AN exhibition dedicated to marking how JCB became the success story it is today has been officially opened by a royal visitor.
The Countess of Wessex opened The Story of JCB at the Rocester-based World Headquarters during her visit to receive a cheque for £2 million for the NSPCC, which was raised through the fund-raising efforts of JCB staff.
Employees set out on the Reaching Out to Children in Staffordshire appeal to raise £1 million for the children’s charity and Lord Bamford pledged to double the total to £2 million if the target was met.
The cheque was handed over to the Countess, who is the president of the NSPCC, by Lady Bamford OBE during her visit, where she met dozens of the employees that made the donation possible.
Part of the proceeds of the appeal has been used to purchase a service centre for the NSPCC in Newcastle-under-Lyme, which provides a range of services for children at risk of harm or abuse. Called Carole House in honour of JCB and Lady Bamford’s support of the NSPCC over more than 30 years, the facility was officially opened by The Countess of Wessex earlier in the day.
Pupils from Ryecroft Middle School and Dove First School were on hand proudly waving their flags to greet the Countess before she toured the Story of JCB exhibition.
Her Royal Highness was presented with a posy by Lord and Lady Bamford’s five-year-old granddaughter Matilda.
The Countess of Wessex was introduced to more than 20 employees in the Story of JCB. Among them were three who this year join Lord Bamford in celebrating 50 years’ service with the company: Jane Staley, Lord Bamford’s PA; company photographer Michael Lee and John Smith, who works in group manufacturing.
Tim Leadbeater, who joined JCB back in 1975, said: “The exhibition brings in visitors including bankers and lawyers who are all extremely intrigued by it. It is remarkable.
Geoff Bourne and Colin Bond, who were responsible for delivering the exhibition, also met with the Countess during her visit.
Mr Bourne said: “We came back after 18 months retirement to put this together as it was Lord Bamford’s dream so he asked us all back. We were given a brief to show JCB all through the years to the days when it was just a dream to when it became a reality.
“It is an experience that illustrates how all the changes have come about from all those years ago. It is designed to be up-dated as history is up-dated. The Countess said she was very impressed with it.”
Mr Bond added: “The exhibition includes original royal visits so it is nice to be able to show that side. I jumped at the chance to do the experience as I always thought it would be nice to do if we had the time and then we did.”
Afterwards, Her Royal Highness attended a reception to meet scores of JCB employees who were pivotal to the success of the company’s £1 million NSPCC Appeal.
Lady Bamford, the wife of JCB’s chairman, said: “JCB has a wonderful history of raising money for the NSPCC. Being here to celebrate the happy culmination of our campaign for the new NSPCC service centre is a shared moment of immense pride for all of us.
“We set an ambitious target of one million pounds, and it was reached through tough economic times; yet always with great enthusiasm, and innovation. Every single penny raised is being spent here in Staffordshire, JCB’s home for almost 70 years. The money is for a tangible, visible project. It’s a building that you can always see, and which is already bringing immense benefit to the community.”
Lady Bamford told an assembled audience of more than 150 JCB employees involved in the fund-raising that Staffordshire has one of the highest incidences of child abuse in the UK.
She added: “There is a long way to go ensure that children are given the safety they deserve, but thanks to your inspiring efforts, the children in care at Carole House now benefit from new facilities and a wide range of help, therapy and services all under one roof.”
After receiving the cheque, the Countess said: “I think I can honestly say I have never touched a cheque for £2 million before. On behalf of the NSPCC and all of the children you are helping, I cannot thank you enough.
“You are going to be changing their lives and giving them a future as they have not had a past. You have done it all with enthusiasm and good cheer and had a lot of fun along the way with the knowledge you are doing something incredible.”
The £1 million was raised through a variety of inspiring ideas. JCB Insurance employees Michael Gregory, of Rudyard, near Leek, and Jan Farmer, of Uttoxeter, came up with a high-flying fund-raising idea – leaping out of a plane from 10,000 feet in the air in return for sponsorship. Their efforts raised £2,500.
Ms Farmer, who met The Countess of Wessex, said: “It was lovely to see The Countess and for her to come along and thank everyone for their fund-raising efforts for the NSPCC. The sky dive was an exhilarating experience but not something I will be repeating.”
Among the guests waiting to welcome the Countess was Uttoxeter MP Andrew Griffiths and East Staffordshire mayor Michael Rodgers.
Mr Griffiths said: “I think that it was a really special day that many people in Rocester will remember for a long time. I was particularly touched by the excitement and enthusiasm shown by the school children.
“We were thrilled and privileged to meet the Countess. Both my wife and mayoress were thrilled to be wearing the same shoes as the Countess.”
Councillor Rodgers added: “It was nice to see the school children turn up and meet Her Royal Highness. It was a fabulous day and I was honoured to be representing the council.”