Having inspired and created a lasting tribute to the unsung heroes of the Second World War, the Bevin Boys, Nottinghamshire-born and bred Harry Parkes is well known by many as being a true inspiration.
When his hard work and dedication saw a permanent memorial unveiled in the National Memorial Arboretum by the Countess of Wessex in 2013 he came to the attention of people across the world, not just because of his fantastic creation but because in a lovely, emotional moment captured by the cameras he moved the Countess to tears whilst recounting his war-time tales.
Having been one of 48,000 young men conscripted to go down the mines and keep the country supplied with coal during the war Harry, who lives in West Bridgford, knows better than most that “you never know what is around the corner” and is well placed as a savings advocate.
Harry has held savings accounts with The Nottingham for almost 30 years and is still so keen to ‘make his money work’ that he recently set up another account with the society because, in his words, “they have some of the best rates around”.
The 88-year-old demonstrates the same kind of passion and commitment he showed in coming up with the idea of the monument and seeing it through to completion in his financial affairs, and it stems back to when he was younger and learnt a valuable lesson.
Harry takes up the tale: “When I was a young man I had a friend who really wanted a new camera. He had seen it in a shop window but initially thought it was far too expensive and that he’d never be able to buy it.
“He was a smoker and one day he was looking at the camera whilst having a cigarette and he stopped, looked at me and said ‘if I stopped smoking these and saved the money I spend on them I could get it’ and that’s exactly what he did. He got that camera.
“I respected him for that and it added to my understanding of the value of money. I have also encountered some challenging and unexpected times in my life – such as being a Bevin Boy and also losing my beloved Enid, my wife of 53 years, a few years ago – so I know that you never know what is around the corner.
“I have always been careful with my money and my advice to others would be to make sure they put aside what they can each week. Of course it’s nice to save for something nice but it is also important to be prepared for the unexpected.”
By his own admission modest Harry, who was brought up in Radford, is “not saving for a Bentley, as they are not really my sort of thing”. In fact his savings play a much more important role in his life.
Having been a mining engineer, Nottingham Trent University technician and then lecturer, Harry has always prided himself on bringing home a salary and making sure there was a warm house and food on the table.
He explains: “I was brought up in a single parent family where it was just me and my mum so as soon as I could I got out and started earning a wage so I could contribute to the household costs and we wouldn’t go short.
“The same was true when it was Enid and I. It was just the two of us and I always made sure I worked, and saved some my earnings every week, so we could live comfortably.
“Now my savings are my salary. I still do work for a trade union but it is unpaid so I need to be able to live off what I have saved, and also have money set aside should I, God forbid, need any extra care in the future.”
Saving hasn’t restricted Harry in life. Quite the opposite – it has been an investment in his future and created the foundation for him to achieve the remarkable things that he has.
His monument, which in the last couple of years alone has been visited by hundreds if not thousands of relatives and friends of Bevin Boys, will always be the legacy of a man who puts others before himself.
Harry will also always be welcomed with open arms, and a nice warm cup of tea, when he pops into The Nottingham’s Nottingham city centre branch to check on his finances.
It’s an experience he always enjoys.
He adds: “It’s not just interest rates that attract me to The Nottingham. I like very much that it is a mutual society that is not just about making profits, but that cares about people too.
“Whilst many financial institutions are closing branches and becoming ever more reliant on computers The Nottingham prides itself on high street branches, and that’s what I like.
“I love coming into the branch and having a chat with the staff, who are always so welcoming and never have anything but time for you. As well as being extremely professional they are kind and polite and that means a lot.
“Sadly, it’s extremely rare to witness the high level of customer service The Nottingham delivers in many places these days and that’s why I’ve been saving my money with them for such a long time.”