Posts filed as 'Quarter Century Club'

The Hamylton Family and BU


Christine Shaw has written to us about her aunts and an uncle who worked at BU many years ago – Will anyone remember them? Their time working there took place between the 1920s and 1960s.

The story is certainly an interesting one.

A century ago William Hamylton and his wife lived on Humberstone Road in Leicester. They had six children, four girls and two boys. William is recorded in the Kelly’s Directory of 1936 as being an Illusionist by trade! Christine remembers him to be “a clever man who turned his hand to many different things, even to making suits for my father (Clarence) and Uncle Max.”

Clarence became an outstanding optician. His firm, Henry Smith and Hamylton Opticians, are still flourishing to this day with branches across Leicester. Sadly, Clarence passed away at a young age in 1962 while his own children were still of school age.

His brother, Max, worked at BU, as did three of his four sisters; Gladys, Dorothy and Gwen – Phyllis stayed at home to help her mother. Christine has the BU Quarter Century (25 years unbroken service) certificates for each of them. Unusually perhaps, none of the four girls got married. Instead they stayed living together at the family home for all of their lives, initially on Humberstone Road, then moving across town to a house on Welford Road in 1953.


The first picture is of Gwen. She started at BU on 14th April 1928 and worked in the Cashiers Dept.

The second photo is of Dorothy (often known as Dean) and Gwen, taken on the Island of Sark (Dorothy on the left and Gwen on the right).

The third photo is of Max Hamylton; “My Uncle Max was in the  Engineers Dept. And was well known for his meticulous work.”

The fourth photo is of the four Hamylton sisters together; from the left, Dorothy, Gwen, Phyllis and Gladys. The lady on the far right is their friend, another Dorothy.

William, their father, died on Christmas Day, either 1956 or 57. “My Aunt Gwen, who was the youngest, lived until Easter Sunday 2008 and died at the same Welford Road house.”

Quite an extraordinary story, but actually not that unusual. During the twentieth century many working families were intrinsically linked with their employers, across the generations. Sons, daughters, fathers, brothers, all working in the same factory, often living close by their work and even life outside work would involve the company social club, events and sports teams.

This all changed during the last quarter of the century as right across Britain the big manufacturing firms gradually closed down. With their demise, so did this way of life also disappear.

If anyone remembers any of the Hamylton family it would be fantastic to hear from you. Please email to


And thank you, Christine, for sharing your memories of your family and BU.

Date posted: April 30, 2020

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Dick Allen


We have had a lovely contact from Richard ‘Dick’ Allen – who has only just found the BU History site, after many years wondering what had become of the company and people he used to work with.

“I joined the BU in 1978, working as a Sales and Purchase Administrator in the old Materials Division building on Hildyard Road ( still there I believe, as a clothing company? ). Stayed throughout the various changes from BU to Emhart to Texon etc – finally ended as Technical Sales Manger for the IVI Tack & Nail Factory and travelling to Europe and the Americas to promote the range.

Just before I left we were sending a 20 tonne container of Carpet Gripper tacks every week to Los Angeles for one of the largest manufacturers of carpet gripper strips in the world!

I remember working with several BU technicians on the side lasting machines and heel attaching ones as well. Mick Lambell was our Buyer in IVI – I wonder if his Italian is still fluent!

Received my 25 year award ( cannot remember if there was still an official Quarter Century Club by then ) in 2003.”

Picture of presentation below. Dick is centre front row. Also includes Mick Garrett, Mick Lambell, Simon Ward and Stan Barnes.

The second photo is of the Materials Division football team. Some other players in this picture are Paul Price, Jeff Kirby, John Rowley & Alan Brown.

Fond memories of all the people I met and worked with, in the best company I ever worked at.

Kind regards – Dick Allen

Incidentally, we made a short video of the IVI back in 2014. Click on the link


Date posted: May 17, 2019

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Ian Breward – BU Memories


Ian Breward has shared some of his family memories of BU

“I live in Spain and South Africa now, and I last visited the UK some six years ago.

My father told me in about 1937 that he and his mate were out of work and had heard that the BU had vacancies; they went to McDonald road where the queue was down the street and as they got nearer to the table where the interviews were being conducted they could see time and time again men were being turned away, their skills were not wanted (metal workers). My dad arrived at the deck and said he was a wood machinist and him and his mate were taken on, the only two that day. That was the start of 36 years working for the BU.

My dads name was Walter Breward. My mum and my uncle also worked for BU, including the war years; dad ended up in the drawing office stores.

One day my dad was working on a roof and fell off breaking his arm. After that he worked in the drawing office stores. He told me he did not like piece work. He was a member of the 25-year club. As a family we went to the BU concerts on a weekend sitting on a bench at Hildyard Road and watching the acts. The street in the photo below is where I lived up to 6 years of age, on the left-hand side, 112 Wand Street. At the bottom is Ross Walk and BU. We later moved to 20 Rowan Street off Fosse Road North.

