Neville John William Day 7 March 1922 - 26 November 1990
Dad’s idyllic office and the end of Neville Day Plant Hire Ltd
Dad wasn’t madly keen on Dr Richard Beeching but then no one was. He still didn’t speak ill of the man though! Aware that Beeching was merely a clueless puppet, brought in to pave the way for the hidden agenda of corrupt politicians. Those with their fingers in the pies of giant construction companies set to pave the country in new motorways. New roads to fill the socially disruptive gaps and infrastructure damage created by needlessly closed railways!
At a time when still largely war ravaged mainland European countries were busy sensibly laying new tracks, Britain was equally busy destroying its own! One of Dad's favourite and oft repeated quotations, likely plagiarised but that is of no consequence, "Beeching wreaked more damage upon this country than did Adolf Hitler!"
Problems arose though following his being pressured to give up smoking, followed by the introduction of VAT. Both of which were notions Dad considered to be work of the Devil.
Ultimately therefore Dad conceded and brought in a bookkeeper, a capable, dedicated and hard working woman by the name of Miriam.
Dad, Miriam and the firm's chief engineer occupied the former Snettisham Railway Station signal box, overlooking Snettisham's green fields southwards towards nearby villages Ingoldisthorpe and Dersingham.
Sharing an ancient and battered old Olivetti typewriter. A more idyllic office environment would be almost impossible to imagine.
The firm's invoices were contrived in much the same haphazard way. Story goes however that people for whom he hadn't the heart to reject their request for small groundworks, such as aging pensioners requiring a new driveway because the local authority demand they remove their equally ancient Hillman Minx or Morris Minor from street parking, then he would frequently ignore the tiresome process of invoicing them at all. And simply 'forget' to charge them.
Dad never had a bad word to say about anyone and there were few people that he considered worthy of disdain or distrust. Such that he often accepted his own client's view of what a job was worth, rather than applying any sort of scientific cost estimation. The final straw though was one, single, key manager who took advantage of Dad's faith, trust and integrity, and cheated upon him. Fortunately for him prematurely deceased. From alcoholism. No one in our family will ever forget who he was though, or what he did.
The inevitable thus happened and following a halcyon couple of decades of huge success and growth Neville Day Plant Hire Ltd, anticipating imminent bankruptcy, decided to close its doors in late 1985 and hold a fire sale of all plant and equipment.
A sad day for builder of a large part of King's Lynn's essential Roll-on, Roll-off 1960s dock improvements, the large King's Lynn Bypass project, the vast King's Lynn, London overspill project, and the huge, nationally important project of the North Sea Gas Pipeline. Extending 140 miles from Bacton on Norfolk's north east coast all the way through to the Midlands. At least though Neville Day managed to hold his head high and leave no debts. An individual who left a huge legacy, not just for the counties he lived and worked in but arguably for the country as a whole. A humble and self-effacing man, appreciated by his friends and those who were fortunate enough to meet and know him. Sadly though, insufficiently recognised by the country he served and which is all too willing to heap huge rewards upon people who do little more than just kick a ball around.
Dad's Signal Box office he gifted to a neighbour friend and in an extraordinary yet typical gesture of philantropy he got his men and equipment to actually lift the whole structure and relocate it to the home of its new owner. And to hell with Planning Permission in the process. Something with which astonishingly he got away with.
In 2004 the signal box was moved again. To Hardingham on the Mid-Norfolk Railway. A heritage railway site and one which Dad would have been immensly but quietly proud to have contributed to, even in a relatively small and indirect way. I doubt though the operators of the heritage railway will even be aware of the effort Dad put in to ensure preservation of the signal box.
The site of the former Snettisham railway sidings has since been divided by construction of the A149 Bypass (C.P.O. Land Grab) and also a housing estate.
I still have the old Victorian Station weigh scales which stood outside the Goods Shed. They now support a few of my wife's flower pots in her cherished back garden at our home in France.
Chris Latham-Smith 2022.
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