I was born in Aldershot, Hampshire in April 1954 but at the age of two contracted Polio which affected both my legs. Despite this I was a very active child and enjoyed all kinds of sports, but excelled at football and swimming, and over the next fifteen years amassed around 20 medals at the National Sports Association for the Disabled games at Stoke Mandeville.
I trained as a shoemaker from the age of eleven at the Lord Mayor Treloar College in Alton, Hampshire under the wing of two of the countries finest orthopaedic shoemakers Peter Shaw and John Haevan. “Treloars” was a specialist college for students with disabilities and still maintains a reputation for preparing students with the skills and confidence to lead full, active and independent lives.
At sixteen I passed my City and Guilds exams in surgical shoemaking and moved into my first employment working alongside Stan Knight, my City and Guilds examiner at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital at Stanmore, Middlesex. I thought then that I knew it all, but 20 years working in three of Lancashire’s major NHS contracted shoemaking companies made me realise that there is never an end to learning. My growing frustration at the lack of training and skills which often resulted in the poor quality of work being made by those companies made me realise that the only way I could change this would be to start my own business using the experience I had gained as workshop manager over the past few years.
I opened for business as The Cordwainer in 1996 and have relished the challenge of being able to help so many people on an individual basis. Since opening I have made around 1500 pair of shoes and boots for people with special footwear needs. There is still much to learn, but as long as my customers keep challenging me to improve my service to them, I will continue to enjoy my chosen profession.
Although most of my work is for private clients, I welcome inquiries from hospitals, welfare organisations and individuals alike, I am sure I can provide you with the footwear service that you require. I have worked successfully alongside the NHS for the benefit of patients who have experienced long standing problems with the supply of their special footwear, as well as working with clinics and NHS Trusts to look at the way that footwear is prescribed.
I have always involved myself in initiatives aimed at helping the industry improve its service to people who need the footwear we make. I have been a member of the British Polio Fellowship’s Orthotics Expert Panel since 2008 as well as organised the 2005 and 2010 Independent Shoemakers Conferences. I also worked with Leeds University to organise a Patient Led Initiative conference in 2011 to look at the provision of footwear within the National Health Service. I am now an active member of the Orthotics Campaign which hopes to work with the NHS to improve the provision of orthotics for all users.