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Two hero Thames Water workers retire after almost 100 years

Wednesday 2nd June 2021 07:27

Barry Howe and Paul McClean retirement

L-R Barry Howe and Paul McClean

Two hero Thames Water workers have retired after clocking up almost a century of service between them. 

Barry Howe, an engineer from London, and Paul McClean, an electrician from Oxfordshire, worked for Britain’s biggest water company for a combined total of 87 years. 

Barry, who retired on May 28 after 47 years, saved the life of a colleague who collapsed in a sewer in 1984, while Paul, who left on June 1 after 40 years, was a key part of the humanitarian effort after a devastating earthquake in Turkey in 1999. 

Barry and Paul are both keen golfers and plan to indulge their interest by spending more time on the fairways in their retirement.  

Barry first joined the water company in 1973 as part of a graduate programme, and has performed 11 different roles throughout his career, rising through the ranks to senior engineer, helping maintain London’s vast sewer system. 

Back in 1984, Barry leapt into action when a routine sewer inspection in London almost turned into a tragedy.  

He was checking a pipeline in Brook Green when a fellow team member fell collapsed unconscious face-down in the water.  

Barry dragged him 25 metres to the nearest manhole where he put him in the recovery position until he was pulled out in a harness and taken to hospital.  

For his heroic actions, Barry received a thank-you letter from both Thames Water and from the man whose life he had saved.  

Barry said: “I’m very grateful to Thames Water. They sponsored my education, helped me become a chartered engineer, gave me career opportunities and job experience. 

“Thames Water have been very good at asking what people want to do in their future. They opened up my horizons for senior roles and they gave me a life. 

Paul’s first role was an electrician at Farmoor Water Treatment Works in Oxford before becoming an instrumentation, control and automation (ICA) technician, repairing and maintaining the computers which control how water is distributed to homes and businesses.  

He was part of the Thames Water International team which helped in the relief effort following a major earthquake in Izmit, Turkey, in 1999 which left 17,000 people dead and more than 250,000 homeless.  

Paul said: “It was hard work but one of my highlights and a great achievement. We built showers out of Portaloos and distributed them to makeshift camps, and filled demijohns with water, which we distributed to the camps and smaller villages without water.”