A pictorial history of Sparrows International Crane Hire
A pictorial history of Sparrows International Crane Hire

9th August 2022

Just to let you know that the website is still active, I have recently spoken to Dave Barbaby and George Brown, they are both well, also been in touch with Barry Mildren, he was in Spain recently and met up with Celia Burnette, Celia was a secretary with Sparrows for many years. I would be pleased if visitors to the site gave me a name for the Guestbook as according to records the site is getting 150 plus visits a month.


Ist June 2022 

Alan Jackson Grayston White and Sparrow

Some of you Crane people will know this name, Alan was a director of GWS and very well known throughout the construction Industry for many years. I had a message to say he had passed away and that his funeral took place at Lincoln Crematorium on Thursday the 26th March, I believe Alan had two daughters. R I P Alan

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1st October 2021

Found this section from an old Sparrow publication, all passed on now with the rxception of Isobel, anyone out there wuth knowledge of her?


Brian Murphy 21/09/21

I received the following message from Karen Murphy if anyone can help, please contact me.
My dad Brian Murphy used to work for Sparrow’s years ago maybe anytime between 1973-1980 upwards. It would be so nice to hear from anyone who remembers him.

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29th August 2021
After breakfasting this morning (29th August) I was opening my iPad when the message phone activated and the name Paddy Cox appeared . . . I then had a conversation for over half-an-hour with a Sparrow’s crane operator from the 1960s.
The call was so clear that he could have been in an adjacent room, however, Paddy had contacted me from Melbourne, Australia. It was a lovely surprise.
He was the operator of a 70-ton Lorain and will be mostly remembered as being responsible for removing an aircraft that had crashed on to the roof of a house in Gloucester. 
Paddy departed Sparrows during the days when all operators and staff were accepted as part of the ‘family’ and emigrated to Australia where he established his own heavy transport and crane business.
He is now retired but has a keen interest in cranes and heavy-lifting.
His two sons are now successful in their own careers, one has a high position in a mining company and the other is in pharmaceuticals.


3rd August 2021
Alf Sparrow’s wife, Pat, designed a special card for family and friends to celebrate what would have been Alf’s 100th birthday. 
The pictures show the front page of the card, also Pat’s words inside. A fitting tribute to Alf, a legend of the crane hire industry.
Alf’s wife Pat sponsors the dinghy on behalf of Looe Town Council. The boat has been on this site since Alf passed at 90 years of age.
Thank you Pat for your continued input to the website and for keeping in touch over so many years, you are a friend indeed.



3rd August 2021
Alf Sparrow would have been 100 years old today.
The photograph was taken at Alf's 80th birthday party, attended by his family and many friends from the construction industry.
After serving in the Royal Engineers during WWII Alf spent some time in hospital before joining his father's business on the western outskirts of Bath.
In 1948 the company, G. W. Sparrow and Sons, was formed. History shows how Alf and his brother’s, George and Gordon, progressed over a period of years to create the world-famous Sparrows International Crane Hire.
Alf passed away peacefully at his home in Looe, Cornwall, aged 90 years, in 1991.



2nd July 2021

Colin Marshall called me he has been hit with the dreaded virus and was quite ill for a while, he has had a tough time with his business and has had to cut back on many things but I’m pleased to say he and his business is now on the road to recovery and I wish him well. 



12th April 2021  
Dave Barnaby
Dave Barnaby served over 56 years in the crane industry, the majority of those years at Sparrows. His home is in Dudley, near Birmingham.
Dave celebrates his 74th birthday tomorrow. Here’s wishing Dave a very happy birthday . . . with many more to come.
Dave began his Sparrows career at Bath during the early days. He was an apprentice on a Coles Centurion with Dave Stockman and Arthur Derrick.
As Dave’s career progressed he became a sales representative, and he also has the honour of being Sparrows' youngest depot manager, at Didcot, where Sparrows had opened a new depot. He later worked in London and Plymouth. 
Dave eventually joined me in the heavy crane division as general manager, and was general manager when Sparrows Heavy Cranes moved to Manchester.
He went on to work for Grayston White and Sparrow, and finally ended his career working for Tim Sparrow at Alatas.




