Britain’s oldest chimney sweep has been forced to hang up his broom after 65 years cleaning half a MILLION pots – by spiralling insurance costs.
Sprightly John Bates, 88, started in the business in his early 20s after the dole office arranged for him to have a trial.
During his career he’s shifted soot from around 500,000 flues – the equivalent of cleaning every chimney in his home city of Sunderland FOUR times.
Granddad John says in the heyday of coal fires he would work from 6am to 6pm – clearing up to 30 chimneys a day.
He started out charging four-and-sixpence – about 25p in today’s money – per chimney which has now risen to #45.
John wants to carry on working but has taken the tough decision to retire after the insurance cost of running his business and van got too high.
The widower, who lives with his son Ian, said he is at a loss as to how to spend days, though he plans to keep active with regular swims.
His granddaughter Deborah Jones, 37, said: “We’re proud of him and he still didn’t really want to retire this year, he could have continued going.”
John added: “I was just a working bloke, making a living and I made a living because I worked hard.
“It was just chance I was sent by the dole office, my face fit and I got the job and it went from there.
“It was always the same customers, I would see them every six weeks.”