Mike Ponsonby 17/02/2019
I received this message from Mike Ponsonby with the picture of Sparrows old Gottwald 1000 tonne crane, it is now uprated to 1500 tonnes capacity and still going strong.
Mike says his friend Brian Finnie knows the owner of the Gottwald GMK-1500 Crane, before it was Refurbished and Rebuilt at Dundee.
Mike says that, 520 Men, Women and Children have been Killed in 575 Fatal Incidents involving Cranes and Lifting Operations Worldwide since 7thMay 2007, Mike is an “Advocate of Worker Safety”.
Mike will be making his fifth presentation in 12 months on Crane Safety at The King Malcolm Hotel in Dunfermline on Wed 20thMarch 2019
And would like you personally to attend as my Guest if possible, please?
Subject to remaining in good health I have accepted Mikes offer to his presentation, and whilst I’m in the area make a visit to Dundee where the old Gottwald 1000 tonne crane is working with its up-graded-capacity of 1500 Tonnes. Should be an interesting couple of days.
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<< >>28th December 2018
Sparrows live on.
Had three contacts during the holidays
No 1. Was from Joe Kavanagh
I started with Sparrows in Barrow, my first job was building oil rig jackets, I then spent 3 yrs in Pembroke. From Pembroke I went offshore on the North West Hutton rig operating a pedestal mounted Ajax crane. After leaving Offshore I was employed at Newcastle building the Nissan factory, I met Alf Sparrow on many occasions he bought me an alarm clock, long story I will tell you some time/
Mary my wife wanted me to stop travelling so I spoke to Alf about this. I was sad to be leaving Sparrows, so I was sent to Cheadle plant which Sparrows had bought out. My best job was with Tony Hayhurst* sorting the heavy cranes out as they went on hire. Our boss was Dave Barnaby, they were wonderful times, Dave was a great boss with a very good sense of humour, I guess he needed it with us lot. This is just a brief list of the things I did with a great company Frank, will talk again, you have a nice Christmas and a lucky New Year, I am so lucky to have come across your web site last week.
*Tony Hayhurst was working in Saudi Arabia when I was there in 1982/4
No 2. Was from Nick James
Nick is the grandson of George James, George was a long-term employee of Sparrows, he began as a crane operator and worked on one of the first 100-ton capacity Lorain cranes, (Dave Barnaby worked on the Lorain with George for a while).
George went on to become Training manager of the training school at Bath headquarters, besides training Sparrows operators he also trained operators for the petroleum companies such as BP and Shell, and several others from the construction industry.
He would travel around Sparrow depots and train existing operators on the various new cranes as they came into service from the manufacturers. George was a very popular man and a well-respected person at Sparrows and the construction industry. (There are previous entries on this site regarding George).
No 3. Was from my grandson Lee.
I’m with a girl whose Dad worked for several years with Sparrows at Bath, his name was Julian Gamow and he was Polish. I (Frank) am not familiar with the name, but if he worked in Bath he may have been with the transport division or Contract Services, possibly joining Sparrows when they took over the Bath branch of Beck and Pollitzer*, this is only a guess and someone out there might recognise the name. Julian went on to work for Haliburton in the middle East, Rezayat Sparrow worked with Haliburton on several projects in Saudi Arabia.
*Beck and Pollitzer were a Transport and Machinery Installation company that operated out of Locksbrook road in Bath, B & P also had a depot in London.
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Had this picture from Alf’s wife, Pat. A few days ago Pat looked out the window of her apartment at Looe in Cornwall and saw the Red jib of a crane working in the harbour, the crane was a brand new 60ton capacity Liebherr from Tim Sparrows depot in Plymouth. Pat thought how proud Alf would have been too have seen the crane there in Sparrows red and cream livery that Tim has kept for his own fleet, I’m sure George and Gordon would have shared Alf’s thoughts too.
The legend lives on.
20th September 2018
I heard that Sparrows original Gottwald 1000 tonne crane had been upgraded to 1500 tonnes capacity and was now owned by Oilfield Machinery Ltd at Dundee, I emailed the MD, Mr Alexander Fyfe and he kindly sent me some pictures of the crane at its new location. A credit to Gottwald and the current owners as the machine is now 36 years old and looks like new. >
Had this message from Jim Barnes, Jim recently bought a copy of my book, he has sent me a couple of pictures that I will add later, below is a copy of Jims history at Sparrows, and afterwards:
Hi Frank ,
Thanks for email, my time at Sparrows started in 1969 when I followed my brother Bob to Southampton depot where he was working, I started out on small struts 15 ton Allen etc then on to telescopic of various sizes and crawler cranes Atlas, Andes, and a long stint on the Coles telescopic Crawler, then the highlight in 1985 the last large telescopic crane Sparrows bought the Liebherr LT1200 200 tonne that lasted till BET took over then became GWS , my colleague Bill Hillier and myself went to work for Baldwins on the 250 Krupp and worked all over the country from Faslane sub-base to Plymouth docks, we must have worked on all the refineries and chemical works all over the country , Baldwin knew how to make a crane work we were always busy, ended up as sales rep for Baldwin in Southampton depot, he had six cranes there and we ended up with thirty eight when Ainscough took over I ended up Area Sales Manager till I retired in 2012, I very much remember the lads at Sparrows and the good times we had, our managers at Southampton were Graham Yeomans, Barry Mildren, Ivor Sewell, and David Sparrow (he was a character) rigged some big cranes with Mick Burke, Dave Hitchcock, Pete van Mere, John McLean, met Fred Orledge he always smelt after-shave, met up again with Pete and Dave on Baldwin’s, they had the Demag TC 2800 great characters I think we had some good grounding working for Sparrows it was all good experience, in all my working life with cranes I still look back and think of the times we had at Sparrows, I loved my trips to head office and Bristol workshops, I’m sorry if I rattled on a bit but it’s good to communicate with you, I have got some good photos, when I get home I’ll dig them out .