18 April 2021

Received the following message from George Brown regarding the old Sparrow 1000-tonne Gottwald now fully refurbished as a 1500-tonne capacity dockside crane.

Jeanette and I were visiting a friend in Dundee last week, so I took the opportunity to chat with Jim Deas of OM  Heavy Lifting. Jim met us on site on Saturday Morning  and gave me the chance to see the crane, It is on the lifting site and rigged but not fully

OM had some lifts with the crane and more lifts due very soon. I had a chance to sit in the cab, and      I have attached some pictures for your info. The crane manual has now been digitised and all information appears on screen in the cab. There are also some cameras within the crane which allows the operator to see what’s happening on rope drums at all times. 

Jim tells me that there has been a lot of publicity around the Dundee dock in recent months and the crane has featured in many press shots locally. I will post pictures that George has sent me under  the Gottwald heading.


24th March 2021

A short time ago I was contacted by Martyn Weeks, Martyn is the brother of Paul Weeks the pilot of Sparrows Company Aircraft. Martyn purchased one of my books to give to Paul, I asked Martyn to ask Paul if he had any pictures of the aircraft that I could add to the web site this was the very nice response I received from Martyn. I thought the Aircraft was worth a mention as it was well used by the brothers and other directors including myself. 

Hi Frank

Well as expected Paul was thrilled with your book and has now read it several times!

He was keen that I should pass on his good wishes to you and recalled a flight with you to Santiago de Compostela where having stopped at San Sebastian you bought a figurine only to discover that the head had been glued on! As it was siesta time you had to wait until the shop reopened to get a replacement! He tells me that he also flew you to Scotland quite a lot.

I have attached some scans that Paul sent me of the Company aircraft and one of himself so that you can remember what he looked like.

Paul thinks that the colour photo was from a brochure produced to encourage commercial bookings. It gives you a bit of information about G-WSSL and its operation. Sparrows bought the aircraft in 1978 and sold it to Foster Yeoman in 1984 and Paul went with it with many happy memories. 

Kind regards,



Paul Weeks 

Paul was the extremely popular pilot of Sparrows’ aircraft. Paul flew the plane from the moment it was delivered from the factory, it was based at Bristol Airport. Paul created an office at the airport and organised flights for directors and members of staff. He also co-ordinated flights for private customers throughout the UK and Europe.

 Paul’s responsibilities included ensuring that the aircraft was licensed and approved by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and that it was serviced and maintained to their exacting standards. Paul’s dedication maintained the company’s reputation and the plane was always immaculately presented. Paul remained with Sparrows until the aircraft was sold, he then joined the new owners and remained working at the airport.

19th February 2021

Sad news from Bath. Former Sparrow's director Tony Codd has passed away after heart problems. Tony was 80 years old and until recently had played golf at Bath Golf Club. My grandson, David, has recently been appointed club captain and he telephoned to inform me of Tony’s death.

Tony McMillan 7th January 2021  Marsden Point 

 In this message from Tony he reminded me that he was involved with Dales Freightways and the Gottwald crane writing articles about heavy haulage and cranes in New Zealand, he did this on a part time basis for 30 years for different magazines and many articles were published in European magazines.

He knew the Gottwald had been rebuilt and upgraded and saw pictures of it working in the Netherlands loading out large sea piles, like many of us he said it was good to see it back in the UK and working, a great piece of equipment, as Tony said its long working life is a testament to the great German engineering of Gottwald


>Regarding the Gottwald: I am in regular contact with George Brown and intend to arrange a new get-together at OM Heavylift, in Dundee. I also hope to be accompanied by those who intended to meet up sometime ago, a meeting that was sadly cancelled  due to coronavirus. I will update everyone as soon as we get through these terrible times.


