Obituary: Peter Silk

Published:  10 April, 2014

Timber and builders' merchant Ridgeons has announced the sad death of former company director Peter Silk, who passed away on 15 March at the age of 90.

Having joined in 1937, Mr Silk was the company's longest serving employee, accumulating an impressive 72 years' service. This comprised working full-time for 50 years, before retiring and assisting for a further 22 years through his support of the Ridgeons' Long Service Club and the Link Scheme.

Mr Silk joined Ridgeons at the age of 14, initially based at the company's Hobson Street Showroom. In his junior capacity, he was responsible for keeping the showroom clean and tidy. One of his duties included the weekly application of a mixture of milk and water to two huge ferns in the entrance, to keep them looking bright and shiny.

Following the end of the Second World War, Mr Silk returned from service at sea to join colleagues at the Hobson Street Showroom, continuing his employment with the company in a variety of positions.

In 1968 he was appointed general manager and became an executive director. Over the next few years he played an integral part in transforming the way in which kitchens, and later bedrooms, were sold. Mr Silk was a keen advocate for the new way in which units were now being produced, and his enthusiasm for this led to the opening of a dedicated Packaged, Kitchen and Bedroom department that opened in 1974 on Mill Road. This new offering proved incredibly popular with trade and retail customers, who would frequently queue to load up their vans and cars in order to benefit from a collection discount.

On 22 December 1984, the Cavendish Road site experienced a massive fire, the heat of which was so intense it lit up the City sky, buckling steel structures and turning concrete pink.

Fortunately nobody was hurt in the blaze and the following day David Ridgeon, Alan Newbury and Peter Silk led a team of dedicated staff who worked tirelessly to organise replacement supplies of timber, plywood and boards, ensuring that the site was able to reopen after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

In 1987, after 50 years continued service, Mr Silk decided to retire from full time employment. He continued his service with the company as a committee member of the 25 Club, which recognises the continuous service of full and part-time employees who have been with the Group for over 25 years. He was also heavily involved with the much valued work of Ridgeons' Link Scheme, a network of former employees who ensure that regular contact is made with retired staff and their widows and widowers.

Director Gordon Ridgeon said: "Peter was a truly unique individual, who played a significant part in shaping the Ridgeons of today. He was incredibly loyal, and totally committed and as a company we were fortunate to have benefitted from his extraordinary qualities. Our thoughts are with his family and many friends."

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