Taking issue with a hero

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Taking issue with a hero

The legendary Leeds United midfielder Billy Bremner’s autobiography was memorably entitled You Get Nowt For Being Second. Much as I dislike disagreeing with one of the greatest – and most aggressive - players ever to represent Leeds, I feel he’s wrong. Very wrong. Let me explain why.

York Handmade Brick had the pleasure and the distinction of being shortlisted in the Yorkshire Post’s Excellence in Business Awards earlier this month. Because of Covid-19, the whole awards ceremony was a “virtual” experience on line, expertly compered by Harry Gration. I sat in a virtual Green Room, watching the ceremony unfold, and was astonished – and proud - at how many Yorkshire businesses were flourishing in these challenging times.

We had been short-listed in the Best Rural Business category, which the judges acknowledged as incredibly competitive. Amongst our rivals were well-known and successful Yorkshire companies like I’Anson Animal Feeds and Econ Engineering. I’Anson, who are celebrating their 125th anniversary this year and have just opened a brand-new facility at Dalton New Bridge business park, near Thirsk, eventually – and deservedly – triumphed.

Along with a brief flash of disappointment came a more permanent feeling of pride. We had done tremendously well to be shortlisted, and this was a reflection – above all – of the loyalty, commitment and expertise of our staff.  And I know Billy Bremner won’t like this, but we do have form for coming second!

The Perse SchoolLast year we were highly commended in the Brick Awards, the Oscars of the brick industry, for our work on both the Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre at Perse School in Cambridge and the Loxley Stables residential housing project in Hertfordshire. The year before, again in the Brick Awards, we were honoured for our involvement in the acclaimed Westgate Centre in the heart of historic Oxford and for the magnificent Halifax Library. And, continuing the theme of coming second, we came tantalising close to winning two major categories in the prestigious York Press business awards a couple of years ago.

However, in case Bremner is turning in his grave at this list of heroic near misses, it is only fair to point out we have been winners as well.  In 1995 we won the Supreme Brick Building award for St Brigid’s Church in Belfast in the Brick Awards and we haven’t looked back since, holding our own against our bigger and better-known competitors.

In 2015, meanwhile, we won the Best Outdoor Space category in the Brick Awards for our “magnificent achievement” (in the words of the judges) in restoring the Belvedere and Queen Elizabeth Walled Garden at Dumfries House in Scotland, a pioneering restoration project masterminded by Prince Charles.

Chetham School of MusicAnd we scored a hat-trick in the same awards in 2012. The buildings which swept the board were: Four Oaks in Little Bedwyn, Wilts (Best Single House); Tupgill Cellar, near Middleham, North Yorkshire (Best Craftsmanship); and Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester (Specialist Brickwork Contractor). A few years earlier, we also won the Best Landscape Project award for our acclaimed work on the walled garden at Broughton Hall, near Skipton and the Best Refurbishment Project for another walled garden, this time at Scampston Hall, near Malton.

Looking back, all these awards have given us tremendous pleasure. They are a resounding endorsement of everything we do, reflecting the skill, craftsmanship and dedication of all our staff, some of whom have been with us since we first started way back in 1988. Yes, Billy Bremner, you do get something for coming second!