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Centenary is so much more
Buy this photo » Imogen Kirby, four, with cousins, Molly, 15, and Jasmine Kirby, 13. Inset right, Michael Hollis, 77, and wife Gillian, 76, reflect on when they worked at the plant.Picture OX61357: David Fleming
THEY used to put in hours of hard work for Morris Motors, but now they are proud owners of the cars they helped build.
A group of former employees and motor-enthusiasts gathered with their Cowley-built cars at Mini Plant Oxford yesterday to celebrate 100 years of car-making. More than 300 people visited the free, one-day exhibition of around 25 vehicles, ranging from 1930s Morris 8s to Austin Montegos from the 1980s.
Cowley resident Mick Hollis, 77, who worked at the plant from 1960 until 2000, said: “The exhibition was excellent. There was quite a good variety of cars.
“All my memories of working at the plant are good ones.”
Ray Coles, 56, owner of a 1979 Austin Princess, said: “I had fond memories of working at the plant.
“My car is one of the rarest of its kind according to The Princess and Ambassador Owners’ Club – only 121 remain.
“It’s been to lots of car shows this year and it’s amazing how many people have said ‘my dad used to have one of those.’ Mr Coles was a production worker at the plant from 1977 to 1992.
He added: “I have fond memories. Some jobs were hard work but others were quite easy.
“I think it’s great that an event like this has been organised.”
Mr Coles uses the car nearly every day and bought it for £800 from eBay seven years ago.
The exhibition was organised by Lady Tanya Field, whose great-grandfather, the 7th Earl of Macclesfield, was Sir William Morris’ financial backer in 1912.
Her husband, Jason, has also worked at the plant since 1988. Lady Field, 41, from Headington, said: “The event is really for local people to come and see what the plant has produced over the past 100 years.
“The Morris legacy is genuinely huge in Oxford.”
A former employee at the plant who visited the exhibition, Tony Simmons, 76, said: “I had a good time (working at the plant). Everyone knew each other.
“It changed a lot over the years, from 25,000 workers between Pressed Steel and Morris Motors when I started working, to only 3,000 when I left because of the computers.”
Ian Binnie, from Longworth, started at the Cowley plant in 1967 an apprentice experimental sheet metal worker, and worked there for five years.
His first car was a 1936 Morris 8 and he bought his 1936 Morris Ten-Four Series II seven years ago for his daughter’s wedding.
Mr Binnie said working at the plant was hard work.
He said: “ It was a hard life working at the plant in the 1970s.
“I didn’t like being stuck indoors working so I left after my five-year apprenticeship, but it was an important part of my life.”
A convoy of Cowley-built cars is due to set off from the plant to the Ace Cafe London in Stonebridge at 5pm tomorrow to continue the centenary celebrations. Three vehicles are confirmed but other drivers are welcome to join. Call Mrs Field on 07929 868284.
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