Stories: Barry Collingwood

We speak to Exyte Hargreaves' longest-serving team member

Stories: Barry Collingwood

Written by John Prydderch on February 13th 2023

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Ask someone what happened in 1975, and they might suggest things were different in 1970’s UK. The population voted ‘yes’ in a referendum to stay in the EU; Microsoft became a registered trademark and the film Jaws was first released. Then again, the rate of inflation was 25%, so maybe it wasn’t that different after all! Ask Barry Collingwood what happened in 1975, specifically the 25th August 1975, and you’d get a different answer. On that date, Barry accepted a role with Hargreaves in what has become a near half century career with our business. 48 years and counting…

Hi Barry, how did you come to work at Exyte Hargreaves?

Hi Barry, how did you come to work at Exyte Hargreaves?

“I used to live across the road so you could say that Hargreaves has always been close to me! My dad was a bricklayer and my brother-in-law was a sheet metal worker. Most people were always told by their parents to join a trade and then you’d have skills to fall back on.

My first encounter with the company was on a school trip. The careers officer used to organise outings to see different areas of industry and how it worked. Most companies, like Hargreaves, would have an intake of apprentices each year. We had a tour round the factory, I put in an application and got the job. I came here as a Fabricator / Welder at the age of 16.”

What was the interview process like?

“It was much easier to find work back then. I applied for three different apprenticeships and was offered all of them. In my interview at Hargreaves I was set a practical task. They gave me a piece of metal and a pair of pliers. I was shown a drawing and then had to replicate it as close as possible. I always wanted to get into a career where I could make something. I’ve always been good with my hands. The interviewer was very impressed!

That year’s intake included 20 Fabricators and 6 Engineers. We worked the first year in the training school around our college hours. Then after year one we moved into the factory. Back then, the average age in the factory was 19. Out of the original intake, 12 of us reached the end of the apprenticeship process.”

How has your career developed at Hargreaves?

“There have been many changes. My first pay packet was £7.65 for the week. You received a little pay slip and you queued to hand in your time card and receive your wage!

I have always been very ambitious. When I applied for other jobs I sold myself well. I’ve also always been quite interested in technology. After we got the first plasma cutter I was asked to lead that process.

I’m pleased to have worked in the drawing office, trade sales and production. In fact, I’ve worked in every department except for Finance.”

What do you enjoy about your job? How has the company changed?

“I’ve always enjoyed coming to work. People ask me when I’d like to retire, but in my head I’m still 21. I enjoy new challenges and I always give 100% at what I’m doing. I like teaching others; I’m a people person. Whenever we got new technology into the factory, like the CNC controllers, management would say ‘Barry’s going on that.’ I’d do all the training.

Management style was quite different in those days. You were expected to do as you were told. I got quite a few ‘Ferguson hairdryers’ in front of my peers. It wasn’t nice and it wouldn’t happen nowadays. I’m a firm believer that you don’t command respect, you earn it.

My parents brought me up to respect my elders. I was the youngest and I had an old dad who was very dictatorial. You always treat people how you want to be treated yourself. A smile goes a long way.”

Which projects stick in your mind?

“The most interesting one was the Lloyds building in Bury in 1984. We did the internal and external work. The internal work was glued so we had to make jigs to keep it stable. There was a lot of R&D pre-project and we spent 6 months testing. There were thousands of straights, offsets and tapers – the jigs helped to keep them in the glue.

I enjoyed using and developing new techniques. There was the Millennium Dome, which was plastic-coated ducting. Also, the Birmingham Concert Hall which we had to lag for sound proofing. I was always involved in the big contracts and we were doing off site manufacture years before it became commonplace. There’s been that many, I could go on and on.

You don’t really remember the nightmare projects, but there were some which were harder than others. When we did the big tower replacements at Sellafield, we were going into industry fields that we’d never done before. It was 1 inch thick metals and involved complex weld procedures. There were many challenges with the programme of delivery.”

Tell us about the factory team

“I think I’m like their dad down there. I’m turned to for help, information and advice. I like being in a band and a group. It’s great being part of a team and working together. We’re making a really good product. We have a good nucleus of people in the factory who know what they’re doing.”

What are your hobbies outside work?

“I’ve been playing in a band since I was 13. Music has been my outlet. My mum was a pianist and so was her dad. At the end of a tough day, I can go to my man cave and play my saxophone or my guitar. At the moment I’m playing in a band called About Time which plays pop and rock music. We practise once a week and then play gigs at the weekend. I’m very outgoing and sociable.”

Interested in a career with Exyte Hargreaves?

If you’d like to work alongside Barry or the rest of our talented team, please contact Dean Parry at Emeya Recruitment on 01483 343 744 or email for details of our latest vacancies.

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