‘Turning the clock back 40 years’: Hartlepool cobblers work together again after four decades

Bill Reid (left) and Richard Neville working together again at First Class after 40 years
Bill Reid (left) and Richard Neville working together again at First Class after 40 years

Two Hartlepool cobblers feel like they have gone back in time by working side by side again after 40 years.

Bill Reid, who owns First Class in Middleton Grange shopping centre, and Richard Neville first worked together at Coombes in the centre back in 1979.

Bill Reid (left) and Richard Neville working together at First Class. Picture by Frank Reid.

Bill Reid (left) and Richard Neville working together at First Class. Picture by Frank Reid.

Richard was Bill’s first trainee and they worked side by side repairing shoes for four years until Bill left to become a bus driver.

But they are now back together again after an opening came up at First Class and Bill offered Richard, 56, a job.

Bill said: “Me and Richard worked together on the shoe repair side at Coombes in 1979.

“He was 16 when he came in and started his NVQ there.

“Working together again is like turning the clock back 40 years. The two of us have gelled.

“We have quite a lot in common; we have both come through health scares and have a few connections of people we have both known over the years.

“It’s as if we haven’t been apart.”

Richard said he was delighted to return to work with his old mentor.

He said: “I worked in Darlington at another cobblers for three years.

“I was getting fed up with the travel and trains.

“When Bill rang me up, and then to come and have a word about the job, I was over the moon.

“I have been here about three weeks now and it is great.

“It’s like Bill said, it is like going back 40 years. We have known each other for such a long time.”

Bill re-entered the shoe repair trade after working on the buses and in 1989 set up on his own inside the old Asda supermarket in the shopping centre.

He still remembers it distinctly as he had to travel to Glasgow to collect some machinery two months after the Lockerbie aeroplane disaster.

“I always remember it as part of the dual carriageway was closed off and you could see some of the wreckage,” Bill said.

Meanwhile, Richard stayed at Coombes and later Mister Minit for around 24 years rising to the position of manager before working for another independent cobbler in Hartlepool for 14 years.

This year, First Class marks its 30th anniversary.

Bill, 61, said he has always employed people from the town for the business which also does engraving, key cutting and watch batteries and straps.