Message from Tony McMillan 2nd January 2021

It was good to hear from you again after so long. I had not forgotten about you as I hope to make contact with Dave Evans* step family this year. 
I still look at the website and during our first Covid 19 lockdown re read your book. It was just as interesting as the first time I read it and yes I do see the name Sparrows popping up on construction news sites. Does Tim Sparrow have a website - it would be good to see what he has in his fleet.,

Regards Tony


  • Dave died a few years ago, he married and settled in New Zealand when the project ended at Marsden Point.




22nd October 2020

Recently received these message’s, brings back a few memories and I’m pleased that the website is still getting a little interest, if anyone can help Ray I’m sure he would be pleased, Ian Cutler has promised me a few more pictures I will present them when received, and I would appreciate a few comments in the guest book, it’s been quite a while since there were any entries. Hope everyone out there is staying away from the dreaded virus, take care and stay safe.

Ray Jordan

Hi, my name is Ray Jordan, and I was born in Exeter. I lived in Coates rd. on the Broadfields estate, and my Dad, Derek Jordan worked for Sparrows Crane Hire in Quarry Lane, which we all knew as Sparrows Yard .  I'm going back to the mid-sixties and I have not been there since then, and  just have my childhood memories.  Would love to hear from anyone who knew my dad, or anyone with memories of Sparrow's Yard.

Bill Cutler

David Gouriet                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Sparrows Crane hire was a big part of my childhood. My Father William (Bill) Cutler worked for the company. He worked mostly out of the Bristol yard when on the crawler cranes and mobile cranes like the Coles and I think Grove (Single cab with rigger seat behind). He then worked for Sparrows on the rigs for a couple of years. He collected the Demag TC1200 from Germany and operated the crane with David Gouriet for Sparrows, I think some big lifts with also supporting others. The was always taking on lots of work and was away from home often. I think things took a down turn and two cranes were sold to South Africa. My Dad and Dave then moved with the cranes to Dawes crane hire in Alberton South Africa. This was around late 1980 to early 1981. I have some pictures which I will find and send to you. I also have a Super Sparrow tie which I cherish. I always wanted to be a crane driver and as a very young child would help my dad setup trucks and cranes in the Sparrows yard on a Sunday for the Monday push off. Loading jibs on trailers and the like while the Concorde would often fly overhead. 

 I ended up a Diesel mechanic in South Africa and have done well over the years but Sparrows was just something Special to my Dad and me .

Unfortunately my father is no longer with us as Cancer got the better of him in 1999. Was very pleased to see your page and will try to send you some pictures and newspaper clippings. Lastly I remember a job in Aberdeen where the TC1200 had to lift two other cranes out the water next to the wharf before taking on the job those cranes were doing which was to remove the propellers on a floating rig. I was very worried about my dad on that job and the lads would tell me how good he was and taught me a couple of songs that would get me in trouble. 

Thank you for the web page and the stories. 

Kind Regards

Ian Cutler

Bill Cutler

12/10/2020 Please note that I have made a minor adjustment to the website, Photos have been changed to Photos and Projects, this should enable newcomers to the site to locate the full range of pictures and projects located in the old photos section that covers the growth of the company and its expertise. 

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17th June 2020 The 70-ton Lorain with the twin wheel steering, Gwyn Thomas was the operator at this time, you can just see the twin wheels to his rear, the second crane is the Coles Centurion the largest truck crane in the world at that time. Both cranes were waiting for a police escort.




15th June 2020 

Paddy Cox

Paddy recently contacted me from his home in Australia.  Paddy joined Sparrows in the early days and moved down-under in the late 60’s or early 70’s, in Australia he made a  career with heavy transport and cranes, he kept in touch with Alf Sparrow for many years.  Paddy was the operator of Sparrows first and only 70-ton Lorain, the 70-ton crane was unusual in that it double wheels on the steering axle. Paddy was operating the crane when Sparrows removed a plane that had crash landed on a house in Gloucester  Paddy is now retired but still has a very keen interest in Heavy Transport and cranes.