<< New image with text >>Received this picture of a Manitowoc 4100 Model crane that Mike Bass has imported from the U.S.A. Mike calls it his new toy, he intends to have a display early in the New Year of this crane and a Liebherr Crawler crane of similar size that he imported from Austria. He also has some trucks painted in Sparrows old livery that he intends to display with them, it should be quite a show. I will post details of location etc as soon as I have cleared them with Mike.
31st July 2018
I received this picture from Stephen Taylor/Casson a model maker, he follows the web site and recently bought a copy of my book, the picture shows the model he has already made and his words are here below:
Model took about two years of evenings and weekends to build, scale approx 1/12th, it is built from Styrene/ wood and metal, I have made every part including the Wheels, it is fully working and has a main boom of about 5mtrs, currently building the maxi lift and heavy-duty fly jib*.
Spent years collecting information and photos and was lucky enough to obtain a couple of Drawings from Grayston White and Sparrow, Bev Hitchcock also supplied some information and Photos. Next project will probably be the 500 Ton Krupp owned by Sparrows.
*I will be loading this picture later.
I had more copies of my book printed “Flying with Sparrows” and have a few left, its A4 size with 105 pages including 26 pages of pictures from the original cranes to the 1000 tonne Gottwald. The book is printed on better quality paper and the colour pictures throughout the book are clear and bright. If anyone fancies a copy they cost £9.60 each to print and I will send by first class mail for £11.00 (eleven pounds including postage) if interested please send me your email address and we can go from there. Look forward to hearing from you, copy of front cover below.
AHD 999 coming onboard Brent Bravo from DB 100. Picture sent to me by Richard Dazliel he sent another of a slew ring change by Sparrow Offshore engineers I will load that later with more comments.
Received the following message from Derek Chapman
Derek was a Sales Representative back in the good old days and worked out of Exeter Depot, John Frost was a fitter who worked at the depot when Start Gregory had his promotion to Depot Manager. In later years when Stuart became co-director of the general crane division with Tony Codd, John was promoted and became manager of Bristol workshops.
Sad news today that John Frost the fitter that worked at Exeter Depot during the late 60's and early 70's and eventually took over the workshops at Bristol in Stuart Gregory's time has passed away. Another Sparrow falls from the nest.
Left to right: Julie Darra (Frank's daughter), George Brown, Barry Barnes, Jim Hagan, Dave Barnaby, Barry Mildren, Colin Marshall, Frank Sumsion, John Allen, Norma (John's partner), Colin Darrra (Frank's son in law).
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Left to right: Julie Darra (Frank's daughter), George Brown, Barry Barnes, Jim Hagan, Dave Barnaby, Barry Mildren, Frank Sumsion, John Allen, Norma (John's partner).
Left to right: Barry Mildren, Colin Marsahll, Frank, John Allen.
27th January 2018
Saturday the 27th January proved to be a very special day for me, a reunion with some of my old friends and colleagues from the memorable days at Sparrows.
1. George Brown Scotland
2. Colin Marshall London
3. Dave Barnaby Bath
4. Barry Mildren Bath
5. Jim Hagan Bath
6. John Allen Scunthorpe
7. Barry Barnes (Demag) London
Friends and colleagues:
George Brown joined the company when Sparrow Offshore was formed. Before becoming a member of the group sales and marketing team George worked in Scotland, on some of the major contracts that Sparrows were involved in ‘North of the Border’, Methil, Montrose and Scott Lithgow amongst others. He also worked for a while in equipment sales. George now runs his own decorating business from his home in Ayr and with Jeanette, his partner, has a passion for classic cars.
Colin Marshall worked from Colnbrook, near Slough, as a sales representative and whilst there he enjoyed a successful career. Eventually Colin joined group sales and marketing. After leaving Sparrows Colin purchased a low-loader, driving it himself. Colin has gone on to build a successful transport and crane business from his home near Camberley and is currently heavily involved at Heathrow.
Dave Barnaby. Dave is one of Sparrows longest-serving employees. He started as a trainee operator working on heavy cranes with the likes of George James. As his career progressed Dave moved to the sales team and advanced to become the youngest Sparrows depot manager, he was based at Didcot. The Didcot depot had been created to service companies involved in the erection of a major power station. Dave gained further experience as depot manager at London before moving on to Plymouth, again as depot manager. Returning to London he then became operations manager with Sparrows Heavy Cranes. Some time later Dave returned to Bath but was soon on the move again, this time heading north to Scunthorpe. Eventually he became northern area manager working from Cheadle, heavy cranes were relocated here. Dave joined Grayston White and Sparrow for several years working from Stockton-on-Tees. Finally he joined Alatas and moved to the Midlands. Dave still works four days a week.
