Captain Tom Moore - fondly remembered for saving a factory and 60 jobs
- Credit: Archant
Long after Covid-19 is a grim, fearsome memory, the name and stoicism of Captain Tom Moore will live on.
And while a nation proudly recalls how his indomitable spirit and extraordinary fund raising comforted and inspired a nation, a corner of the Cambridgeshire Fens remains grateful for what he did for them.
It was back in the 1980s, which for many seems a lifetime ago, that his business acumen came to the fore.
The kindly, jovial, much loved hero of the pandemic was then something of an entrepreneur.
His success in instigating a management buyout of March Concrete after the parent company merged with another is little document.
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But from evidence we’ve seen and heard he helped to save around 60 jobs.
Captain Tom moved into business when he left the army, having served in Burma, India and Indonesia.
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Christine Wilson recalls her late husband and keen cricketer Alan Wilson working with Captain Moore at March Concrete Products Ltd.
She said: “The legend that is Captain Tom Moore lived in the Fens with his family for a few years in the 1980s.
“He was appointed manager of Cawood Concrete Products Ltd following the retirement of Mr Alan Walton.
“He instigated a management buy-out with four other staff members, including the late Alan Wilson who was the company secretary.”
Mrs Wilson says they re-named the firm March Concrete Products Ltd, with a big relaunch on the River Thames in London.
She added: “They traded from 1983 to 1987 very successfully and were then bought out by ARC and several of his staff were then made redundant.
“Mr Moore cared greatly for his staff in the factory and wanted guarantees from ARC that they would keep their jobs, which they did until the firm closed in 1992.
“Tom led a very happy and successful team and was always forward-thinking and very modest, trying to improve machinery for better performance of products; a really lovely man.”
Alan Wilson died in November 2019 and his wife, Christine, says many will remember his and Tom Moore’s work at the concrete firm.
She added: “There are a lot of people who would have worked at their factory who will still be around, many people will remember him from around the Fens.”
Rosemary Paxton recalls: “My husband Mike Paxton was part of the management in 1984 and had very fond memories of Tom Moore and is very proud of his wonderful achievement for the NHS.”
Joan Syme told us: “My late husband J Moore used to have all our concrete from Cawoods. Tom Moore was a very nice gentleman.”
She described his superlative fundraising walk for the NHS as “fantastic”.
Janine Conlon said: “I loved my time there, I worked there for 13 years till it was shut down, I was 22 when I went there, I think – very happy memories.”
Jane Bedford added: “I remember March Concrete from my banking days at Lloyds in March. It was normally Alan (Wilson) that would come in and do the banking.
Sebastian Green and Dean F. Berry devoted a chapter of their book on management buy-outs to the history of March Concrete.
They reported how in early 1983 concrete pipe manufacturer Cawoods was under threat of closure after its parent company had just merged with Redwood creating a possible conflict of interest.
On July 11, 1983 Cawoods general manager Tom Moore, who had achieved some success in turning around the company’s fortunes, concluded a management buyout.
With four managers -Messrs Daisley, Doyle, Paxton and Wilson - they took a 32 per cent stake in the new company.
“They had had to raise £100,000 to fund the purchase of the assets of the company and a further £200 000 for long-term finance and working capital,” say Green and Perry.
“To strengthen their hand with the financial institutions backing the deal (ICFC and Lloyds Bank), Tom Moore had called in local MP, Clement Freud.
“Sixty jobs in Freud’s constituency were being threatened by the closure.
“Freud had sufficient faith in the company that he was prepared to invest some £9,000 of his own money and take a 13 per cent stake in the buyout”.
And so was formed March Concrete Ltd – and the fourth largest employer in the town was saved.
Profits came but it wasn’t to last for in 1987, with a market slump and high gearing, the directors turned to Amey Roadstone who took over March Concrete Ltd.
“Nevertheless, the buyout was not a total failure,” report Green and Berry.
“Management, workforce and outside shareholders all benefitted - and the March plant, though under new ownership, had become more profitable, and produced better quality pipes, than for many years”.