How a temporary job turned into 50-year career
A STALWART Star Cobbler who hung up his boots at the start of lockdown has told how a temporary job turned into a career that spanned more than 50 years.
David Haywood was only 18 when he started work at a traditional cobbler in Star Yard, Barnard Castle, in 1966.
He said: “I’d just sat my O-Levels and agreed to start at the shop as they said they wanted someone temporary, but I never left. I had wanted to work on the railways, but there weren’t many job openings at the time.”
“So I began work at the cobblers – back then the business was owned by Andy Hancock – the same year as England won the football World Cup.
“Andy started the business in 1950 and his son who worked with him had to leave as he was allergic to something in the workshop, so there was a job going.”
Back then cobbling was a booming trade in Barnard Castle with five businesses in town. They were kept busy repairing hobnail army boots from troops stationed at camps in Teesdale, as well as the demand for handmade wooden-soled work boots, which were crafted on site.
There was also any number of dainty stilettos that needed re-heeling.
Mr Haywood added: “The layout of the shop was a little different back then. It was slightly bigger and we had a separate work room that had a connecting door into the shoe shop, Andersons, at the front, but the work was the same.”
“We used to make work boots at the shop. But we stopped doing them as we just couldn’t get the materials. We used to get the wooden soles from Keverstone Bank and the leather uppers were from Scots in Carlisle.
“It’s like a lot of things – fashions change. When I started there was only one type of glue we used but then when rubber soles got popular, we had to have primers and different glues for different finishes. A lot of the time you had to play around to see what worked.”
Five years after starting, Mr Haywood became a partner, before he took over when Mr Hancock retirement. He increased the range of consumable items and also purchased a key cutting machine.
He said: “I did a bit of investing and brought on a few more lines and different shoe polishes and got myself the key machine.
“I had a guy come out and give me an hour of his time and then I was on my own – it wasn’t the best training in the world.
“The only thing I didn’t get into was watch batteries.”
During his five decades at the business in Star Yard, Mr Haywood, who described “working with your hands” as a great career, only had three apprentices.
He said: “One fella only lasted a day and never returned. There was another one and he stayed for three years but I had to let him go when trade dropped.
“I ran the business by myself until a crafty fella walked in and asked if he could buy the business. He said he would work for me for six months so I could train him up and then he would take over.
“But even after that I didn’t leave.”
His last apprentice, Adrian Andrews, purchased the business in 2003 and they continued to work alongside each other until this year.
Mr Haywood said: “I had been working part time in the mornings and had been thinking about retiring in April, but when this Covid thing came along it came a bit earlier.
“I’ve got lots of things to keep my busy at home.
“I’m working on a railway preservation project at Warkworth, in Northumberland, and once I get up to speed with computers, I’ll continue giving talks and presentations on Railwayana.”