REDCAR – Man Walks One Hundred Thousand Miles to Work
Accreditation Cleveland Standard 20th April, 1933
One Hundred Thousand Miles
Walking to Work
Redcar Man’s Feat
Mr. John Howes, of Redcar reckons that he has walked well over a hundred thousand miles to and from work.
When I interviewed him this week in the Territorial Club, he told me for twenty two years he was employed as a labourer on the Breakwater. During that time he never once rode, but always walked the two miles from Redcar to the mouth of the Tees, and back.
As he had to start work at 7.30 a.m. he left home six days a week at a quarter to five, and did not return until late in the evening.
“I never wanted to do much work in the evening after that,” he remarked.
Mr. Howes retired last month. He had reached the age limit, and had to make room for a younger man.
“So what is it like to be a gentleman of leisure? I suppose you miss your work – and your walk?” I suggested.
“Well, I don’t know,” he replied. “I have my regrets and my pleasures too. Of course I have nothing to employ me. But I am alright. I had to retire any way, because I have had my turn.
Most of Mr. Howes happy memories are centered round the breakwater, and he recalls the day when it was opened. With two comrades – Harry Fiddler and Jack (“Tich”) Preston – he left Redcar in a boat and arrived there when the celebrations were at their height. Mines, torpedoes, and soldiers – probably the Royal Engineers – come back to vague confusion to him over the years, for Mr. Howes memory is not too good now. But he remembers it was a great day, one of the greatest in his life, anyway, and he remembers that “a whole train load of men, and some big ‘bummers’ came down that time.
The breakwater, says Mr. Howes has not altered in one detail since the day it was opened.
Talking of the breakwater, we had to discuss storms and heavy seas, and I was told frequently the waves break right over the top of the light beams. On one occasion Mr. Howes remembers a terrific one breaking the window.
“We had to go up and mend it,” he remarked. Such apparently are the depressions by the sea that for forty two years Mr. Howes and his mates have been kept busy repairing and strengthening it! “There was always plenty to do,” he commented, “but there isn’t the work there that there used to be. They have to get a new ‘mixer’ for one thing, and that has ousted several labourers. At one time there would be twenty or thirty men there. When I retired it would leave only six. “But I suppose they have got another man now, and that will make seven again,” he added wistfully.
Mr. Howes and his mates had a big thrill three or four years ago. In a hole beneath the wall they saw some large creature floundering. Was it a man? Or could it be a sea serpent? It was Eddie Crump (if Mr. Howes remembers rightly) who settled the question and proved it was neither. Jumping into the water he secured a rope round the largest fish they had ever seen, and Mr. Howes and another labourer hauled it up. What species of fish it was Mr. Howes is unable to say, “But it was tremendous,” he declares, “The fins were at least a yard long.”
When I left Mr. Howes he was still thinking hard. “My memory is not what it used to be,” he explained. I cannot remember half the interesting things I have seen.”
Mr. Howes who lives in Redcar has been a resident for some sixty years.
dean May 25, 2010 Redcar