Our Century

The decline of industry in the region

John Oliver
Born 1937

John Oliver

"A quarter of a century ago the industrial heart of the West Midlands began to waver. Almost overnight the monotonous vibration of giant presses turned into a silent memorial for thousands of workers thrown onto the scrap heap.

"In common with hundreds of others I used my redundancy money to buy a business, which appeared lucrative on paper. Unfortunately 20 years working for someone else hardly equips you to run a company. When you are an employee the important things are ensuring your money is correct and paid on time, maintaining a friendly relationship with colleagues and never taking work home with you or staying longer than is absolutely necessary.

"I very soon discovered being an employer was the exact opposite. Long, unrewarding hours, continual battles with financial institutions in order to raise finance and the mistake in being over friendly with staff who you may one day have to fire or reprimand.

"However, I wasn't alone in finding difficulty in the transition. Another redundant worker, always good with cars invested in a garage. He could cope with the work and long hours, but not the reams of paperwork and spiralling costs.

"Being a loyal, hardworking servant for 45 years, in no way prepares your for a job change, and when it happens it is very difficult to accept - especially if you are a skilled engineer one week, a toilet cleaner the next.

"Thousands never quite came to terms with the shock and humiliation of being so casually cast aside - innocent victims of the industrial revolution."