While at Wand Street, I must have been five or six, I had a three-wheel bike and I decided to cross over the road on the corner of Wand Street and Ross Walk. I started across and the BU buzzer went and all the workers came rushing out of the factory and one crashed in to me. I ran home in tears; the bike rider came to my house and showed my dad what had happened. My dad fixed his bike – a long time later my dad realised that the cyclist had been on the wrong side of the road! I often used to play in the gap between the concertina doors that closed the gates.

I started at BU at 8.30am on the 5th January 1959 with 146 other boys. I was 15 years old. I was an apprentice from 1959 to 1965.

We were photographed and given a number and a white boiler suit and taken to AT (Apprentice Training) and given a place on a bench. The next three weeks we were shown how to use small tools. At 18 I was transferred back to AT to teach the new apprentices.

I went from AT to B dept. I asked the foreman why they called it the salt mines down there. He said If you last there you will be able to work anywhere, and he was right. I spent one year there. It’s bad. The dept was below ground, no light from windows and there was a mist in the room all the time. some of the concrete floor had gone and soil was left.

I first worked on the bench next to a blind guy who sold cigs one at a time. I did tapping all day. I only did not make my wage one week and was told that if I did not make it again I was out, but I always made it after that. Next, I was put on the automatic tapping machines; each operation was for three months. After that I was put on the tumbling machines; I would fill them up first thing in the morning and again after lunch with sulphur and other chemicals – there were no masks!

This is where I worked when I was in HA (Heavy assembly). I built the number 7 clicker press, five at a time, on piece work. One day I was working there and a group of older guys walked in and all the other guys in the dept started looking busy. I thought it was the directors. But it was the old foreman, he had left five years earlier and they were still terrified of him. The foreman I worked under sat on a desk 18 inches above the floor (he read his bible each day) so he could see right down the room. I was told not to ask him for a requisition for a broken drill or reamer etc. I broke a one-eighth drill and said I was going to get a requisition; the guys said, are you mad go and buy one from a shop in Churchgate, we do. No, I said, so I worked my way down to his desk  and all the guys were watching. I ask him for one and he signed one for me. They told me no one had ever done that before.

The job was hard work, I never made the time so I would put in extra time for finishing off things that had not been done properly. In the end they said they would re-time me. One day a guy in a suit and my foreman came to where I was working on a lathe and asked me to stop work. The guy in the suit said what we are going to do to help you is pay you 75% of what you make. I said how is that going to help me. Try it and you will see they said. I said you take off your coat and I will take off my boiler suit and you can have a go and whatever time you do it in a will except 50% for the job because I know I am faster than you. He was the time and study guy. As I was talking my father arrived.The supervisor said to him tell Ian to except what we are doing. My father said at home I am responsible for him at work you are and left. I asked why he came down he said he was told to go and see me.

I was in the cutting dept at the age of 21. I was on a highly specialised job. A guy down the room was unskilled and he did the same three jobs every day as he could not have done any other. We had just been paid and he came down to me and said look at what I get, £ 22 a week. He knew I was not on that, I was on £ 9 a week on piece work. Well, that hit a bad chord with me so I asked the foreman for a meeting with the apprentice training guy in personal. He came back to say they were busy, so I asked him for a pass out; he asked why and I told him. He said but you will all ways have bread on your table as a skilled guy. I said, but it will take me three years to earn what he earns in one. Not good. I went out and went over to the Brush factory in Loughborough and then Rolls Royce, but no jobs. I was on my way back down Melton Road and I passed the AEI. So I went in they said they would take me on at £ 15 a week. I said, is it piece work, they said, no you get that each week.

I put my notice in on the Monday and each day after that they would take me into the foreman’s office and tried to persuade me to stay; they even offered me a job on the Vulcanising section at £ 30 a week, but it was for seven days. I left.

I was at BU for six years and six weeks. I started with 146 other boys on the morning and when I finished my apprenticeship and was presented with the indentures there was only five of us left. So hard; 44 hours a week.

I still have the tool box and all the letters to start and all the info they gave you.”

– Ian Breward, Feb 2019

Date posted: March 5, 2019

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Great Days


Leslie Hubble has posted this brilliant photo of the Quarter Century Club from the 1960s.


Left to right; Eddie Orme, Glen (Taffy) Evans, Bill Leadbetter, his brother Frank, and Charlie Jerrom.

Date posted: October 11, 2015

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Quarter Century Club Keyring


Probably not so many people qualifying for these clubs anymore – working for one company for 25 continuous years.

Doubt if such a thing still exists: None that I know of …IMG_2189

Date posted: October 6, 2015

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Sad News


With much sadness we have received news of the death of Frank Smith, aged 95, on Friday December 13th 2013.

Frank’s funeral takes place at 10am on Thursday January 10th at St Thomas More Church on Knighton Road, Leicester.

Frank wearing the President's Chain for the Quarter Century Club

Frank joined BU aged 14 in 1934 as an errand boy. He then began an apprenticeship in engineering, what Frank described as his saving grace, as it set him up for so many things in life.

