WORKMAN by name, workman by nature. Drainspotter. Dullest man in Cumbria and now Anorak of the Year 2019. Seven years ago life changed course for Archie Workman, of Penny Bridge, when he became a self-employed ‘lengthsman’– reviving a parish job dating back to Medieval times. Nowadays he is much in demand – a hero of the highways, a darling of the Women’s Institutes and a reluctant media personality pondering taking on an apprentice. ELLIS BUTCHER meets Archie Workman.
“I do dull,” declares Archie in his soft Whitley Bay burr. “Celebrating the ordinary, that’s what I like to do,” says the former marine engineer. It was in the late 1990s, aged 40, that he was laid off from a Wallsend shipyard and feared it was the end of the world – it wasn’t.
Investment jobs followed with the turn-of-the-Millennium regional development agencies which took him to Russia, China, Poland and the Czech Republic. From the North East he ended up at Invest In Cumbria and helped lure the Great North Swim to Windermere. He brought upwards of £36 million investment into Cumbria, he says, but nothing put him on the map like cleaning blocked drains. The role came along by pure chance when the local lengthsman ‘did his back in.’
Archie confesses: “I hadn’t a clue what a lengthsman was but it’s not rocket science. I saw a business opportunity. I am not the only lengthsman round here, and now I am talking about training somebody else. I like gardening and I always enjoyed working with my hands and I hate to see a dirty road sign.”
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