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4th May 2020

I was talking to Dave Barnaby recently and recalling our times together at Sparrows, Wood Lane, London depot back in November 1969.  One Friday night Dave said that he would like to visit an Aunt that lived in Douro Street, Bow.  It was during the times of the IRA and just before all the security systems came into effect.  Dave recalled how we drove down Whitehall and turned straight into Downing Street, we must have been amongst the last few who were allowed access.  We made a 3-point turn in front of Number 10, the policeman was standing there and didn’t approach us.  Harold Wilson was Prime Minister at the time. How times have changed.  We did go on to Bow to see Dave’s aunt.



9th April2020

Just a note to say I’m still trying to update the site but things are very quiet at the moment, and to say to everyone that keeps in touch and views the site that I wish them all a safe passage through this Corona- virus,

As I’m 93years old I’m on the 12 week stay at home, 9 weeks still to go but I can still take exercise with a walk to the local park and back and get some fresh air. Best wishes to everyone and take good care, stay at home and don’t forget to wash your hands. Just joking but it is serious.


Wishing all my followers on this site a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year, best wishes 

Frank S

23 October 2019

I received a message through the web site from Jon Kincaid (the son of Cliff Kincaid), he told me that his father passed away last year (2018). Cliff was well-known to the Sales and Marketing Division of Sparrows. I responded to Jon saying I remembered Cliff from the old days and asked him for more information, here is his response. If I receive the picture of Cliff, I will add it to the site later.


My Dad started at Bristol in Fishponds then moved to Bath, subsequently joining Offshore Services and being send to Great Yarmouth to set up a branch there and then again to Morecambe for the Heysham branch (we moved about a bit in my youth!)


I remember Barry Mildren from my youth in Bristol, he lived in Hanham, I think I remember Mum and I taking his son, who was a toddler at the time, to Cabot tower in Bristol to feed the squirrels, I must have been 9 or so.


Mum and Dad stayed in Morecambe for a number of years after he left Sparrows and they eventually returned to South Wales, moving to Caerphilly about 12 years ago.  They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in November 2017.  Mum has very fond memories of our time in Ormesby, near Great Yarmouth, and Morecambe.


Dad sadly died on the 7 August 2018 aged 80.


I know mum has a great photo taken while at Sparrows for some promotional purpose (a magazine I think) and I’ll get my brother to send me a copy of it for you.


Let me know if you need anything else.

I asked John if the foregoing was ok to publish and ive added his response, it’s small world and Sparrows memorabilia is still spread around it.


Jon’s PS

I had very fond memories of Sparrows growing up, I had rulers and safety helmet shaped pencil sharpeners coming out if my ears!  I was once on a float in a parade promoting Sparrows, but I can't remember when and where, perhaps someone else remembers it.  It must have been Bristol I would imagine.  I now live in Woking and run a small business helping people with their IT issues etc; about 4 years ago I turned up at a person's house in Guildford to fix a chap's laptop and hanging on the door was a white Sparrows Offshore Services suit carrier!  That was a massive nostalgia trip!



5th August 2019 Received a message from my grandson Lee, Lee was at Lansdown Cricket club in Bath and spotted this picture on the wall. In 1980 Sparrows sponsored a cricket match at the ground, Viv Richards and Ian Botham (now Sir Ian) would be playing, (Both of them played for Somerset CCC at the time) Ian was captain of the English cricket team and a last-minute commitment cancelled his visit

The game was very well attended, Mrs Edith Sparrow (Alf, George and Gordons mother) made a presentation to Viv Richards at the end of the game.

The event was organised by Sparrows marketing dept.


29/07/19 Mike Seward Has anyone been in contact with Mike Seward  recently? Mike sent me some articles that I placed on the web site, he did acknowledge them however I have lost contact with him completely, the only thing I know is that he was living very happily in Thailand, any news would be appreciated. 








