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Below follows a history of the association from it's formation in 1980:

Union officials Mike Webber and John `Paddy' Falconer have the distinction of being the two men who probably played the most important role in the formation of the Westland Retirement Association.

It was back in 1980 when Mike, the Westland Aircraft Ltd convenor and John, the Normalair Garrett deputy convenor, were in discussion about the welfare of their members in retirement. They felt that an organised activity or club would provide important benefit and support for employees who had retired from the company.

George Baynham, the employee services manager at Westland Aircraft, listened to the pair's idea and decided to put it to the Board of Directors. It was approved by the Board, providing that it applied to all retired employees, not just union members, and was open to all companies within the Westland Aircraft Group.

George Baynham was given responsibility for overseeing the project and Mike Webber joined George's team as employee participation advisor to assist in the implementation of the new retirement association.

Details on the proposals for an association for retired employees were published in the Westland Group News publication in November 1980. In the early part of 1981 the personnel departments at the various sites in Somerset, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Middlesex made arrangements to move the proposals forward.

As a result, retired pensioners were invited to a series of exploratory meetings held at sites within the group. Everyone was given the opportunity to give their views and opinions on the proposed retirement association.

Such was the enthusiasm generated by the meetings that the various sites formed themselves into branches and started to organise activities, even before the formal creation of a group retirement association.

Weston Super Mare was the first site to hold a meeting, on June 8th 1981 in the Westland Social Club. The meeting was convened by Mr Usher-Clark, the site personnel manager and about 40 people turned up.

Similar formal meetings were held at Fairey Aviation in Hayes on August 18, followed by Fireproof Tanks in Portsmouth, Westland Helicopters in Yeovil and Saunders-Roe on the Isle of Wight, all in September.

Westland Group News reported in the July/August 1981 under the headline "Retirement link up? Pensioners say 'yes' ". The Group News report read: "Interest in the formation of a Westland Group Retirement Association has been so great that nearly 550 pensioners attended a series of half a dozen meetings around the group in June.

"And it looks likely that during September at least five branches of the Association will be set up formally - the only exception could be the WHL Milton Keynes site where only one retired employee turned up for the meeting.

The report continued: "Elsewhere though, interest has been so great that many pensioners have demanded the Association should be set up immediately, rather than wait until September.

"But group employee participation adviser Mike Webber, who gained the support of the company for the scheme, says it would not have been possible to have set up the Association immediately.

"He told a meeting in Yeovil: 'We have to go the other proposed branches and see what support is likely before we can have a group wide organisation.-

"Mike also pointed out that there advantages in running the association under an all embracing group banner, rather than independently. 'For instance, visits, outings, purchases of goods and so on could be obtained with considerable discounts.'

"However, small groups of pensioners have been meeting regularly since the preliminary meetings and steering committees have been set up to start planning programmes - and even hold 'unofficial meetings.'

 

"A hard working team of half a dozen pensioners have been giving up their time to send out more than 3,000 letters inviting pensioners to inaugural meetings of the various branches and enclosing membership cards and a draft constitution.

"One of the biggest branches - with a potential of 650 - could be at Saunders-Roe in Hayes. Because of the old Fairey connections, many pensioners still live in and around West London."

The Group News published a photograph of Jim Rogers, John 'Paddy' Falconer, Fred Rock, Dorothy Barnett, Peggy Fletcher and Al Williams sending out the 3,000 letters. It also reported that Westland group chief executive Basil Blackwell had agreed to be president of the Westland Group Retirement Association.

In the following issue in September/ October 1981 the Westland Group News reported under the headline 'All systems go for retirement groups.' It published photographs of inaugural meetings at sites in the Isle of Wight, Yeovil and Hayes, reporting that hundreds of the group's 2,500 pensioners had already become actively involved in the branches at Weston Super Mare, East Cowes, Yeovil and Hayes where more than 200 former employees of Fairey Aviation had the chance to meet for the first time in 10 year

The Fairey factory at Hayes had closed in 1971 and many of the retired members had not seen each other since then. The inaugural meeting of the Group Association took place at the Westland sports club in Yeovil on November 10th 1981.

All branches sent representatives to the meeting, which was chaired by George Baynham with Peggy Collie as secretary.

At this meeting the initial constitution of the Association was accepted, an executive committee was formed and Basil Blackwell was confirmed as the first president of the Association.

Again the story attracted headlines in the Westland Group News. Its headline read: "Retirement group gets going" and included photographs from the inaugural meeting.

 

 

The report read: "They came from east, west and south - more than 400 retired Group employees with thousands of years' service - congregated in the Yeovil sports club all with the same aim: to officially accept the constitution of the Westland Group Retirement Association and its five branches and elect group chief executive Basil Blackwell as the Association's president."

"Coachloads of retired members had travelled from the Hayes area of West London and many representatives had arrived too from Weston Super Mare, the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth branches to join up with the largest section at Yeovil."

The report said that chairman George Baynham had asked representatives to give a brief summary of their activities to date.

