Double celebration as George Farwell turns 90 and Sway firm Farwell's hits 70
FOR a man of 90, George Farwell keeps a keener eye on his business than one has any right to expect.
But celebrating his ninth decade isn't the only milestone for George this year – it's also the 70th anniversary of his New Forest firm, G Farwell Ltd.
Known as Farwell's, George started the business in 1952 with the proceeds of two sows and their piglets, sold at Ringwood Market for £160.
A once-small log-cutting outfit comprising George, a saw bench and an old tipper lorry, Farwell's has now grown to employ around 50 staff plus subcontractors, and offers a raft of services including plant and skip hire, aggregate, fencing and haulage.
The double anniversary was recently celebrated with a mass party on a field adjoining Farwell's Sway site, in which 600 people toasted the business and its long-standing head.
They also raised thousands for Oakhaven and the air ambulance through donations and auctioned goods given by local firms.
Director Steve Stacey, who has been at Farwell's since 2008, said working for the company was like being part of a family.
"We've got a lot of long-serving staff here, some 20 to 30 years. It's very much a family."
George recalls one worker quitting the firm at 8am, but by lunchtime he was on the phone wanting to return.
And then there was Bill.
"Bill was in his 70s and struggling to carry things, but he didn't want to let George down," said Steve. "So we sat down with him and agreed a retirement. We had a lovely leaving do, lots of people said goodbye.
"But come Monday morning he was sitting there ready for work again. It went on like that for some time. We didn't pay him, but he enjoyed coming back and being part of it all."
George added: "I've always said I couldn't do it without the other guys here."
While many of the staff feel like family, some of them are literally so.
Son David, who joined the business on leaving school at 16, is a director, although on the verge of retirement, and grandson Adam – once an apprentice mechanic in the vehicle workshop – is also looking to return. Other family members have also been involved around the site over the years – none more so than George's late wife Linda who died in 2018. They were married for more than 60 years and, as well as being company secretary and providing unwilting support for George, she "made coffee for all the lads".
With many firms struggling through Covid, Farwell's has diversified enough to ride out most hard times.
"We do so many different things here that if one part of the business is quiet, the other parts keep going," said Steve.
"The staff here are all very adaptable around the site, and can move between the different parts without much trouble."
While Steve keeps his boss abreast of everything across the company daily, George admits that, while he's not looking to retire, he's "drifting away".
Not that that's dimmed his passion for the business.
"It was just me when I started; I started with nothing.
"There has been change over the years, but you've just got to change with it, don't you?
"I just want to show the youngsters how to do it."