Mike Bass meets Frank

20 July 2019 Mike Bass
This was my first face-to-face meeting with Mike Bass. Mike has been a fan of Sparrows over many years and he contacted me on Facebook seven or eight years ago, we have been friends ever since.
Mike originally worked on the railway, driving 125 trains for Great Western Railway (GWR).
Mike was displaying his model cranes at Newark last weekend. I had the pleasure of meeting him there and seeing his fully working models, two of them in Sparrows livery. 
My main interest was the model Manitowoc 4100 S3, Sparrows had 11 of these cranes in its fleet.
Mike purchased the 4100 model crane from the USA and it is a perfect scale model. 
The model is sign-written as 'Sparrows Heavy Crawler Cranes Ltd', from the time when heavy crawler cranes was an independent limited company within the Sparrows Group. In 1973/4 it became a division within the group.
There was one tiny error in the sign-writing, Castlereach Street, instead of Castlereagh. It was a minor blemish on an otherwise fully-working model in fabulous condition.
The Liebherr 1130 was impressive too, with its maximum lattice boom fly jib fitted it could not be fully telescoped without hitting the roof of the show’s hall!
Mike also had a Gottwald 960, a later model of Sparrows Gottwald 1000 tonne capacity crane and he hopes to have it painted in Sparrows livery for a personal show he is planning this autumn.



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.

 Joe Kavanagh

*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.

Hi Grandad

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


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 .

Best wishes 

Jim Barnes.








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. 


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.

R.I.P John



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.


I received this email from Bob Curtis who worked with us in Saudi and the emirates, just shows the site is still drawing attention. 
I happened upon the site, don't really know how, and spent a good hour going through it and reminiscing.
I originally worked with you and Tony Codd when we opened the the Riyadh branch of Rezayat Sparrow in October 1983 after getting a transfer (free I think) from the Falkirk branch. The time spent in KSA was one of my best experiences where I learnt a lot but unfortunately I was made redundant on completion of my contract which coincided with the time of the take over by Grayston and White.
I returned to KSA some two years later with YBA Kanoo (the Grove dealer) and have remained their ever since and now enjoy the heady heights as CEO of their UAE operation which includes a Crane and Access rental business.
The site brings back many good memories and I think all fondly remember Sparrows as a "family" 

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.


The ‘gathering’:

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.

Tony Codd




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. 

Kindest regards 

Dave Stockman.  

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.







The interior of Mike's home in Ruan, Thailand.







The carport stands clear from the house.and it is all situated on a large plot, it keeps Mike busy and active during his retirement.  








Mike with his lovely wife Mook, they met when Mike was working in Thailand in 1995 and were married it 1997, almost 20 years together have passed already, the years have flown by. I'm sure we all wish Mike a long and happy retirement. 

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

Hi Frank

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.

RIP Gordon


George Browns visit to Lincoln

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.


RIP Gordon.


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:


http://www.vertikal.net/en/news/story/25690/ - comments



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. 



 Latest news,15/02/2016

   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.


23/12/2015. This the original picture of the Grove self erecting crane working in Leicester in 1979, Chris was working for R Moore of Norwich at the time and the crane was hired through head office at Bath.


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 .

13th November 2015

Received this picture of a Coles Crane in one of the Bath carnivals during  the early sixties, the driver was Ian Cross who sadly died at an early age, Dapper Davis is in the operators cab and the one in the white overalls is Rod Carter, Rod sent me the photo.

Norman Small


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.


R.I.P. 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.

Hello Frank

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.


Dick Dalziel


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.



4th August 2015

Alf's wife Pat sent me this picture of the Floral Dinghy in Looe dedicated to Alf and sponsored by Pat in Allf's memory, the Supersparrow sign and Logo show clearly and these dinghies spread around Looe give pleasure to lots of people, a great tribute to Alf, well done Pat.. 

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.

Pat sent me this Spring picture of Alf's memorial boat in Looe, Cornwall, a never to be forgotten Super Sparrow.
Received this picture from Dave Barnaby today (24th May) it is an American Hoist 9299 the picture is from the mid 70's and loaded on Kings Transport Bristol, this is one of the machines introduced to the fleet when Sparrows purchased Plant Sales.

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.

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