In the years that followed those hectic first few months, each branch developed its own calendar of activities and special events. Hundreds of retired employees took part in regular branch events and activities...a pattern which has continued throughout the entire 25 year history of the Association.

Every year each of the branches sent representatives to the annual general meeting of the Westland Group Retirement Association providing the opportunity to catch up with old friends, make new acquaintances and share ideas and experiences from the past.

Some of the highlights from the annual general meetings:

At the 5th AGM held at Yeovil on November 26 1986 nearly 600 members attended. Tributes were paid to George Baynham who had been chairman since the Association was founded, but had stepped down after four years, Mr B Bell taking over the role. President of the Association by that time was Philip Rushworth who continued in the role until his retirement in 1993.

Malcolm Greenslade succeeded Philip, but his own position as President lasted just one year with Mike Beaumont taking over as President at the annual meeting in 1996, a post he held until 2003 when David Bath, director of Public Affairs became President.

Each year the annual general meeting is attended by hundreds of former employees and provides the opportunity for the branches to formally report on their activities throughout the year. It also gave the President the chance to update pensioners on the company's progress and achievements.

The 10th anniversary of the Association was celebrated in 1991 with the cutting of a cake and confirmation that there were now more than 4,500 eligible members of the Association. There was even more reason to celebrate with the news that a much-needed order for the new EH101 had been placed by the Ministry of Defence earlier that year.

Ten years after its foundation, the Association was in good shape, according to chairman Doug Farge. A number of original members who laid the foundations for the Association were present at the meeting, including George Baynham. During the I 0 years the Association had grown in size and the number of activities had increased as well, said Mr Farge.

Cowes branch reported that it had been running well with around 40 members at each meeting, while the Hayes branch continued strongly with an average of 65 members at their monthly meetings. Although the smallest branch, Portsmouth continued with a busy programme of activities, while at Weston they had celebrated their 500th weekly meeting that year.

Yeovil branch meetings were regularly attended by 250 members and its trips and holidays were particularly well supported.

The annual meeting in 1996 saw the retirement of Peggy Collie, who had served as group secretary for 15 years as well as being a member of the Yeovil branch and group committees. Tributes were paid to Peggy for her hard work and a commemorative gift was presented to Peggy and her husband Bob to mark the occasion.

June Trevett took on the post of group secretary from Peggy and served in that role until she sadly passed away in 2001.

 

The 15th annual meeting in 1997 was a particularly poignant occasion with members paying their condolences to the family of Ray Gillham, who had passed away that year. Ray had been group treasurer for several years, keeping the accounts in meticulous order and reporting on the Association's financial position at each annual meeting.

Twenty years after the Association was founded branches continued to meet regularly, even if numbers were, inevitably, dropping off particularly in the smaller branches like Cowes and Portsmouth. Hayes, meanwhile had ceased its formal activities, although members still travelled to the annual meeting at Yeovil. President Mike Beaumont hoped that Hayes would continue to stay in contact even though the branch no longer existed.

A special celebration event was held in Yeovil on June 20 2001 to marking the 20th anniversary of the Association with hundreds of members attending from all over the country.

A special presentation was made to Mike Beaumont in 2002 when he stood down as President upon his own retirement from Westland. Group chairman Stan Hobbs thanked Mike for his input over the years and presented him with his official Westland Retirement Association membership card to mark the occasion.

The 23rd annual meeting was held at the Westland Leisure Complex in Yeovil in April 2005 when news of the special 25th anniversary celebration in 2006 was reported.

The passing of time continued to have its effect on the smaller branches with Portsmouth reporting that it was increasingly difficult to keep going because of declining numbers, while the Cowes branch was equally affected by the vagaries of age and ill health.

Weston and Yeovil continued their busy programme of activities with Weston holding a total of 44 coffee mornings during the year and Yeovil organising holidays to Scotland, Italy, Croatia and a Baltic Cruise

along with their regular fortnightly meetings attended by around 200 people.

Twenty five years on and the Westland Group Retirement Association continues to provide support, friendship and enjoyment for hundreds of former employees.

Stan Hobbs, the Association's chairman said: "A phenomenon...how else can you describe an organisation that for 25 years had operated on an entirely voluntary basis and with funds just to cover its administrative costs and yet today is as strong as when it was formed in 1981.

"This surely must be due to the wisdom and foresight of the founder members and the loyalty and dedication of all the branch officials over the years.

"Here we have an organisation that sets its own standards, makes its own rules and what's more keeps to them, A caring association? It has to be. To those who lose their partners a sympathetic return to the fold can make all the difference in coming to terms with life again. People do care!

"It must be unique to have a group that is so diverse in background and yet able to call each other friend through taking part in branch activities.

"So far there has been a noticeable lack of 'what's in it for me?' Members have always been willing to support their branch by putting something back. Long may it continue.

"The success or otherwise of an organisation can be measured by its membership always coming back for more. If this is the case then the Westland Retirement Association has had a remarkable quarter of a century and its members can feel justifiably proud."