Former GMB boilermakers celebrate annual reunion

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GMB Southern Region Southampton No 1 Branch is one of the longest established branches in the Region. Although GMB was formed in 1889, the roots of Southampton No 1 Branch date back to the 1850’s – a period in British history remembered by the Crimean War and Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition.

Bob Stokes, retired GMB Senior Organiser, who organised the reunion said, ‘I’ve been involved with organising these reunions since 1978 and, for many of us, meeting up with old colleagues is the highlight of the year.’


The Branch was made up largely of boilermakers from the shipbuilding and construction industry. As one attendee put it, ‘The work was hard and dangerous but we were all in it together and we made it fun.’


Former boilermaker, Bryan Hulley, who is now a GMB Regional Organiser, said,


‘It’s hard to describe what it’s like when you get back together with everyone like this. When we were working, the work was often dangerous but we were all doing the same job together and I miss the special camaraderie that we had.’


Bryan started out as an apprentice to Glester Scott, also known as ‘Scottie’ who attended the reunion and said,


‘I worked as a boilermaker for over 30 years. It’s brilliant because so many people that I worked with over the years are here tonight.’


Another attendee, Chris James, described how he started working as an apprentice in 1948. He then became a riveter before joining the army and going to the Korean War. When he returned, he worked as a welder for almost 40 years.


Over 80 attendees could share similar stories and many spoke of a different era where you had a job for life, could afford to buy a house and could ultimately enjoy a well-earned retirement.


Paul Maloney, Regional Secretary, GMB Southern Region, said,


‘It’s incredible to see former employees who served decent apprenticeships that led to good employment where terms and conditions rewarded difficult and dangerous work.


Today the work is even more difficult and dangerous but, unfortunately, it is often the employer who benefits as opposed to the employees. Apprenticeships are seen as cheap labour as opposed to an investment in the future of the construction industry.


We must never forget our origins and where we’ve come from. GMB are proud of our history thanks to the efforts of these retired members who built and maintained the union so that today we can enjoy the support and representation that GMB affords to members.’


The Southampton Branch is now much wider and is made up of an amalgamation of several branches from the area. GMB Southampton Branch Secretary Neil Robertson said,


‘It was an honour to be in the presence of so many likeminded people at the retired members’ reunion. The boilermaker tradition is the fabric that today’s modern GMB values are built from. From Paul Maloney and Bob Stokes reminding us of the historical traditions to Marie Robertson as Branch Equalities Officer promoting women at work in GMB, we learn that we define our future by learning from our history.’


Enquiries: Bryan Hulley, Regional Organiser, GMB Southern Region 07733 893 059 or email: