Its with deep sadness that I am writing about the passing of my friend Brian Alcock the last full time self employed grinder in Sheffield. I had so much admiration for this man and treasured every moment I spent in his company. In many ways he was very simple, he worked unbelievably hard still starting work at 6am and doing a 5 day week aged 82 right up to 3 weeks ago. They really don’t make em like that any more. I don’t think I ever knew anyone who was so universally loved though. His workshop was a happy place with an open door policy, people would wander in and chat and offload their worries and he’d always make time for them. Whatever was going on in your life a few minutes in Brian’s workshop seemed somehow to make the world a better place. As I try to come to terms with the loss I’m finding more than ever that I need to follow Brian’s example, working with your hands is good for your mental health, when things are tough then just doing something that keeps your mind occupied seems to help.

Here’s Brian photographed a couple of years ago by my fiend Giles Bennett, we had some great laughs.

Here he is on his 80th birthday with a little blue badge that his friends and neighbours got for him. He really didn’t like the limelight always insisting he was just a common grinder, nothing special and just doing his job.
My apprentice Zak started working alongside Brian 4 years ago a couple of days a week.
This is the day they fitted Zak’s first stone, he wore this one out, and fitted another. Zak and Brian had deep respect for each other and it was an absolute pleasure to see Brian passing on his skills, and Zak working hard to learn them. If you own one of my axes then it was ground either by Brian or by Zak under Brian’s supervision.

Author Robin Wood

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