Barry Mildren. Barry joined Sparrows as a sales representative and quickly became popular. He was a considerable benefit to the sales team with knowledge of two languages, French and Spanish. Barry and I were together when the company won a contract for two Manitowoc cranes to work on the re-enforcement of the sea wall at St Cyprian, in the north of Spain. Sparrows, along with Montalev, purchased the 1000 tonne Gottwald and Barry was obvious choice as company manager for the newly-formed Montalev Sparrow. Barry relocated, with his family, to Grenoble and later to Paris. Approximately three years later this company was dissolved. Barry, with myself and Alf Sparrow, negotiated the terms of the company break-up and Sparrows became outright owners of the Gottwald. Barry’s successful career continued within the crane manufacturing industry and came to an end at Seward Wyon. After holding several positions Barry had progressed to become company chairman. Barry still has his marvellous sense of humour and enjoys fast cars and his love of motorcycling.
Jim Hagan. Jim spent many years as manager of Rezayat Sparrow, based in AL Khobar, Saudi Arabia. On his return to the UK he became responsible for the Heavy Crane Division and worked with Dave Barnaby at Scunthorpe. Sparrows were taken over in 1986 and Jim became involved with Gordon Sparrow and Derek Flatley (former Financial Director) when Gordon bought Coventry Crane Hire. Dave Barnaby also joined the same company for a while. Eventually Jim made his way back to Saudi and Kuwait working very successfully for the Rezayat family. Jim is now retired and living in Bath.
John Allen. John became involved with Sparrows when the company purchased Butterworth’s Cranes based in Scunthorpe. John was an established electrician with a good knowledge of Health and Safety and his knowledge was a valuable asset when Sparrows negotiated major contracts. John eventually became Group Safety Officer. His expertise in crane electrics proved invaluable at a later date, when the 1000 tonne Gottwald was badly damaged during a journey to New Zealand. John still enjoys a career in health and safety and presents lectures throughout the country.
Barry Barnes (Demag). Barry, although not employed by Sparrows, was very popular with the brothers and well-known throughout the company. Barry negotiated the sale of most of the Demag cranes purchased by Sparrows and was an ever-present during demonstrations of new machines at Bath and depots throughout the country. Barry is now retired and enjoys sailing.
Saturday 23rd December 2017 Heard through Barry Mildren that Dave Jakobi had sadly passed away.Will update this when I have more news from Barry.
My grandson, David, sent me two photos a few days ago. He is a keen golfer and a member of Bath Golf Club. David contacted me directly from the course and sent me these photographs via his telephone. The first photo shows David with Paul Edgehill, Paul was one of the senior engineers with Sparrows Contract Services. David is with Tony Codd in the second picture, Tony is an ex-director of Sparrows Cranes and later became General Manager of Rezayat Sparrow in Saudi Arabia. I’m pleased to say both are in good health, in their retirement, and enjoying their golf. It’s a small world.
22/09/2017. Harry Taylor.
Sad news, Harry Taylor has passed away. Harry and I worked on the first NCK 15 ton capacity crane for a year or two. Harry then joined Sparrows Contract services as a manager in the Plant Installation Department. He was a great character, always laughing and joking and was popular with everyone who knew him. Harry leaves a son and daughter Robert and Elizabeth, he will be sorely missed, RIP Harry.
Harry is seen here on the left, with Bert Baker one of our other operators standing and I'm sitting on the crane, they were great days.
24th August 2017
It's a small world, it seems the web site is still coming up with new visitors.
I heard from Carole Kent (Stuart Gregory’s daughter) she had met Chris James (George James son), Chris told her about the web site and Carole and her partner spent a long evening going through the various sections and seeing lots of names that she remembered when Stuart was a director.
For those of you not familiar with those names Stuart worked for The Group for 30 years going from crane operator to Director and George operated one of the 110 ton Lorain cranes before becoming head instructor in charge of Sparrows operator training school at Bath.
A Facebook friend also sent me a picture that he knew I might be interested in, it is one of Tim Sparrows crane’s working at Sand Bay near Weston Super Mare, nice to see a crane in those old familiar colours.
Recently I heard from George James son Chris, Chris had been looking through some old photographs and came upon this picture, George remained friends with Allen Morris for many years after Sparrows were taken over in 1986.
The picture was taken in July 2009 when George visited Allen‘s home at Cullompton in Devon where Allen raised a few Arabian horses, Allen with his mop of silver hair was then sadly in the early stages of dementia, it was their last meeting as George passed away in January 2010 and Allen passed away in Dec 2012.
Sad indeed to see this picture of two old employees who played a very active part in the growth of the old company. Allen was manager at Bath Depot and George was chief crane instructor and manager of the company’s crane operators training school in Bath. RIP George and Allen.
26th July 2017 Heard from Martyn Bealing that his father Fred Bealing had passed away, Fred worked in Sparrows Transport Division at Bristol, he drove the Scammel low loaders notably NFB 44 when he worked at times with Norman Small on the 1000 Ton Gottwald.
