It' a small world.

It was probably when we were in Kathmandu that we got our first example of what a small world it can be. We were on the outskirts of Kathmandu, there were very few other people about but coming towards us was a European guy about the same age as us. We spoke to him and we were surprised he came from Preston, which is only a short distance from our home in Rossendale. This impressed us, but it was nothing compared with some of the meetings that we have had since.

Derek Harrison.

When we went to Kenya in 1978 within the first few minutes of me going into the office, one of the guys asked me if I knew Derek Harrison. 'He used to work here, but he left a couple of weeks ago and he works at Lossinger just up the road'. It was only a few days later I found out they had been prompted to ask the question because of my Lancashire accent, it seems that Derek had a heavy Lancashire accent as well. In Mowlems in Kenya I kept hearing Derek Harrison's name. I used the desk that had been Dereks and moved into a house that had been Dereks. For 4 years I kept hearing of Derek Harrison's exploits, but never got the chance to meet him.

After Mowlems I went to work with Balfour Beatty and again, in the first few days Derek's name came up. He had gone from Mowlems to Lossinger and then to Balfour Beatty to the Songea to Makambaku Road project in Tanzania. I heard all about his exploits, he was one of these larger than life characters, went around doing things like hiring helicopters from the Tanzanian police so he could monitor the progress of the companys convoys across Africa. Everyone spoke as if I was familiar with him and I had to keep on pointing out that he had left Mowlems before I arrived and I hadn't had the chance to meet him. I thought it was a bit strange the way that Derek Harrisons name came up so frequently.

After I had been with Balfour Beatty about six months we were standing in a Portakabin in the middle of the West African Bush at a cocktail party reception that had been organised for visiting management from London. The senior personnel officer, John Moses, enjoyed recounting Derek's exploits. He told the stories well and they were very funny. After a short time John Moses said to me, 'the next time you see Derek you must ask him about that'. I explained to John Moses that I had never actually met Derek. I felt I knew him like a brother, I had followed him around Africa, sitting in his desk and living in the house he had occupied. For the last five years I had heard all about his exploits, but in fact didn't know him.

John Moses was completely bewildered by this. He said, 'but you must know him, he comes from Bacup'! I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was a real shock. Suddenly so much was explained but what an amazing set of coincidences.

A few months later I was transfered to East Africa to the Songea Makambaku road project and once again I was occupying a desk that had been vacated by Derek Harrison. I eventally found Derek in about 1988, he was running a used plant and equipment business in Waterfoot and it was easy to see why he had made such an impact on people.

Roberts Transport, Bacup.

In Mowlems in Kenya a new accountant arrived from the UK, his name was Roberts. A few weeks later I was talking to him and he said he knew of Bacup in Lancashire, in fact his father used to have a haulage business at Pippin Bank, the business was called 'Roberts Haulage'. We have a picture at home of my grandfather who was one of the Rossendale Valley's motoring pioneers. He is sat at the wheel of a charabanc with Roberts Haulage written on the door. Unfortunately the photograph is missing, but my father is looking for it and there is a space on this web page for the picture when we recover it.

We hope the picture will surface soon but in the meantime and just to fill the space, here is a picture of a similar charabanc ready to depart from outside the Royal Hotel in Waterfoot. My grandfather isn't in the picture but there must be someone on there who provided a reason for it getting into the family album.

Dawn Gledhills' mum.

When Susan was very young she lived in Ribble Street in Bacup and her friend living in the same street was Dawn Gledhill. When Susan and Dawn were about 10 years old, (about 1959) Dawn and her mother moved away. Susan had no idea where they had gone and she never heard of them again.

In 1988 we were walking into the Tiger Balm Gardens in Singapore when Susan thought she saw someone she recognised. As we were walking around she kept telling me that she knew this woman. Then, about an hour later, we were sat on a low wall in an open area in the middle of the Gardens, when this woman appeared with her two Singaporean guides. Susan went across and approached her. It turned out that it was Dawn's mother whom she hadn't seen for nearly 30 years.

Frank Evans.

In 1999 we were at a Gerry & the Pacemakers concert in the Palm Gardens at Muscat Intercontinental hotel. There was a guy there who I had seen around Medinat Qaboos and the supermarket a couple of times in the previous few weeks. I thought I knew him and it was clear that he thought he knew me. Eventually he came across and spoke to me. It turned out that his name was Frank Evans. He was about 3 or 4 years older than me and he had spent all his childhood and teenage years living on Acre Avenue in Stacksteads. In straight-line distance this was probably less than 300 yards behind our house in Acre Mill Road. He had walked past our house every day and been a customer at my parents shop for many years. It must have been a full 30 years since I had last seen him.

John Yarinakis

There were a bunch of European kids who had served apprenticeship in Mowlems yard in the 1950's and 60's. They were the sons of European expatriates, people who had been employed in the Government and on the railways, etc. They were very lucky to get these chances, it wouldn't happen these days.

Tom Barrallon was still there when I arrived in Mowlems and the other names that I heard frequently were Hughie Breslaw, Keith Harris and John Yarinakis. I heard about their exploits and things that they had done

I met Keith Harris in 1983 when I was working on the Songea-Makambaku Road Project in Tanzania and Keith was the transport operations supervisor. I suppose this wasn't so much of a coincidence because we were still in East Africa.

In 1986 I was sitting in my office in Muscat when my clerk brought me the business card of a visitor who was waiting to see me. The visitor was from Eaton Truck Components and his name was John Yarinakis. I thought about it for a few minutes and told my clerk to send him in. I wasn't sure if it could be the same person, I'd only ever heard about him. He came in and sat down and spoke for a few minutes and then I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss, so I allowed a couple of phrases in Swahili to creep into the conversation. He didn't really react at first, and then he couldn't help but say something. He said, do you know Swahili? And I answered, 'just a little, Tom Barrallon said you would be calling to see me'. I could see from the look on his face that it was the same John Yarinakis. Obviously I hadn't seen or heard of Tom Barallon in 3 or 4 years and he certainly hadn't told me that John was coming, but the look of complete confusion on his face was wonderful!

We spent a couple of hours talking and he came to Oman frequently and always came to see me.

John Connolly.

John Connolly had lived with his family in Stacksteads on Cutler Crescent all his life until he moved to Crabtree Avenue in Waterfoot when he was about 16. John and I were good friends for many years. John and his family emigrated to Australia when he was about 19, and apart from Christmas cards and I think probably about two visits to the UK we never really had any contact after that.

In 1992 we checked into the Omni Hotel in Hong Kong. We went to our room and the guy who carried our cases for us switched on the TV before he left. The channel that it was tuned to was the hotel's in-house information channel and in the middle of it they ran the Omni Hotel's corporate advertising video. It aimed to show Omni's suitability for the senior executive on a Far Eastern business trip. It showed a chauffeur driven Mercedes arriving at the hotel with the doorman opening the back door and directing the chief executive to the hotel entrance. The 'chief executive' who stepped out of the Mercedes was John Connolly. He had done very well in Australia at various things and one of his occupations was to star in this type of advertising.

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