Two families marked the end of an era of working together when Nigel Crowl retired from working on the nursery here at Johnsons of Whixley.
Nigel worked here for 47 years – following in the footsteps of his father, Eric, who also spent many years with the company as a general nursery worker. Sadly, the Crowl family will be unable to match our three generations of Richardsons as Nigel’s son now lives abroad.
Nigel spoke to our chairman, John Richardson – who himself has been with the company 55 years – about his time at Johnsons.
JR: Did you work anywhere prior to Johnsons?
NC: My first job after leaving school was as a joiner for the savages at Ouseburn until I had an accident with a circular saw that resulted in two badly cut fingers. While at savages, I also learned how to build coffins and dig graves! I only stayed there for about a year but I learned a lot.
JR: What job roles have you had working on the nursery?
NC: Since starting here, I have been involved with nursery work including budding 120 thousand bush roses, 12 thousand standard roses, growing trees from whips and numerous other nursery jobs. At 18, I started driving a 7.5 ton lorry before passing my HGV test, after which I delivered goods for six months of the year while the other six months would involve nursery maintenance. I enjoyed the change in jobs. Eventually, I gave up driving and concentrated on the maintenance.
JR: What have you enjoyed the most about your job?
NC: The thing I have enjoyed the most is the variation, no two jobs are the same. I also get on reasonably well with my immediate boss.
JR: Tell us a funny story from your time at Johnsons
NC: One that always springs to my mind is something that happened many years ago when the manager at the time was Danny Elliot. Chris Umpleby and I were sent up the field near to where the fire heap is now. There were rows of newly planted whips and we were told to stop them at head height. Neither myself nor Chris is very tall, so we stopped the rows of whips at 5ft. When Danny saw them, he blew his top as he wanted a foot taller – but how were we to know when he said head high, he meant the height of his own head! Needless to say, the whips went on to make excellent trees.
JR: If you could have worked anywhere else, where would it have been?
NC: I would have continued my job as a joiner but more on the furniture side rather than putting up farm buildings or fitting outhouses.
JR: What changes have you seen in the company over the years?
NC: Johnsons has changed a lot over the years from a small retail nursery where you could be packing a single rose for delivery to a house in the centre of Leeds to a large wholesale business that now delivers hundreds and thousands of plants to large landscapers and nursery businesses. The maintenance side has also changed as there are more sites and we cover things like covering the tunnels and so on.
JR: Any exciting plans for retirement?
NC: The only plans for retirement are more holidays abroad and to enjoy going fishing… It will also be nice for my partner, Shirley, and I to be able to go out for days and just take life at a more leisurely pace.
John added: “Nigel has done most things on the nursery but is probably pleased that we stopped budding roses 25 years ago, his back has nearly finished aching! He really enjoyed driving jobs, and as the nursery got bigger, he took on so many of the woodworking and maintenance jobs. I’m sure he can look round the nursery anywhere and say ‘well, I had a hand in building that’.
“It is not so easy now, but we could always find where he was – just find the way to the base of the smoke cloud. Nigel will be missed; he has a great deal to be proud of and we will certainly miss him.
“Enjoy your retirement Nigel, you have deserved it, and we will be pleased to see you if you are ever at a loose end. With very best wishes from all of us at Johnsons.”
Posted 20th Jun 8:30am