Long-serving GWA staff recall fond memories

Greaves West and Ayre is celebrating the long service of six staff who have each spent their entire working careers at its Berwick offices.

Tuesday, 8th November 2016, 11:04 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 3:39 pm
Greaves West & Ayre staff Brian Simmons, Joyce Freeman, Brian Tait, Anthony Hogg, Derek Simpson, Tommy Wilson.

Brian Simmons, Joyce Freeman, Brian Tait, Anthony Hogg, Derek Simpson, Tommy Wilson have clocked up a combined 240 years with the chartered accountancy firm.

They all admit to enjoying their jobs and have felt part of an organisation with a clear vision reinforced by the consistent presence of Ayre family members at the helm, now in their fourth generation.

Anthony Hogg who started work in Farm Accounts on his 19th birthday in October 1976 and is now Senior Farm Accounts Manager commented, “There is an ethos of mutual respect which has survived as the number of employees has grown. In Berwick, there was no other job that could fulfil the chance for interesting work combined with that feeling of camaraderie.”

The longest serving member of staff, Joyce Freeman, remembers the pleasant surprise that accompanied her chance job application after leaving Berwick Grammar School aged 17½ in 1971, “I applied in the summer holidays after school finished and was delighted when my application and rather scary interview with much revered partner the late Gordon Ayre resulted in a job.”

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Brian Simmons, Tommy Wilson and Anthony Hogg were all in the same class at Berwick Grammar School. Brian and Anthony played for the same rugby team enhancing the team spirit both inside and outside work. Brian Tait echoed the supportive working environment when he became part of Greaves West & Ayre after it took over his firm G S Fleming & Wood in 1993.

Tax Manager Tommy Wilson, with his exceptional memory for dates, remembers gaining work experience with Greaves West & Ayre while still at school in 1973 in the then 2 offices, a far cry from the 6 Berwick-upon-Tweed offices now being outgrown.

When asked for their fondest memories of their time at Greaves West & Ayre, all agreed that it is the people and characters that they remember most. Derek Simpson, who joined Greaves West & Ayre after 3 years at university in 1981, commented, “The things I remember mainly involve the friendships and feelings of fellowship rather than any specific events. Everybody pretty much gets on with each other even if they don’t meet up outside work. There are traditions that evolved from the early days that are still part of our mutual support today such as larks when people are getting married.”

In particular, the late Bill Renton is remembered with immense fondness. Ian Davidson, Jim Coats and Bill Simpson were also mentioned as uplifting characters.

Brian Simmons recalled the fact that Gordon Ayre was the Danish Vice Consul for Berwick, “There was always a photo of the King of Denmark in the reception of the Sandgate office as a result. If somebody Danish arrived in Berwick say through the harbour, and got into trouble, Gordon Ayre would save their bacon! It is this kind of heritage that makes Greaves West & Ayre feel part of the town we live in.”

The early GWA days of some of the current partners’ were recalled with Brian Tait commenting, “It is great to have seen colleagues working their way up through the firm; we have all provided training for some of the current partners which reinforces the supportive environment and is still happening with the next generation.”

Momentous world events have occurred during the last 45 years such as Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister, Lord Mountbatten’s killing by the IRA and Elvis Presley’s death which Joyce remembers on her drive in to work one day hearing song after song of his played. Joyce also remembers the introduction of VAT on 1st April 1973 replacing Purchase Tax presenting a huge change for all employees, especially for Joyce who is now VAT manager.

And the things that have changed within Greaves West & Ayre? Apart from the increase in the number of people, all agree that it is the technology that has changed the most. In the early days, new employees were not allowed an automatic adding machine for two years as they had to prove that they could count first; mental arithmetic and slide rules would be used. Now all rely on Excel. Brian Simmons commented, “While I miss the satisfaction of mentally adding a list of figures, Excel does make everything so much quicker and easier! Technological changes have improved the ease of producing everything including timesheets, and has also enhanced the amount of different services that we now provide such as IT support.”

Everyone also recalled how junior staff regularly used to have to carry a cloth bag containing thousands of pounds along the High Street from the bank back to the office for clients’ wages. In later years the cloth bag was replaced by a case attached to a handcuff. Now, thanks to technological advances, this is all done electronically.

How do the old hands think they are perceived by newer employees? Brian Tait responded, “There is massive mutual respect throughout the firm and while the younger folk may think we are a bit old school in our work style, they make us feel respected for our experience and actually the firm is old school deep down in all the best ways while managing to be forward looking for its clients.”

And the future of Greaves West & Ayre? Anthony Hogg summed up everyone’s thoughts by saying, “I personally feel very positive about the future of Greaves West & Ayre especially with the move to the new Berwick office where it will be easier to see more of the other staff regularly and a shared kitchen where people will go for coffees and lunch. I’m looking forward to it.”

The partners at Greaves West & Ayre would like to say thank you to each of these people for the years of hard work which have helped it to be the successful firm it is today.