Another old Sparrow employee has left the nest as Dave Barnaby would say. RIP Fred.
Colin Marshall 17th February 2017
Another old colleague has come to light.
Colin Marshall one of the Sales Reps originally based at Colnbrook (London) depot sent me a message after being in contact with Barry Mildren.
After spending 12 years with Sparrows Colin bought himself a low-loader, business was good and he bought a second one and from there he has built a very successful company, Colin still trades under his original trading name K-C-S. he still operates from Camberley and has another operation working at Stanwell (Heathrow)
His company web site is www.ksctransport.org and well worth a look at to see what Colin has achieved.
Frank Sumsion 25/01/2017
Found this Leaflet that was handed out to every passenger aboard a flight on Concorde, this one was from my first flight and it details all the things you may endure during the flight, such as the slight nudge in your back as you pass through the sound barrier and telling you that at full speed you travel 23 miles per minute, it is easy to see the curvature of the earth when you are flying at 60,000 ft, I shall never forget the experience and having the opportunity to fly from Washington to Heathrow on 5 occasions, this was during its first year of operations and before Concorde was allowed to fly from New York.
Received this picture of the new dinghy that Alfs wife Pat has placed in Looe, Cornwall, in memory of Alf, Pat still lives in Looe and the dinghy is just down the road from her home. The original wooden dinghy was beginning to show its age and Pat located this new metal boat, this is the result. a very appropiate tribute to Alf. Many thanks Pat for letting us share your memories and keeping Alf and Sparrow International Crane Hire still in the limelight... a company second to none.
Dave Stockman 23/01/2017
This is the second time I have visited the site. Just a short history of my career for you.
My father got me an interview with Robin Shelley at Sparrows in 1972, shortly after I received a phone call from Brian Piercy to start work as a rigger working with Sparrows Contract Services out of the Bristol depot. I did not have a Construction Industry Union card and in those days, it was a 3year waiting time to obtain one.
I worked on the M4 beam installation at Kenfig Viaduct in South Wales. Could tell you lots of stories of the teething problems. I also worked on the project for Shell at Newhaven where Sparrows 500tonne Gottwald crane double lifted with a 350tonne Gottwald crane shipped from Holland, for the lift we used an off-set lifting beam and a special tailing in frame, both designed by Sparrows, I then moved on to the Thames Barrier and several other projects.
Later I became self-employed, Brian Hurley (ex Sparrows) got me 2 projects with what was then Plant Landing Services, I joined Colin and Paul Sands and later worked on a project in Saudi.
Returning to the UK I joined Seward Wyon for several years installing container cranes and so on. I resigned from them after a disagreement with a member of staff.
Paul Edgil (ex Sparrow) asked me to join Hewden Stewart Heavy Lift Division and I was employed during the dismantling of the CO 2 Nuclear boilers at Berkeley power station. Sadly, my Dad died in April 1995, this upset me and I wanted to get away.
I applied for a position with Foster wheeler and worked for them in Thailand for a 6-month period and I missed seeing Mike Seward who was also working on a project in Thailand at the time but I was unable to contact him. I then returned to UK. In 1996 I pestered Bob Barnes for a position with Mammoet, this is when Mammoet took over Decalift (Barry Mildren and John Parsons worked here). John then formed his own company SES and later made a partnership with Sarens. From then on I worked for over 20 years with either Mammoet or Sarens enjoying senior positions that allowed me to work and train other people in the heavy lift industry.
I can truthfully say that I would not have had a successful life in this industry if it not been for the experience I gained during those early days working at Sparrow’s with, at that time, some of the very best guys in the Heavy Lift Industry, Brian Frost, Brian Piercy, Ray Windlass, Jack Chapman, and Fred Orledge, it was a pleasure working and training with them.
Finally, my family and me are now living in Thailand, we visited a resort restaurant, during a conversation
with the owner he informed me that an ex Sparrow employee lived in the house next door, so being polite I knocked on their door. A lady (Mikes wife) answered and I explained myself and the
husband was Mike Seward. We talked of old times and I contacted Bob Barnes and he came down for an afternoon.
I was also lucky to have worked and lived close to Mick Burke (Ex Sparrow Heavy Cranes) who passed away a few years ago.
I have fantastic memories.
PS. please give my regards to Dave Barnaby
17th December 2016
Received this picture from Mike Seward of his lovely home in Thailand, the bungalow was built on the site of an original one, it is built on stilts in case of flooding but this helps to keep the house cool along with the already installed air conditioning, the interior has highly polished floors and all bedroooms are en-suite, all in all a fantastic home. see other pictures below.
28th October 2016
I was recently in Cornwall with my daughter Julie and her husband Colin. Whilst there I had the opportunity to visit Alf’s widow Pat, at her home in Looe.
I was eager to see not only Pat but the Floral dinghy that she has sponsored in memory of Alf,
Pat made us most welcome at her lovely apartment overlooking the harbour and seafront, where she spent so many happy years with Alf until he passed away in 2012.
Pat treated us to Champagne and sandwiches and we drank to “Absent friends”.
Later Julie and Colin went for a walk around the harbour, leaving Pat and me to reminisce about Alf and the good old days at Sparrows.
