David Birkett 1937-2018
David left Woodhouse Grove at 16 after his O Levels. He often and happily quoted one of his School reports which said ‘will work, when interested’. In later years he regretted not working harder at School but the reality was he was only really focused on going to work for Wellington Rubber Company, which his father Henry Birkett, or Laurie as he was called, had founded in 1936, one year before David was born. 81 years later – the age David would have been in April – the company still trades under this name and thrives. This is an amazing personal achievement, and one of which he was characteristically modest.
The original business was the collection of used tyre casings that he sold to retreaders. In 1939 this business was seen as vital to the war effort and Wellington Rubber Company blossomed. By the early 60s the market was changing so WRC decided to concentrate on waste rubber. This was recycling before recycling became the norm. Very innovative for its time.
The company continued to flourish down to David’s hard work – there was only really one summer holiday – and 6 days a week, working Saturday mornings was the norm. The factory was adjacent to Elland Road football club. David was always hands on, never back office, leading from the front: he had a heavy goods vehicle licence and fitted most of the tyres – a sideline to the main business before the likes of Kwikfit.
David had one job, for his whole life. Like all companies, Wellington needed to adapt to thrive, responding to change and competition. He made sure this happened, in the way that his father had too. David never moaned even when it was tough, and he enjoyed what he did.
After around 45 years, David was ready to enjoy retirement, and he sold the business to J Allcock & Sons in 1999- a family company too, that had existed even longer, since 1924. The business relocated to Manchester. David stayed on for a time in the role of consultant.
David was a true gentleman and the world will be a lesser place without him.