When Allan Sperring started work with the local authority at the tender age of 17, a gallon of petrol cost 35 pence – which is around £3 40 today.
Now, half a century later, this Bath & North East Somerset Highways engineer says he’s not hanging up his hard hat or hi-vis jacket just yet – despite clocking up 50 years working on the area’s roads.
The grandfather of eight still works at the council’s Clutton Road depot where he started all those years ago.
He said: “I just love roads. When I drive on a road I can tell you how it was built and I can see where the original roads were. When I’m on holiday I pick up bits of grit to see what the road is made of. When we went to Los Angeles it was like a white knuckle ride at Alton Towers – white concrete road, eight lanes with very big trucks – and then I thought ‘I’m enjoying this!’”.
Allan left school in 1970 when he was 15 and began his first job collecting milk churns from local farms, but the work ended when milk tankers were introduced.
He had to look for another job and there were two options that appealed to him – one was driving big tractors for the Forestry Commission and the other was working for the Highways team at Somerset Council at Clutton.
Allan said: “I was really keen on tractors so went to see the man about working for the Forestry Commission, but the guy didn’t turn up. Instead, I went to see Mr Bailey at the Clutton depot. Mr Bailey asked me, “How did you get here?”. I said, “I cycled from Harptree to Clutton” and Mr Bailey said, “You’re fit enough – start Monday!
“When I joined the council, North East Somerset was still part of the county of Somerset so I worked for them from 1972 to 1974 and then I worked for Avon County Council from 1974 until it went to B&NES in 1996.”
Allan started ‘on the tools’ doing the digging work and worked at the Clutton depot for around 25 years before becoming a Highways Inspector in 1997.
Allan says that one of the best things about the job was meeting his wife Amanda when he was sent to do some training at Bath Tech in 1974 and she worked in Pensions. They’ve now been married for 45 years.
Allan feels that the best thing about the job has been the people he’s worked with and has stayed with the council despite being offered other jobs. He said: “I stayed just because I loved my job but now it’s more about the people I work with. Local authorities attract nice people to work for them.”
Allan says he would recommend the council as a place to work although he saddens him that although council employees work as hard as the private sector, it feels to him as if local authority work isn’t always as well respected.
“Overall though I feel positive about working for the council and I think that working here is all about trust. You are trusted to pull your weight and get on with the job. If you work for a local authority then you’re all treated equally and that’s a good thing.
“Even if I’m not feeling 100% I go to work because it makes me feel better. I love coming to work and I don’t want to retire – I just don’t want to overstay my welcome!”
Allan looks after the communal garden where he lives and future plans might include moving to a smaller house with a bigger garden, but he and Amanda don’t want to move too far away from their eight grandchildren.
They might do some travelling – perhaps to visit family in Australia or friends in Canada – and Allan admits that one of the attractions of visiting foreign countries is looking at how they build their roads.
Councillor Manda Rigby, cabinet member for Transport, said: “Congratulations to Allan on his remarkable achievement. His love of roads and dedication to the council shines through and has no doubt inspired others over the past 50 years. On behalf of everyone at the council I want to say a big thank you to Allan for his hard work and continued service. We look forward to hearing what you decide to do next!”
1972 fact file:
- Edward Heath was the Prime Minister
- Leeds United beat Arsenal to win the FA cup
- Derby County won the Football League
- The number one single on April 17, 1972 was ‘Amazing Grace’ by the Pipes and the Drums and the Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
- The average house price in the UK in 1972 was £7,374
- A pint of beer (Courage Tavern) cost between 14 and 18 pence which would be about £1.40 today
- A gallon of petrol cost 35 pence which is around £3.40 today
- The best-selling car of 1972 was the Ford Cortina Mk III costing £1,022 (about £9,600 today)