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!
Last 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.
And 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!