He joined the army at the outbreak of the Second World War and was involved at Dunkirk and later in Burma. Incredibly he rose to the rank of Major by the end and was awarded the MBE for bravery in action.

Frank Smith during the War

Frank returned to BU after the war and worked in the drawing office, experimental design office and shoe material research department. It was during these 30 or so post war years that BU reached its zenith, dominating the world shoe machinery market. The excellence and sophistication of it’s products, developed and produced in house, were unrivalled. Frank was invited to join the BU Board of Management in 1978, and in 1979 he was president of the Quarter Century Club. He retired in 1981 – 48 years at BU, minus seven serving in the forces.

Frank’s wife Marjorie pre-deceased him. Together they had seven children and lived in the Knighton area of Leicester. Our condolences to all his family.

In 2012 Frank recorded his memories of life and BU, and these can be heard on the BU history website. It was such a pleasure to meet Frank; his intelligence and kindness and strength shined brightly.

Date posted: December 16, 2013

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Graham Beck


Graham Beck recalls his family connection with BU.Negative

Just before the Great War my Grandfather, William Underwood (pictured left, seated with moustache), was sent by BU to Paris in order to instruct employees of a French company on the workings of BU machines. Unfortunately he was of similar stature and build to Count Bismark the German Chancellor. Since tensions were running high between the countries the French police arrested William thinking him a German spy. He spoke no French and they no English so he spent many hours in custody.

Graham’s mother, Gladys, is also in the photo above, the youngest girl to her dad’s left. She worked in the secretarial pool and married Cyril Beck, another BU man – Of course! Remarkably after their marriage Gladys was allowed to stay on at BU. Prior to this married women were not allowed to work at BU!

Graham’s two Uncles on his mothers side, Wilf and Alf, also in the photo above, joined BU before later moving away. Wilf to the Bristol depot and Alf to London – both Quarter Century Club men. Operatic

Cyril Beck, Graham’s father spent all his working life at BU. First as an Engineer, then an Engineer Inspector, and then into the Technical Office. In the late 1940s he joined the BU Male Voice Choir and my mother and I went all over the Midlands to both competitions and concerts. He was a choir member up until he retired in 1962 and can be seen in the photo on the far right of the third row back, wearing glasses. He was also a member of the Quarter Century Club.

Date posted: November 21, 2013

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Phil Wignall


Four chapsMy father George (Phil) Wignall. Pictured above with, L-R, George Matthews, Phil, Roy Remmington, and Jack Harrison – on a 1960s Toolroom outing to London.

Phil started work aged 14 on Sept. 9th 1939. Shortly after this World War II broke out and he was drafted into the RAF. He returned to the BU after the war.46

Played football for the BU Team in 1946, they got to a final and he didn’t get picked so never played for them again. He did play for the Tool Room Football Team for many years.

He played snooker for the company and he was also a First Team Player for the Latimer Ward Club from an early age until finally giving up only a few years ago.

He has great memories of the BU grounds, playing sport and attending BU sports days with his family. Also on a Saturday night himself, his wife and friends used to go to the BU Sports Club.

He was a member of the BU Quarter Century Club and was a Steward for a few years.

QCC stewards

Second left, front row, 1968.

He worked his way up to Foreman of the Tool Room and then was made redundant at the age of 57 in 1982.


Phil is second left in the picture below along with Jack Granger, Len Bosworth and John Neal.



Date posted: November 18, 2013


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George Holmes


Margaret Walne has sent us the following memories about her father, George Holmes.

George Holmes, President Quarter Century Club 1958

George Holmes, President Quarter Century Club 1958

My father George Holmes was in the shoe machinery industry for 52 years.  He began his career with the Gimson Shoe Machinery Company during the Great War where he served his full time under Indentiture with the exception of a period dating from 4 April 1918 to 10 February 1919 during which time he was called up for military service.  He moved to the BUSM’s head office in Leicester when the two firms amalgamated in 1930.   On the commercial management side he was well known to shoe manufacturers in many countries and travelled extensively to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and in the early days these trips were made by ship, being away from home sometimes for three months at a time.   He became a director in 1946 and assistant managing director in 1956 and retired in 1968.   He died in 1990 aged 91. 

It is very sad that this great company is no longer in existence.  I don’t recall ever visiting the offices or factory but do remember the excellent productions put on  by the Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society.  I also remember having old wooden shoe lasts to burn on our open fire at home!

Date posted: November 1, 2013

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Knife Shop 2


Following on from the ‘Knife Shop 1’ post, Eric Johnson has kindly shared some tremendous pictures of himself and workmates from his department.


The picture above is taken at a 25 year dinner at Samco in Bristol. L-R, Mr Kinder, Bert Harrison, Eric Johnson and Sis Hawksworth.


In this picture Eric is standing at a Die Sinking machine. Below is another Quarter Century club dinner ocassion. Eric again, with pals Sis and Bert.








Finally, there is a lovely photo looking along Ross Walk from the 1970s.


Date posted: August 23, 2013

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