Published: 12:28, 22 November 2019
| Updated: 09:22, 25 November 2019
A nimble 71-year-old is still scaling 15-metre poles for his job.
Rod Lewry, of Dover, recently marked his 56th year as an electricity linesman and continues to work full-time for UK Power Networks.
He started as a 16-year-old in 1963 and has no plans to retire.
Mr Lewry said: “It’s horses for courses. All some people want to do is retire, play golf and go on holidays, but that was never my scene.
"I get pleasure out of my job and the countryside that I work in, working on overhead power lines in rural areas. Simple things in life make me happy.
“I know that at my time of life anything can happen and I count myself lucky I have reached this age with not too many problems. It’s the luck of the draw at the end of the day.
" Lifestyle counts, but if you want to live to a reasonable age it’s luck to a certain extent and if you have looked after yourself you might get a bit longer. As long as you are happy, that’s what matters.”
Every year Mr Lewry, like all linesmen, completes a fit for work medical assessment by demonstrating his lifesaving skills.
This is in a physically demanding pole-rescue test, using climbing irons attached to his boots to climb a 15-metre pole and rescue a 12-stone dummy.
He said: “If one of my buddies had a heart attack or electric shock I need to be able to bring them down to the ground safely to be worked on by medical staff.
!If you don’t pass that test you cannot work as a linesman. The dummy is a dead weight, filled with lead, so it is heavy work."
Mr Lewry started his job on September 2, 1963, and his first years were the hardest.
These were when the UK electricity network was being built and he was installing new power lines through fields to connect villages.
He said: “At the time the linesman’s job was very manual and very hard work.
"Today I repair faults, mostly using aerial work platforms, which have largely taken over from climbing irons.”
Mr Lewry now coaches an apprentice 50 years his junior.
He said: “I’m lucky, I have always been a physically fit person. As a lad I could climb trees like a monkey. I never let myself get too heavy.
'Why give it up when I enjoy what I do?' - Rod Lewry
" If I can walk anywhere, then I walk. A lot of the lads will jump in a car to go a few hundred metres. If can carry something, then I will carry it and not climb into a vehicle.
"Generally I keep everything going. I’m not quite as agile as a used to be at my age but why give it up when I enjoy what I do?
“The best part of the job to me is the countryside and the camaraderie with the lads. For an electricity linesman every job is slightly different from the one before and the one to follow.
"When there is a lot of damage on the network, after storms, we rely on each other to work as a team and get the equipment back up again, to get the lights on."
Mr Lewry's skills were put to the ultimate test during the Great Storm of 1987.
Mr Lewry struggled with colleagues to lift a tree off 33,000-volt power lines after the hurricane-force winds on the night of October 15 and 16.
He revealed details in the Mercury's 30th anniversary piece in 2017.
He explained that all of Dover had no electricity that night except for a defence system on the cliffs.
Mr Lewry was in 1987 a linesman for the then electricity board Seeboard covering Dover, Canterbury and Ashford.
Today, when off work, Mr Lewry spends time with his wife, daughters and grandson Benjamin.
Otherwise he enjoys gardening, decorating and going to the pub with friends.
More by this authorSam Lennon