and eggs! We didn’t lose the customer but I had to placate him.

Following my period on Sales I was asked to come back into the office to take over the management of the Company as General Manager which ultimately led to a directorship

At the age of 35 I joined Broadloom Carpets Ltd at Rishton as Works Manager. BCL, as it was, known were manufacturers of axminster woven carpet and part of the Gaskell Group who were involved in most aspects of the floor covering industry.

I remember my interview well. The Managing Director at one stage in my interview asked me what my ambitions were and rather facetiously I said “to sit in your chair”. Surprisingly enough some 15 years later I did just that. I first went to Kidderminster Technical College on a 14 week course to familiarise myself with carpet manufacture, this was an interesting experience because they were mostly teenagers on the course and they used to call me Dad.

From Works Manager to Works Director—we expanded the Company, both building and machinery wise with production built up to around 12,000 sq metres per week.

During this period of time I needed to go to Swindon to view some machinery; my secretary endeavoured to book me some accommodation by telex but unfortunately got the number wrong and sent the request to a slaughterhouse. We got the following reply.

- “with reference to your telex just received.

Please clarify your reservation - - - since this is a slaughterhouse accommodation can be somewhat tricky. However we aim to please ; we cannot offer single room but would be happy to place fresh straw in lairage pen.

We have no bath available but shower could be shared with our slaughtermen.

We confirm smoking is prohibited in our premises.

We look forward to accommodating Mr Peake on Tues & Wed nights. Do you want us to bone him out and if so, should we return him frozen or chilled?

We note your comment with regard to American Express—we will do it as fast as we can.

Hoping you share our sense of humour - Regards etc.”

When appointed Chief Executive it gave me the great opportunity to become involved in Sales and Marketing which I believe are the two most important aspects of any business. With this involvement I travelled to most parts of the world and in fact every two years did a whistle stop round the world trip. This was hectic but rewarding, appreciated by our customers and helped to consolidate relationships. Our axminster carpets were aimed mainly at the commercial market i.e. hotels, office premises etc.

Apart from axminster we carried other flooring products made within the group - tufted carpet, carpet tiles, underfelt etc.

I remember the Export Director and myself doing a presentation in Japan through an interpreter trying to interest them in carpet tiles. We sat there, cross legged on the floor, drinking green tea for what seemed an interminable period of time. Eventually the committee got up, bowed and went out. Through the interpreter we enquired how we had fared. He said,” Not very well, Japanese do not understand why you make carpets 4 metres wide, cut it up into 50 cm squares and then put it all back together again.”

This was a very rewarding time; the Company expanded and we had a good management team.

I was subsequently appointed a director of the group board and became involved in group strategy, marketing and finance, also very importantly, appointment of executive staff.

We received one application which read as follows :-

Dear Sir

I refer to your advertisement in the Daily Telegraph

of the 18th December for an Export Sales Executive

which I have only recently seen on an old copy

wrapped round some fish and chips!! . . . . . . . etc

With reference to sales - we produced a carpet for a church ( which should not be named) . Shortly after the carpet was fitted Eileen and I attended a wedding there. As we went in we were handed an envelope saying— Donations to help pay for the new carpet -

Unfortunately, today, the group does not exist, it has gone the way of most manufacturing industry in this country.

I retired from Gaskells at the age of 61 due to a recurrence of heart problems and very quickly I was in hospital having open heart surgery. On recovering from this, total retirement didn’t seem to suit me, so I restarted work as a self employed consultant and finally retired at the age of 70.

Quotation:- If you think you are too small to be effective—you have obviously never been in bed with a mosquito.

Geoff Peake