Before leaving we went with Pat to see the Red Coloured Dinghy that Pat sponsors, it is just a few yards from Pats apartment and dedicated to Super Sparrow (Alf of course) and that is written on the side of the dinghy together with old Super Sparrow logo.
It was lovely to visit Pat, there were emotional moments of course, …...so many memories.
Pat and me sitting in front of Alf's memorial, and below me in Pat's home sitting in the seat where Alf enjoyed his view of the harbour.
4th October 2016
Received this picture of Sparrows old headquarters from my son, Mike. The building is now an apartment block and two extra storey's have been added. The basement still appears to be a carpark. There was a lift in the original office block serving the basement and the two upper floors, it was situated central and to the rear of the building. Evidently the apartments are a reasonable size and like all property in Bath these days do not come cheap.
Mike said he thought the site looked sad, and it certainly does when you compare it to the original offices on this site's home page. The building and site were always kept in pristine condition complementing the entrance to the city.
Hopefully the new owners will clean the exterior of the old building to match the new storey's and then tidy the whole site, at present it looks an eyesore to those visitors approaching the city from the west.
How times change.
3rd October 2016
Heard the sad news from Dave Barnaby today that Ted Boyce has passed away at the age of 95, Ted was a one of Sparrows characters, he joined as an engineer and became involved in crane inspections and accidents on site, later on he assisted Elizabeth White the director of Sparrows Crane Sales (Used Cranes).
Ted was a Japanese POW and when the first Japanese cranes came on the market he was opposed to the company buying them but when he saw how well they were engineered he relented a little.
Ted was remembered very often for a comment he made when going to lunch with one of the brothers and two Japanese crane sales representatives, his famous words were " I was once a guest of your Emperor for 4 or 5 years (POW)" that was Ted, I think it was taken with good spirit. RIP Ted.
21st September 2016
Received another very comprehensive story of the how the Thames Barrier project progressed from the day it was first envisaged and put out to contract, at this time Mike Seward was still employed by Cleveland Bridge, Mike left Cleveland Bridge to become Director of SCS, it makes very good reading, it is in the Sparrows Contract Services section.
30th July 2016
I have received more details and pictures of contracts carried out by SCS from Mike Seward and have put them under a new heading Sparrows Contract Services, they make very interesting reading.
28th July 2016
I have received details of two interesting projects from Mike Seward they make very intersting reading especially the one concerning the 1000 tonne Gottwalds first project in Indonesia. Take a look they are under the section News from previous directors.
Received this very apt picture from Dave Barnaby of Gordon's cortege and the following message from Barry Mildren regarding Gordon’s funeral and those attending
Received this message from Barry Mildren
Home in time (From Spain) to make it to Gordon’s funeral. Quite a few old faces there. Barry Barnes and Rita, Big Sylve, little Julie who was infatuated by George James, Jim Hagan, Dave Barnaby, Bev Hitchcock, Trevor Harvey, Tony Codd, Margaret Berry, Pat Sparrow, what a lovely lady! Merv and Wendy, and quite a few of the drivers. All in all, a good turnout and I believe the family were pleased. Poor Mark Sparrow was really suffering and Leigh gave an excellent eulogy which was light and bright and gave a very honest picture of his dad. Tim was his usual quiet self and told me he was glad it was over for Gordon because the last few weeks had been difficult for Gordon. I was surprised to see that he (Gordon) was only 83 years old. All in all, a very balanced affair. RIP Gordon.
It's comforting to know that Gordon's traditions are in safe hands and will be maintained by his family.
I was sorry that I could not attend but have health problems at the moment, my sincere condolences are with Sheila and the family as we have said before it is the end of an era.
George Brown 14/06/2016
Some of you will recall George Brown, one of our popular sales representatives in Scotland. Recently George’s wife, Jeanette, found the Sparrows website enabling George to make contact.
He mentioned that he would like to renew our acquaintance and a meeting was arranged.
George and Jeanette travelled to Lincoln last weekend (12th June, 2016) and stayed locally overnight.
It is some years since we were last together, however, he has hardly altered (we are pictured together outside my home). George has retained the positive attitude to life that earned him respect all those years ago.
During their visit we recalled many good times. One memory we spoke about was when Gordon and myself flew with the executives of Cammel Laird, to Clydeside, to see the Gottwald 1000 tonne crane on site, prior to their hiring it for a long-term contract at Birkenhead.
George worked for several companies after the takeover of Sparrows but, like so many of us, said no company could match ‘Sparrows’ . . . they were the best.
George and I intend to meet again sometime in the future.
2nd June 2016 Gordon Sparrow
I heard the sad news this morning that Gordon, the last of the three brothers who formed the company, died yesterday at the age of 82. Gordon was the youngest brother.
My thoughts and condolences go out to Sheila, Tim, Leigh, Mark and the rest of the family at this sad time.
After national service in the Royal Engineers, Gordon returned to Bath in 1949 and joined his brothers and their venture into the crane hire business. He quickly became as active in the progress of the company as they were.
