Lifetime of service at an end

It was January 1960 - long before the days of sat-navs and heated seats - when two fresh-faced mechanics turned up for their first day at work together.

It was January 1960 - long before the days of sat-navs and heated seats - when two fresh-faced mechanics turned up for their first day at work together.

And although they had never met before that moment, the pair went on to spend a lifetime working side by side at the same Ford garage in Fakenham.

But on Friday, the workshop friendship which has spanned almost 50 years was brought to an end with an emotional retirement party at the Busseys dealership on Enterprise Way.

Company bosses, staff and family turned out to say farewell to motor vehicle technician Malcolm Howard on the day before he celebrated his 65th birthday.

And in December, they will also say goodbye to his fellow technician Graham Howlett, who has a few months to go before he reaches the same retirement milestone.

The two men have adapted to incredible advances in motoring technology during their time together in the industry.

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They were hired straight from school by the RC Edmondson Ford dealership, then at Oak Street, and stayed with the company when it was taken over by Busseys in 1995.

Mr Howard said: “In all that time I don't think we have had a crossed word.

“When we first started we were doing old Ford Anglias and Populars and obviously things have changed dramatically since then. It would take us three hours to do a service, as it was all about stripping gears, cleaning carburettors and overhauling engines. Now technology has moved so far that we barely have to touch the engine.”

Mr Howard, who lives in Fakenham, has taken on several jobs during his long service including engine repairs, bodywork and workshop management.

In 1983 he emigrated to Australia with his wife Sandra - a move which he said “didn't turn out right”, so they returned and he got his old job back within six months. He has two daughters, Lisa and Erin.

“I have been alright about leaving but now it is starting to get a bit emotional,” he said.

Mr Howlett, from Hindringham, said his starting wage as a 15-year-old was �2 and four shillings a week when he met his new workmate in 1960.

“We got on really well together and were glad of each other's company because we were both youngsters and it was nice to have someone there of the same age,” he said.

“It is amazing how it could happen like this really, to have done the same job for so long. It will be strange for a while without him here.

“Of course I'm going to miss him. We both played football and cricket together and we used to discuss Norwich City's matches on a Monday morning, but there is no-one else here who is into football.”

Mr Howlett and his wife Brenda have two sons, Andrew and Stuart.

Busseys service manager at Fakenham, Glenn Fowler, said: “Malcolm and Graham started on the same day at a time when all you needed was a screwdriver and a hammer to fix a car. Now the cars are so technical and it says a lot about the way these guys have had to change the way they work and adapt over the last 50 years - it is phenomenal.”