Farewell to UK's longest serving postie who is retiring after an incredible 59 years

The UK’s longest serving postie has finally handed in his notice after clocking up nearly six decades in the job.

In May 1963 – the same month The Beatles topped the UK Singles chart for the first time – Jim Hardbattle started work for the General Post Office as a messenger boy aged 15 delivering telegrams.

Turn the clock forward 59 years and Jim, aged 74, was still out delivering in his van this week. It was only on Friday he handed in his notice, saying he realised it was “time I was going”.

It’s the first part of his career that Jim remembers with particular fondness when messenger boys did what mobile phones do today – get messages to people quickly – by motorbike. He had to sign the Official Secrets Act and in those days the Royal Mail was part of the Civil Service, with high standards of discipline and dress expected.

Jim says it will be the camaraderie he will miss most after retiring from the Royal mail after 59 years Picture: Simon Hulme

GPO instructors trained Jim to ride a Bantam 125cc and after passing his test he set out on the road delivering telegrams and express letters.

His first round was in Hull’s then thriving Old Town where there were lots of shops and businesses – including offices of numerous shipping lines with names that are now fading from memory – like Ellermans, McGregor, Gow and Holland and Olsen.

There were still seine fishing vessels and sidewinder steam trawlers in Prince’s Dock – which was closed to shipping in 1968 – alongside small Scandinavian fishing vessels called snibbies.

Jim said: “I really loved that job and if I could have had it for the rest of my life (I would).”

Jim with old work colleagues at Malmo Road Delivery Office in Hull Picture: Simon Hulme

At 18 he had no choice but to become a postman working from the sorting office, then on Lowgate, and heading out on his rounds, smartly attired in blue cavalry twill trousers with red piping down the legs and a cap with a badge that had to be well polished.

The post was carried in hessian sacks which would get wet and heavy when it rained.“You had to be smart and tidy,” said Jim. The habit stuck and he says he still polishes his boots every week.

“I wasn’t that long on foot as I got the chance to go on a van delivering. You had to be 19. In the mid 70s I delivered round the Fruit Market, down Humber Street.”

He is still driving around 55 miles a day but now uses up-to-date technology such as scanners when making deliveries.

The Communication Workers Union described Jim as a “time-served legend and a pillar of his community”. Picture: Simon Hulme

Jim said he would be leaving on July 22, and it will be the camaraderie that he will miss most. He said: “I’ve always been happy in my job, it’s always been reasonably well paid.

“I’ve had a car from 19. Yes, I’ve had to do overtime but hard work doesn’t kill anyone.”

Friend and retired postman David Bean, who organised a get together at the Malmo Road delivery office, said: “Given the circumstances today of how jobs change rapidly I know in my heart of hearts that Jim’s record and achievement will stand for a very, very long time.

“Jim is the last of the old school.”

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Fifty-nine years in any profession is a great achievement, and we are grateful to Jim Hardbattle for his decades of service to us and our customers.”

A Communication Workers Union spokesperson added: “Whatever Jim chooses to do, he is a time-served legend and a pillar of his community.

“All of the union wishes him the very best.”