Post Office Factory

Post Office Factory , Fordrough Lane, Birmingham

 - A Short History of the Marlborough Retirement Club. - by Charlie Reynolds.

 During the 1970s a number of Telephone Mechanics, as the Grade was then known, retired around about the same time, and resolved to continue the friendship and camaraderie they had established over their working lives.

Most of them had worked in the old Receivers Shop at Fordrough Lane and the initiators were Bill (Bob Hope) Rhodes and Les Tye. They met regularly at the Custard House public house and were rapidly joined by many others, notably including Johnny Simons.

It soon became apparent that the pub was becoming too crowded for their needs. Les Tye was rightly proud of his son Royston who played cricket for the Marlborough Cricket Club and through this connection Les was able to establish the first retirement club for Post Office Factories personnel at the premises of the cricket club. The Officers were Bill Rhodes,  Johnny Simons and Les Tye. The first meetings consisted almost entirely of alliances formed in the old Receiver Shop, Albert Howell, Harry Shelley, Fred Molcher, Frank Peters etc, and they were later to be joined by Sherlock Street sexagenarians from the Relay Shop. The numbers of retirees continued to swell and were at that time all ex members of the Factories Branch of the POEU.

The Union Branch Officers, Charlie Reynolds and Trevor Inglis supported the club from its conception and were able to persuade the Head Office of the POEU to allow them to pay a yearly donation to the Marlborough Club out of the Union Branch Funds. 

As the years followed retirement groups grew more and more popular and the Main Supplies, set up a club at the Bordesley Green Allotments which is still going strong. Unfortunately its meeting date coincided with that of the Marlborough but one stalwart, the late Freddie Miller managed to fit in both. In 1981 the POEU started a Retired Membership Section and its Branches everywhere established retirement clubs. The Birmingham Factories Branch set up a retirement club to meet at the Civil Service Restaurant close to Marks & Spencer in High Street in the City centre. It would have been the right thing to amalgamate with the Marlborough Club, but well before the end of the seventies the Marlborough had expanded to include all grades from all departments, and the prohibiting factor was the fact that the club was exclusively male. There were two memorable occasions when two "stalking fillies" tested the water but were politely told not to come again.

Many retired staff attended both clubs, and somewhat inappropriately Bill Rhodes became the Treasurer of both clubs. When Bill died it was not possible from his records to be really sure of the amount of money belonging to each club. Reg Trevethic took over the responsibility of running the Marlborough Club, and because the majority of its members were ex POEU members, Charlie Reynolds who was running the Branch Retirement Club decided that the Marlborough should have the bulk of the money Bill had put aside, because his own club was helped in its funding by POEU Headquarters, pro rata to its membership numbers. The two clubs existed harmoniously side by side until the Civil Service Restaurant was forced to close.

The Factories Branch Retired Members' Club could not find a suitable venue that would enable it to continue so it held a farewell meeting at the Masonic Hall in Stechford. Although its members continued, or started, to go to the Marlborough the ban on women members still remained. The passage of time saw the Japanese take over the BT Factories, followed by eventual closures, the POEU merged with the CWU and now all retired members of the old Birmingham Factories Branch are members of the Birmingham Branch of the CWU.

In the meantime attendance at the Marlborough meetings continued to grow and at its peak has been attracting well in advance of fifty ex Factory male employees of all grades from the highest to the lowest. Sad to say that at one period, there was a top table of one time management grades separated from the less elite. The majority of these were from the old Headquarters Group who had not " come up from the ranks " many recruited from outside the Factories.  Ex SPOE members such as Stan Smelt and Horace Bullock sat uncomforably among them whilst Reg Trevethic bridged the gap. Fortunately that was a short passing phase and in the later years there were no distinctions, except more in jest than protocol, the one who had achieved the highest grade of all, the Controller of Factories was forced to be the first to lead the rush for refreshments.

As inevitably happens with all retirement clubs the passing years will see membership and attendance reach a peak, then slowly but with increasing pace, decline and decease follows. By the time that Reg Trevethic passed on, the monthly attendance at the Marlborough had dwindled to a maximum of 20. George Smith took over the reins and the club struggled to survive, despite members being prepared to pay increased subscriptions, the willingness of Dorothy Britlands to provide the catering, and the generosity of the Marlborough Cricket Club's barman, Clive Bishop.

The sudden death of George on Monday 16th November 2009., came as a shock to all, and it is true to say that the club which was dear to his heart, died with him. The last rites will be held on December 9th, but the hope is that many will arrange to have lunch together once a month in a public house.

                                                ------------ WHICH IS JUST HOW IT ALL BEGAN ! ---------------