There’s a huge gap at Hirepool in Lower Hutt where Colin Bailey used to work. He’s retired from the Hutt Road branch after more than 30 years on the job.
Colin’s farewell barbeque was an emotional day for everyone as Hirepool staff from across Wellington, along with Regional Manager Stuart Drew from Hawke’s Bay, came to say goodbye.
“He does leave a gap here – 100 percent,” Stuart says. “He swept the yard, kept it clean. No-one did it as well as he did. His work here was exceptional. He brought an excellent work ethic, a great sense of humour, a cheekiness.”
Stuart says he’ll miss Colin sneaking up on him and giving him a punch in the ribs. “It wasn’t just work; we were part of his extended family.”
He says employing Colin had been a success and Colin had worked to make it a success. “Years ago, someone came up with a great idea and he has stayed with us all that time. Colin still had to earn his way, which he did.”
Wellington Area Manager Rod Groombridge worked with Colin for only seven or eight years but has known him far longer through Special Olympics New Zealand. Colin was a champion swimmer and Rod’s mother, Carol Groombridge, was the organisation’s first national secretary.
Rod says Colin was held in high regard by all the staff and treated as an equal. He says that was obvious in how many turned up to his farewell. A special sign reading ‘Colin’s Wash Room’ was hung over his work area.
“It was a funny old day. It was emotional really. We made that sign and we retired his broom.”
Colin had worked at Hirepool for longer than any of the team and through many of its former lives on the site – Projex, Hirequip and then Hirepool.
Hirequip used to hire out heavy equipment and when the trucks, diggers and huge road-sealing compactors came back clogged in mud Colin scoured their outsides with a water blaster and gave their cabs a dust-off ready for the next customer. He worked in all weather in gumboots, mask, leggings and a beanie to keep warm. In 2009 Hirequip presented him with a long-service award.
Hirequip’s successor, Hirepool, relocated the heavy machinery to another location and Colin switched gears. “I washed everything, the whole lot – washed all the gear, lawnmowers and rotary hoes.”
Colin started at Projex in 1985 or 1986, on work experience. He then took a year off to do the vocational life skills course at Petone Weltech before heading back to work.
Lee Bailey, Colin’s mother, says he got the job through IHC, working one day a week at the start. Before long “he was doing five days and he wanted to do six, but we put our foot down”.
This was a big commitment for Lee. “I would get up at 5.30am to get him to work. He went at 7am and was picked up at 2pm,” she says.
Last year, however, things changed. Although Colin’s job was waiting for him after lockdown, he was 59 and becoming increasingly tired. “Yeah, I would go home and sleep,” Colin says. As well, his father Ken died in September and Colin and Lee were having to adjust to the changes.
Lee, now 80, says she is glad to give up the early start. And Colin enjoys helping Lee around the house and mowing the lawns. He usually visits his old workmates once a week.