Golden Girl, Helen, calls some time after 50 years of service with Sangamu


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When she left school for the last time on Friday, January 29, 1971, 15-year-old Helen Pettigrew from Greenock had little time to feel nervous about starting her first job the following Monday, with local Sangamo – the manufacturer of timing switches and specialized heating controls. Fast-forward to half a decade, and Helen has scored an impressive 50-year service with Sangamo – she generally stopped working for the last time on Tuesday, February 2, 2021. Along with five other new recruits, Helen started working on the Sangamo production line, where she had a vital role In the production and assembly of Sangamo round time switches. Sangamo has been manufacturing popular timing round switches since the early 1950s. Like loyal employee Helen, these keys have stood the test of time. More than 11 million units have been sold so far, and because the original design never needed updating, the time switch you buy today is completely interchangeable with one purchased decades ago. While the product Helen worked on may not have changed little over the decades, the same cannot be said of Helen, who has witnessed many events locally, nationally and globally. She became a lifelong friend with some of her closest co-workers, met her husband Billy, who works in shipbuilding with Ferguson Marine, married him, and attended the weddings of several of her friends and family. It has seen the size of Sangamo’s workforce shrink from several hundreds when it first started, to 19 employees there today, as new machines, technology and changing work patterns have been introduced. When she was released during the first coronavirus lockdown last year, she decided she wanted to spend more time sharing her elderly mother’s care with her sister and her retirement plans soon became a reality. It is a testament to Sangamo’s business ethos that Helen is not alone in reaching such an incredible feat in her career. She was joined by four good friends, all on their way to earning 50 years of service recognition. Pat McCloy joined the company in September 1973 and has more than 48 years under her belt, Sandra McKirdy joined the following April 1974, and will soon be in business for 48 years, while Ellen McGachey and Elizabeth Diedrich celebrate 44 years with the company. When Helen was asked to summarize her time at Sangamo, she said, “I never imagined when I came here for my interview in 1971, that I would happily work with the same company, on the same product line, with some of the same close friends 50 years later. I honestly say that I really enjoyed working every day here. I describe us as one happy big family. From day one I felt like an important part of the company. I made a lot of great friends and was always fully supported by different managers along the way. Obviously a big part From me it would be sad to say goodbye and finish last. It’s still a bit unreal. ” Sangamo Managing Director Steve Taylor said, “I got to know Helen only three years ago when the Scolmore Group – the company that currently owns Sangamo – took over the business. I wish I had known her for longer. It’s unbelievable to think that she went in and out of the same door for the past 50 years. Everyone here will miss her. I wish her and Billy a long and happy retirement together. ” Scolmore Group acquired Sangamo in 2018 and Sangamo’s range of specialty time switches and heating controls became part of the ESP product portfolio at this time.


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