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Moving at the sharp end

Apr 22, 2015
The Mover often interviews the owners and senior managers of moving companies. But Darren Hayward has been on the road with Burke Bros for 30 years and is one of the company’s longest serving removals men. Here’s his story.

Darren Hayward first joined Burke Bros in 1985 when he was 19 years old.  Now, at 49, he’s still loving the removals industry. “When I first left school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be so I started off in a factory,” Darren explained.  “I must admit I hated it!” Having concluded he wanted a more active job, and not one where he was just stuck in the same place, he joined Burke Bros as a porter, working hands-on serving the customers.

His first day wasn’t quite what he’d bargained for. It was hard physical labour. As Darren recalls: “To start with I hated the job as I didn’t realised how demanding it was going to be and I remember Gary Burke (Burke Bros’ Managing Director) wouldn’t even let me have a cigarette break.”

As Gary and the crew knew what Darren would be feeling the next day, when he didn’t appear for work, they drove the van round to his house, knocked on the door, got him out of bed and persuaded him to join them on the next job. He hasn’t looked back since. “We knew, from our own experience, that he’d be physically tired,” said Gary. “You’ve just got to break through that initial pain barrier and get on with it.” 

These days, as an experienced foreman, Darren is responsible for coordinating the move on the day, dealing with the customers and giving them a plan for what’s happening. This involves complex logistics and leading the team to ensure the move is a smooth and well-coordinated success. “I also enjoy making sure the newbies and younger removals guys are being well trained, particularly in their softer skills, like customer care, which is as important today as the actual packing and lifting,” said Darren.

Having completed over 7,000 work days, Darren’s moved thousands of people, including famous celebrities. “It’s been amazing the different types of people I’ve had the pleasure to move,” he said.  “I’ve moved international footballers such as Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Keane and Steve Bulls and football managers like Gordon Strachan, Dave Jones and Gareth Southgate.” He’s even moved furniture and effects from Kensington Palace to France.

Among the most memorable items he’s moved was a collection of paintings, by a world famous painter.  He couldn’t believe it when he found out they were valued at £20million yet it would all fit into the back of a small van.

“Darren is one of the most reliable men you could ever wish for, even if it’s an early morning start, which is sometimes as early as 4 or 5am,” said Gary.

“I just got used to it over the years, but if you start early, you get to finish early,” said Darren. “We always unload a lot quicker than loading, so when you finish a job, in a faraway location, the rest of the night is yours.” 

In fact, the travelling is Darren’s favourite part of the job. He said: “You can be in a different city every week, which means I get to see places that I wouldn’t otherwise see working in a factory.” Having travelled to countries all over Europe he fondly remembers the fun he’s had in Alicante and Benidorm, Southern Spain, during his weekend rest periods.

He’s gained quite a reputation for being one of the comedians amongst the team. “Being in this industry you have a lot of stories to talk about, and some things I couldn’t possibly reveal. But you have to have a laugh. I always have a smile on my face throughout the day and have some good times with the crews. It makes the work a lot easier.”

Darren’s keen to encourage other young people to work in the removals industry, as long as it suits them and they’re willing to work hard. Darren said: “I always feel a sense of satisfaction when youngsters learn over the years and develop into really good removal men.”

Darren recalls doing removals for British Telecom and the Police Force in the 1980s. “I’ve moved all sorts of offices including big banks and crown courts,” he said. “The biggest office moves I’ve been involved in were moving the General Post Office to their new headquarters, which took six weeks. I’ve relocated Dunlop to their new Birmingham headquarters and Goodyear from Wolverhampton to Birmingham too. But the biggest move was an engineering firm which took us 56 truckloads from North Acton to Telford.”

When asked to sum up the industry in a sentence or two, Darren said: “It’s a strange industry. When you go from working on a job in Kensington Palace to the next job moving someone in a council house on benefits, you get to experience all walks of life.”



Photo: Darren Hayward

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