Managers root out Express Engineering's first apprentice

Two men, who together have almost 80 years service with a Gateshead engineering firm sent their bosses scrabbling through company records

Jeffrey Archer with Phil Lees
Jeffrey Archer with Phil Lees

Two men, who together have almost 80 years service with a Gateshead engineering firm sent their bosses scrabbling through company records.

For years it was thought that Phil Lees, who joined Express Engineering in 1974, was the company’s first apprentice.

But when he was photographed with the newest and 100th recruit – 17-year-old Andrew McKie from North Shields – another long serving employee stepped forward to claim that honour.

Jeffrey – or Dan as he’s known at Express – Archer told his managers that he started with the company in its first year – 1973 – a year before Phil joined the growing team.

Close examination of the records revealed he was right but also why it had been assumed Phil was the first new kid on the block.

For Dan spent several years working for an Express offshoot company - which no longer exists – before returning to his original employer and rejoining Phil at the new headquarters on ‘The Valley’.

Archer said: “I was a bit shocked when I saw Phil pictured with Andrew because I was sure I had started before him. It turned out that I was right and Phil’s been good enough to congratulate me.”

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