I have clear memories of Gordon. Once he and I drove a small Dodge breakdown lorry (ex War Department) on a snow-covered icy morning during the winter of 1957. We were expected to rescue two overturned lorries, one was situated at Brassknocker Hill, south of Bath, and the other at Box hill, to the east of the city. I was a novice crane operator and this was my first vehicle recovery. Gordon was skilled in crane operation and both vehicles were recovered and up-righted without further damage.
I learnt many things on that cold morning, such as the art of using winches and the placing of slings and chains in the correct position to save further damage to vehicles that had been involved in accidents, however, to Gordon it all seemed natural.
I remember too that Gordon had been wearing his overalls, they had been No 3 on the hanging rack; Alf’s and George’s were numbers 1 and 2, and mine . . . No 12.
Overalls? Gordon and his brothers were all operating cranes alongside other employees in those early days.
I will always remember Gordon as a gentleman, a true professional in the crane hire industry.
Note: The following link, from Vertikal Crane Magazine (of which Leigh, Gordon’s son, is owner and editor), pays tribute to Gordon and also Sparrow International Crane Hire:
April 1st 2016
Malcolm Mitchell an associate and friend of Tony Codd (An ex director of Sparrow Crane Hire in Bath) has recently been in touch with me regarding his son Robert, as a young lad Robert was very interested in cranes often seeing Sparrow Cranes pass by at Keynsham where he lived.
He wrote to "Jim i’ll Fixit" to see if he could arrange a chance to drive a crane but received no reply, his Dad suggested writing to Sparrows, the outcome was a day off school to visit Sparrows Training school at their headquarters in Bath.
It turned out to be a great day for him as his visit to Sparrows attracted the attention of the local press and was shown on HTV , it really made a day to remember for him. He was seen operating a large crane under the guidance of Ron Wall one of Sparrows operators. ( See entry under Newspaper cuttings in the Photo section of the web site)
Robert never became a crane operator but ironically his cousin Philip is now employed as an accountant for Tim Sparrow the owner of Sparrow Crane Hire Ltd at their base in Keynsham, nr Bristol. (Tim is the son of Gordon Sparrow of Sparrows International Crane Hire)
Its a small world.
I recently heard from George Brown who was a Sales Representative based in Falkirk, George was a member of the Group Sales Team, he is now almost 72 years old and like all of us wonders where the years have gone.
During his time at Sparrows George was heavily involved with the Contract at Scott Lithgow on the Clyde when they hired the Demag CC4000 650/800 tonne crane for the final lifts on BPs Semi submersible rig the “Sea Explorer”
George has had quite a busy and interesting life since leaving the old company in 1986 and is now living in Ayrshire. Listed here is a list of Georges activities.
1. He designed and patented a device for securing shutters on vacant properties.
2. He designed and patented a device for lifting manhole covers.
3. He became a student in business study earning a MB then an MBA and started a Management and Leadership Training Company that is now in his daughter’s charge.
4. He was not ready to retire completely and now runs a decorating company, not on the tools though as he employs tradesman for the day today operations.
George did return to GWS crane hire for a 2-year period that gave him some earning and time to study.
Nice to know that George has done well and still lives a busy life.
23/12/2015 Percy Matten
Had following message from Derek Chapman today saying that Percy Matten had died aged 78
Derek says that when he joined Sparrows in 1971 Percy was driving a 35 ton Strut jib Coles crane out of Plymouth depot and that he had spent some time on various jobs with Percy enjoying breakfast cooked on the gas stove that he kept in the cab of his crane.
Percy eventually ended up as a sales rep at Plymouth and much later worked in Saudi before returning home to work on the oil rigs for Sparrow Offshore. Derek believes several of the old Plymouth Depot staff including Dave Barnaby (depot manager in those days) will attend his funeral that will be held at Weston Mills Crematorium on Thursday 31st December. RIP Percy.
Received a message from Chris Moore who was a structrural engineer back in 1979 and working in Leicester, he had occasion to hire the Grove self erecting crane to lift 3ton beams over scaffolding and said the crane was ideal for the work when being operated on a street in a busy city area. His picture is in black and white .
I heard sadly yesterday (1st December 2015) that Norman Small had passed away last year.
Norman was one of the operators of the Gottwald 1000 tonne crane, the first of its type in the world.
About four years ago Norman had a stroke whilst returning from Canada after visiting his granddaughter. He suffered loss of memory. His son-in-law, Kevin, told me that Norman had great respect for Sparrows and thought of them as his family.
Norman joined Sparrows in the early sixties and was soon established as an operator on one of the 110 tonne Lorain's, his partner was Dave Stockman.
When the 500 tonne Gottwald arrived in the early seventies Norman and Dave were trained to operate it and did so for almost ten years until the 1000 tonne Gottwald arrived. They were then sent to Germany and trained to operate what was at that time the largest truck crane in the world.
The crane was part of a new joint venture company, Montalev-Sparrow.
The crane’s first job was in Indonesia, it then worked at Rostock in East Germany.
Later it was shipped to the Hartland Point Refinery in New Zealand. It was here that the Gottwald made a world-record lift at that time, a vessel weighing 742 tonnes.
Norman was at the controls during this mammoth lift, there are several pictures of the lift in the New Zealand photo section, including a picture of Norman.
12th October 2015
Received this message from an old colleague, Chris Sampson, it explains itself.
