By Andy Hirst

A dedicated employee has worked at the Syngenta chemical site in Huddersfield for 50 years … and has no intention of retiring.

Paul Marsland joined the former ICI when he was 15 on July 31, 1972, and he’ll be 65 on Monday, July 25.

But the dedicated worker has decided he wants to carry on and has paid tribute to the company he says has been brilliantly supportive throughout the decades.

Paul left Fartown Secondary Modern School in the summer of 1972 when he was just 15 and began work at the sprawling ICI works on Leeds Road just weeks later as an apprentice bricklayer.

Alice Cooper was number one in the charts with School’s Out, Ted Heath was the British Prime Minister, a loaf of bread was 10p, a pint of beer was around 15p and a gallon of petrol 35p – that’s less than 8p a litre!

Syngenta makes products which help farmers fight weeds, pests and diseases in plants. The parent company has changed  a few times since 1972 to Zeneca, AstraZeneca and now Syngenta, but Paul says its ethos has never altered.

“They have been a brilliant company to work for and everyone says the same,” he said. “We are really well looked after with decent pay, a pension and I couldn’t have worked for a better business.

“Obviously I could retire when I’m 65 but I just don’t feel ready to leave yet. I had a couple of weeks holiday recently and that made me decide I wanted to stay on.”

Paul’s colleagues are delighted he’s staying and one of them, Steve Dyson, said: “Pretty much everyone on site knows him. He’s a great guy, well regarded and would offer help to anyone who asked.”

When Paul started his first pay was £7.54 a week and he had to give his mum, Hazel, £3  towards board and lodging at their Brackenhall home.

“Mum insisted that money was on the sideboard every Thursday,” said Paul. “You look back now and things like that really make you smile.”

But he really boosted his wage as he was a golf caddy at weekends in Huddersfield, earning £5 a day on Saturday and Sundays.

He grew to love the game and has been a member of Outlane Golf Club and now Crosland Health Golf Club, Crosland Hill, where he has been for the last 12 years.

He also founded a golf society at Syngenta which played an annual golf day at Meltham Golf Club, raising £40,000 over 10 years or so. The money was donated to good causes such as the special care baby unit at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary to buy specialist equipment and also to provide a soft ball room for a care home for disabled people in Bradford.

Apprentices like these are the future for Syngenta

Paul’s bricklaying apprenticeship lasted for six years and he then worked on the shop floor at ICI until he was 32. He was promoted to inspection duties and after two years became responsible for planning construction projects and managing yearly maintenance programmes. 

He did that for five years and since then has been contract supervisor overseeing all the contractors who work on the site.

When Paul started 50 years ago around 4,000 people worked on the sprawling three-square-mile site. The number now is around 750 employees with a number of full-time contractors who Paul has worked closely with for many years.

“I get around on foot, on a bike or sometimes in a van,” said Paul. “My job takes me all over the site which is how I’ve got to know everybody.”

When Syngenta starts manufacturing a new product it can involve either building a new plant or re-engineering an existing one and the company is continuing to develop new products and respond to increases in demand from customers at the Huddersfield site.

Paul believes there are work opportunities for generations to come. 

“The current apprenticeship programme Syngenta has down here works very well,” he said. Just about everyone comes from the Huddersfield or Kirklees area so it’s providing excellent jobs for the next generation. I really enjoy helping our young apprentices. If they’re willing to learn and work hard, they can build a good career for themselves here.” 

* Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.