VIDEO: Woodturner Eric notches up 50 years with same firm

CHANGING jobs goes against the grain for a worker who is celebrating half a century of unbroken service with the same South Tyneside timber company.

Pensioner Eric Gibbins, 65, has never considered branching out to any other firm in his 50 years with Jarrow-based MH Southern & Co Ltd.

UNBROKEN SERVICE ... MH Southern wood machinist Eric Gibbins has done 50 years in the job.

UNBROKEN SERVICE ... MH Southern wood machinist Eric Gibbins has done 50 years in the job.

Eric joined one of the longest established timber firms in Tyneside in September 1962.

Dozens of fellow workers and management celebrated the employment milestone by presenting Eric with a teak garden bench, complete with a plaque, before all tucking into a fish and chip meal and a special cake for the long-serving wood machinist.

Mr Gibbins, who started working for MH Southern as a 15-year-old apprentice, said: “I’ve never considered working for anyone else, because this is a good firm, who are straight and honest with the workforce.

“I get on with all the lads at Southern’s, and never wanted to be anything other than a wood machinist, which I enjoy doing.”

But Mr Gibbins, of Felling, Gateshead, who prepares raw redwood and cedar timber for numerous applications, including skirting boards and dado rails, is eventually hoping to retire in November.

He added: “I love fishing, and my garden, so I will have plenty to keep me busy.”

Mr Gibbins is the only staff member who started work at the company’s original premises, in Skinnerburn Road on Newcastle’s Quayside, before the firm moved shortly afterwards to its current location, in Church Bank, Jarrow.

Company managing director, James Southern, said: “Eric is our longest-serving employee, but we have others who have worked for us for about 40 years.”

MH Southern is now the only remaining timber importer left in the Tyne Dock area, where it has been based since June 1, 1963.

Much has changed in the timber business since Mr Gibbins started work, including the introduction of fork-lifts and sideloaders, rather than the old cranes and manual labour to move timber around yards.

Also gone are the logs floating in the Tyne prior to sawmilling, which are now stored on land.

In his presentation speech to his long-serving employee, Mr Southern said that Mr Gibbins had shown “unbelievable loyalty” to the company over the last 50 years.

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