On reflection a crane drivers life in the 60s was far different then before depots where opened around the country, crews could go
mouths without seeing each other. Here are a few names you may wish to add to your list of old employees;
Peter Hurley Worked on 50 ton Coles with Dave Stockman
Fred Newman. Work shop Forman/manager.
Ted White. Accounts
Graham King. Worked with Bill Woodman on a15ton NCK.
Paul Netherwood and Tony Bray, worked on a 30 ton Priestman before going to Offshore on the Riggs.
I spent 6 months working out of the Exeter depot when first opened.
Great memories, my how time as slipped by.
Sadly I lost all my photos when my depot closed at Wednesbury. I don't suppose by chance you have a copy of the 40 ton NCK with Eric & Charlie. lifting a stone at Stone Henge*, one of my grandsons is doing some studies on Stone Henge
I have just had my 75th birthday but keeping well,
If any other names come to mind I will let you know, in the meantime keep well nice to hear from you.
Kind regards Chris.
*I found the picture of the job at Stone Henge and forwarded it to him.
Dave Barnaby sent me this picture of the Lorain MC875 and the Coles Centurion, the cranes are waiting for a police escort at Abergavenny South Wales and returning to Bath after completing work at Clydach near Swansea, the operator at the front of the Lorain was Gwyn Thomas, at this time (1966) the Coles Centurion was rated as the largest truck in the world.
18th September 2015
Received this reference on Facebook from Dick Dalziel and thought it might bring back a few names and memories of Offshore.
You don’t know me as such, but it seems I have known you for years. You are a legend in the crane world, and we have mutual friends all over the place. When I left Stotherts I joined Sparrows Offshore Services and was with them for 13 years, all Offshore. My boss then was Angus Lyons and after that we had Ken Scott (who I think Is still at the helm}. I went on to become Crane Foreman on the Brent Bravo, Forties Alpha, Brae Alpha and Brae Bravo. Funnily enough, I have just come off line talking to Dennis Millard. Seen Ken Tailor some months ago. Bev Hitchcock lives in Cornwall as you probably know. Dave Barnaby, Charlie Keys, Geoff English etc. etc. The list is endless Frank. I am even in contact with Tony Sumsion in Australia as we were very good friends for years and years and more or less went everywhere together until I went into the Royal Navy. When I left ,we took up more or less where we left off, until he Emigrated to Ozz, bless him. Well that’s it in a nutshell, I will keep in touch Frank. At 72 years I probably speak your language. Hope you and yours are in good health.
12th June 2015 Roger Berry
Heard the sad news that Roger passed away this morning. He will be well remembered by everyone that worked at Sparrows, he was manager of Bristol Depot for many years and became South West Area manager in 1975.
When the company was taken over by Grayston, White, and Sparrow in 1986 he remained with the group until he retired.
He was well known in many circles in Bath being amongst many things, President of Bath Rugby club and a Member of Bath Rotary, and well known for the efforts he placed on charity work.
I am proud to have known him as a personal friend and he will be sadly missed, not only by his family and friends in Bath, but by the many other friends he had all around the country.
Our thoughts go to Margaret and all the family at this sad time.
Rest in peace Roger.
20th May 2015
Dave Barnaby found this picture of me taken with George Sheldrick, it was taken in 1980 at the Royal Hotel, Scunthorpe, George was one of the great characters in Heavy Cranes he joined the company from Plant Sales in London when Sparrows took them over, unfortunately George was killed whilst working on a project in Spain the following year he was sadly missed by us all.
1st April 2015
Heard the sad news that Dave Barnaby's partner Irene has passed away today. Irene had been ill for the past few months, and has recently been in hospital.
Dave met Irene when he was working on Teesside for Grayston White and Sparrow, They were friends for a few years before they became partners 20 years ago. They moved to Dudley in West Midlands when Dave began his employment with Alatas.
Irene was from Thornaby and at her request funeral arrangements will be held there where her close family live.
Dave has spent his working life in the crane industry and was Sparrow's youngest manager when they opened a new depot at Didcot for the building of the new Power station, he moved on to Plymton Depot in Devon before moving to the Heavy Crawler Crane Division in London as Operations manager. When Heavy Cranes moved to Scunthorpe Depot Dave became Senior Manager Heavy Cranes, his final move for the Company before the takeover by BET in 1985, was a move to Boothstown at Manchester where he became Northwest Area Manager with total responsibility for the Heavy Crane Division and the Local Crane Depot. After the takeover he relocated to Teesside with Grayston White and Sparrow.
Our thoughts and condolences are with Dave and Irene's family at this sad time.
9th March 2015
Lots of you will be familiar with the name Bev Hitchcock, Bev was the youngest employee at Sparrows when I began my career there in 1957.
I received a message from Bev's son Ian yesterday 7th March with an interesting statistic:
Ian Bev's son is the family third generation crane operator, it started with his grandfather Ted in the late 1950's;
1. Ted Hitchcock: Operated Sparrows first brand new crane, a Coles 10 ton Mobile.
2. Bev Hitchcock: Operated cranes of all types and spent his life in the crane industry.
3. Ian Hitchcock: Currently operates a 130ton Grove crane for King Lifting Bristol.
Ian tells me that his son Samual will also be a crane operator so the Hitchcock family will be looking at four generations working in the industry, is this a record?
