RETIRING is not an adjective often used to describe book keeper Monica Evans who is celebrating a record-breaking 70 years working for the same engineering business.
The ‘ledger in her own life time’ started work as an accounts clerk at Kigass Ltd in Leamington in April 1947, at the tender age of 19, just two years after the end of the Second World War.
Now, 70 years later, Monica, who has just celebrated her 89th birthday, is still balancing the books three days per week – and could be the UK’s longest serving employee.
The company has written to the Guinness Book of Records which is verifying her status as the UK’s longest serving employee, previously believed to be held by 79 year-old postman Hamish Menzies who had worked 64 years.
Despite this unbroken record of service, Monica, who still lives in Leamington, has no immediate plans to retire.
Legendary for her forensic eye for detail – she still employs double-entry book keeping by hand alongside the digital BACs invoice payments to suppliers – Monica once kept her five-strong team after hours because the books were in deficit to the tune of 2p.
“No one was allowed to go home until we had found out what had happened – it sounds silly, by today’s standards, but you have to be able to balance the books if you want to run a successful business,” said Monica, who has looked after the accounts for four generations of the same family aerospace engineering company now based in Montague Road in Warwick.
“I love working for Kigass – it has been my life and will continue to be important to me. When I started work, there were six members of staff working in Regent Grove, Leamington Spa and the Wardman family lived above the factory.”
“In those days, I was employed on switchboard sometimes and the owner Charlie would call down to me when he had an issue on his mind and say – ‘get me the Prime Minister’. He was a wonderfully eccentric boss.”
Several moves later, the business now employs more than 70 staff, a quarter of which have given more than 20 years’ service with some, including Monica, working more than 40 years.
Monica received another surprise this week – a congratulatory letter from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Damien Green MP.
He said: “Your employers have informed me of how much they appreciate the marvellous contribution you have made during your many years of work, and that you are a deeply valued and truly respected member of staff. Your commitment and loyalty should be an inspiration to us all as you demonstrate the wealth of skills and experience that older workers can bring to the workplace.”
The next in line to the long-service title is machine turner Peter Crane who this September will notch up a half century at the precision engineering firm.
Collectively, 19 Kigass workers have notched up a staggering 616 years of loyal service.
“All these years later when the business has grown, it still has that feeling of being part of the family and being looked after,” added Monica.
Joanne Wardman-Smith, the great grand-daughter of the firm’s founder Charlie Wardman and a main board director for Kigass Aero Components, said: “Monica is an important part of Kigass and represents what the business is all about – family values and great staff. She has been with us through good times and bad.
“She worked for my great grandfather, my grandfather, my father and now me – we are privileged to have her.
“I often take her out for lunch for a catch up, but when she returns to her desk she insists on working the extra time to catch up her hours – she is that sort of dedicated person who goes beyond the call of duty and has done all of her life.
“We have talked about retirement, but there are no immediate plans as far as Monica is concerned. She is an amazing and adventurous woman who, only four years ago, flew to Australia on her own to see relatives.”