Our story begins in the late 1960's when two young men named John Purcell and Charlie Lowe crossed paths whilst employed by local engineers and contractors Matthews & Mumby. Charlie, slightly senior in years and rank, had heard rumour of a joiner named John who had stepped in to put a stop to the bullying of a young apprentice. Soon afterwards, Charlie was made responsible for labour and requested young John should work with him.
John was not the only one whose name was on the radar. Around that time, one of the Matthews & Mumby directors, an engineer by the name of Howard Marston, was pricing a tender for a project in the north east of the country. Realising his QS was on holiday, Howard decided Charlie Lowe was the best man to assist him with the costings and asked him to accompany him up to the North East. This was Charlie's first trip in a company car, his first management dinner and first taste of foreign cuisine such as pâté. In later years the significance of this excursion became apparent – it had whetted not only appetite but ambition.
Charlie grew confident in his capabilities and John became both an accomplished tradesman and respected site manager. But they had noticed a trend in the building trade. At the end of each job, often at Christmas, the workers were laid off and all those skills and all that teamwork was lost. By 1971 they had become so well acquainted and worked together so ably they decided to set up on their own. Here began 'Manchester and Cheshire Construction Company,' soon employing around 30 people, and offering continuity of employment.
Their first job was at ICI Blackley, undertaking concrete remedial works where the manufacturing of colourant for blue denim had caused corrosion. It was whilst waiting for payment from ICI that John and Charlie got the first and only loan against the business. Those familiar with the business know the story of the trusty Acrow props used as collateral for this loan.
To give a flavour of Manchester in the 1970's cash was collected for the wages from the bank in person where petty criminals would loiter. It was not uncommon for business owners to alter their routes, when money was collected, by way of decoy. John's wife Joan looked after the books and collected the wages, hiding them in the pram that was the carriage of baby Mike – today the director of development arm 'Victor.'
All John's sons have memories of John working project valuations on the dining room table. Together, John and Charlie ran the business through good and hard times.
In one difficult year, when a visit to the accountants confirmed that no profit had been made, John's wife Joan consoled him by pointing out that he had profited the men by keeping them in employment for another year.
The extra mile
This favourite expression sums up another of our famous stories that is depicted on a cartoon mural in the office kitchen. It shows an early project for the University of Manchester which involved laying a substantial volume of concrete to form a new floor. The only form of access for the concrete was via a small adjacent window. Back then the company did not possess concrete pumps such as would be used today, so used bodies, buckets of sweat and wheelbarrows.
Charlie's main role at the time was to travel between sites, supporting and overseeing the project teams as well as reporting on progress and Health & Safety. When Charlie arrived on site on this particularly hot day, the men were in the middle of the concrete pour, back and forth with the wheelbarrows to shift the mass of concrete left by the ready mix wagon. The awkward access meant it took a long time to get concrete laid and the sweltering heat meant the concrete needed swift attention. Upon arrival, Charlie could see the gang was in trouble and in need of help. While many bosses would have shouted and pushed the workers on, Charlie went the extra mile. With his tie tucked into his shirt, jacket off and sleeves rolled up he grabbed a wheelbarrow and helped with the pour.
This tale epitomises the way both John and Charlie were as bosses. Neither had an ego; they knew what was required and would not ask any of the workers to do anything they wouldn't do themselves when the need arose. What's more, it demonstrates the lengths the company will go to complete our projects on time for clients.
The expression "the professionals" was used by John as approval for all those who did a job well. The leadership qualities of John and Charlie earned the pair the highest of respect. They were professionals in the true sense of the word.
Today, MC Construction remains a professional organisation with its people at its heart. We continue the legacy of our founders through our company values and are proud that after 50 years of business our clients agree we are 'built on trust'.