We bid a fond farewell to Ian Nelson at the end of this month as he retires after 36 years + of service with us at Johnsons. Ian has been involved with many different positions across the nursery, from general nursery work to spraying and production manager from 2003 until recently. See what he had to say about his time at Johnsons below:
1) How long have you worked at JOW for? If you exclude my Student middle year, then it’s 36.5 years.
2) Did you work anywhere else prior to Johnsons? Yep, loads of places. I left school (their decision) in 1971, aged 15. I started out dairy farming, which I liked as a job, but had to live in a weird family!! I did a heap of jobs over the next couple of years (you could leave a job in the morning & line up another one in the day) – my shortest job was 45 minutes in the Ansaphone factory, which definitely wasn’t for me. I was scaffolding for some time before making a career choice of nursing which was good for 3 years or so. Ultimately, I started with the plants for Darlington Borough Council in 1979 and realised this was what I wanted to do, so I studied at night school for A Levels & went to Askham Bryan to do an HND (& I have never looked at those files since!!). Although it wasn’t a conventional early career, and I wasn’t the most reliable of employees, all those jobs I did gave me something.
3) What roles have you been involved in on the nursery? I can rightly claim it is from the bottom up. I Did my shift of tying-up roses. The first promotion was taking charge of the spraying. That grew into being Technical Manager. Things got bolted on to that remit as the nursery grew. I moved over to being Production Manager at the very start of 2003.
4) What have you enjoyed the most about your time at JOW? a bit corny but it is mostly about the people. There’s been a good team spirit. The culture of the company has suited me. Quite possibly would have been sacked years ago in a wholly conventional workplace. I am a plants-person, so the new introductions and range changes kept me interested, and you can’t escape the fact that you do get satisfaction from successes that you’ve been an integral part of.
5) Funniest memory from working here? Well, Terry & Dave wouldn’t be too impressed, and I am probably going back 25+years, but Cyril Burnham driving the Land Rover in the fields at Endfield had us laughing. He was 65 & had never driven a vehicle before. You missed a character for those of you who don’t remember him, Tweedy. Perhaps now there aren’t as many characters as there were – Yapper, Jim Illingworth would brighten up your day even when you were working in a muddy field.
6) If you could have done any other career, what would it have been? In a perfect world, I’d have liked to have been an architect – and designed something that was still admired years later.
7) What has changed most over the years? That depends on how long you look back. Going right back to when I started was an extremely seasonal job. At times it was a struggle to keep looking busy in the summer, but in the ‘season’, you’d find yourself lifting trees in the pitch black and then bagging & loading until 9.00 in the evening. Over the last 20 years, change has been more gradual, we’ve got bigger and probably better, but radical change is less evident.
8) Any exciting plans for retirement? I’m going to have a little business, but I want to work only part-time. I’m a Director at the golf club and have responsibilities there. Now that travel is becoming more feasible; we’ll be travelling again, still many countries to experience. I expect we’ll spend more time up at the cottage in Scotland. So plenty to look forward to. But I’m sure it will, certainly initially, feel strange not coming to the place you’ve been arriving at before 7.30 for the last 35+ years.
Robert Richardson took over from Ian Nelson in 2020; you can find out more about him and production at Johnsons 100 years on by clicking here
Posted 8th Feb 11:45am