Bev still has his own collection of over 400 model cranes in his own private crane museum at his home in Cornwall, he probably has the best collection of model cranes and Crane Industry memorabilia in the country, he spends many hours of his retirement keeping everything in good working order and as up to date as possible, a great credit to him.
18th February 2015
Heard the sad news that Betty Short has passed away aged 84 years, Betty was the first office lady (Girl) employed by Sparrows in the mid 1950's, this was during the days when the company had the old home made cranes and the boys were still serving petrol from the garage forecourt, Betty looked after the makeshift office and continued her career with the company to become the personal secretary for Alf, George, and Gordon.
Betty remained with the company until the last day and will be sadly missed by her family and the many friends she made during her career, Ron her husband still lives at their family home in Bath and our condolences go to him, RIP Betty, you were a true and loyal employee.
5th January 2015.
Some of you will remember Gordie (Gordon) Gunstone, he worked for Sparrows at Bath and Bristol for over 22 years, Paul, Gordies son was in touch and liked the site, he noticed that Gordie was not mentioned in the original employees list, he also mentioned Fred Newman and Fred Holt all long term employees, they were not include on the original list because I believe they started after or about 1961/2 and I could only remeber the ones mentioned from the days after I joined the company in 1957, Gordie worked at Sparrows until the final days working as afitter on Compny cars, vans, lorrries etc.will keep the site updated if other news crops up.
28th August 2014
Heard from Tony Mcmillan that Dave Evans had passed away at the end of 2011, Dave was the second operator of the 1000 tonne Gottwald when it worked in New Zealand. Dave stayed in NZ and went on to work in Christchurch for TITAN cranes in 1985, and operated smaller telescopic cranes during his time with them. Tony hopes to see Dave's stepson who has a collection of Dave's photos and Tony hopes to forward some of them to me. It is a small world.
7th April 2014
Received some great pictures of the Gottwald 1000 tonne crane being transported to Hartland Point in New Zealand, pictures courtesy of Tony Macmillan. The pictures are now in the New Zealand photo section. There is also a picture of the refinery.
17th July 2013
I have added a few more pictures courtesy of Leigh Sparrow in a separate file in the photo section under “New Pictures from the early days” there are also a few in the Sparrow family section.
George’s funeral at Haycombe was attended by some 80/90 members of family, several
of the old staff, and colleagues from the good old days at "Sparrows"
David and Karen held a reception at Beckford Gate that was well attended, sad but all part of life’s rich tapestry, lots of memories were recalled, with special one’s of George, his “Rolls” being parked out front with that well known registration plate GR900.
We were all sorry to hear the sad news of George's passing,
SPARROW George Richard Husband of the late Annie, died peacefully at RUH in Bath on 27th June aged 88. Much loved and greatly missed. Father, Brother, Grandpa and Great-Grandpa
Heard the sad news today (25th April 2013) that Alan Morris had passed away in December last year, Alan was one of the very first employees of Sparrows, he worked with the brothers on vehicle recovery and operated the first 10ton ex WD Lorain that he named "Old Smokey", he was the first to be promoted as Depot manager at Bath.
12 th April 2013
I have added a few new pictures,
1. Headquarters at Bath in the home section.
2. Alf and Ken Cross in Portugal in special projects.
3, A few new pictures of the New Zealand Project
4. A few new pictures in the special projects section.
Remember to scroll down through the sections.
If there is anyone one out there with any pictures of
interest that would add to the site I would be pleased to hear from you.
Sad to say that I lost my dear wife Jane after a long illness, she passed away peacefully at home and a service was held on 14th February in Lincoln, many thanks to those old friends from Sparrows that travelled so far to be with me and my family on that day, Especially Alf’s wife Pat who drove from Cornwall, Roger Berry, Barry Mildren from Bath, and Barry and Rita Barnes (Demag) from London, and Dave Barnaby (who always called her Auntie Jane), thanks also to our many friends and family for their kind cards and condolences. After 64 years of happy marriage she will be sadly missed, but I am left with many wonderful memories and for that I shall be eternally grateful.
KELLAWAY Herbert (Bert) Passed away on 15th December following a fall and a short illness, aged 91. Holder of the Mayor's medal for 50 years service with Stothert & Pitt. Regular entrant in Bath in Bloom Much loved father, uncle, grandad, and great grandfather. He will be greatly missed by family and friends. Funeral arrangements to be announced at a later date. G Mannings.
Those of you that worked in the West Country and knew Stothert and Pitt will remember Bert, before he retired he was head of Construction and travelled the world for them, he was a regular user of Sparrows cranes and one of the first persons to hire the 500 tonne Gottwald, Bert was my eldest cousin.
Alf's wife Pat has had a new flower boat installed in Looe in memory of Alf ( See local newspaper cutting below), further to this she has had Alf's model crane restored and it is to be fitted with a perspex cover and placed in the Bath Heritage Museum, Alf left the model crane to his son Steve who works in the States but resides in Mexico, the museum will hold the model in safe keeping and Steve will retain ownership. The model is a 30 ton Kato, and I believe was made by Kato as a personal gift to Alf.