Our Salford reporter Chris Vickers met up with John Maxwell – affectionately known by his community as the ‘Gate Man’ as on the cul-de-sac where he lives, his and several other houses sport gates and railings welded by John in his workshop at the bottom of his garden.
John personifies the word community and certainly knows how to keep himself busy in retirement – learning new skills and sharing them with the next generation!
Here, Chris got to know him more:
When I phoned John Maxwell to set up a meeting, he told me he was currently busy doing a neighbour’s garden, which at 81 years old seems to typify the man: energetic, generous and practical.
A mutual friend had suggested that I should interview John and he didn’t disappoint.
After being trained by Massey Ferguson, followed by a 12-year spell working around the world for Chloride – notably in South Africa where he helped to build a filtration plant
– John set up his own business in 1962, Maxwell Engineering Limited. He sold the business and ‘officially’ retired aged 65. John married his childhood sweetheart, Alice, and they adopted two daughters Hayley and Linda. Tragically, Alice died of a heart attack after a scheduled operation was cancelled due to precedence being taken for an emergency heart and lung replacement, and she suffered a stroke as a consequence and was therefore too weak for future major heart surgery.
When he was 67 John came into the house from his workshop and was interested in a television programme about playing the ukulele. So interested, in fact, that the very next day he went into town and bought a ukulele and instruction book.
Once he became proficient, he sought personal instruction from a player named Stan Evans and also joined the George Formby Society in Westhoughton. He now regularly gigs with a group known as the ‘Strumalongs’, jams with mates every weekend as well as teaching youngsters.
He was invited to an interview and live performance on Radio 5 Live, which, in turn, led him to give school talks to children in Halifax and Sheffield.
He also knows how to look after himself, as during his National Service John was a chef and remains a keen cook, making all his meals rather than eating convenience foods, and has a signature spicy chicken dish that he’s prepared all over the world on his travels. His culinary skills and a good diet may be the secret to his remarkable stamina and energy.
If you need new gates, a ukulele lesson, to learn how to cook or generally want to have a zest for life – you know where to come!