Thanks Harry, our city still benefits from what you gave - Editor's comment

Everything about Harry Brearley also represents what is so great about our city. It wasn't just his incredible discovery but also his outlook on life and his desire to help others.

Thursday, 18th February 2021, 10:59 am
Updated Thursday, 18th February 2021, 11:02 am

This was a man who grew up in the crumbling terraces of Pitsmoor, squished into a small family home with eight siblings. His family was so poor his mother would take in other people’s washing to make a little bit of money and ensure her children were always fed.

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No buzz like knowing we’re still brilliant at making stuff - Editor's comment

He left school at the age of 12 to take a job running errands at the steel mill where his father worked. He battled his way up the ladder through grit and determination – going on to become an incredibly rich man. But his wealth never stopped him helping others and there are many stories of his generosity, both financially and in his approach to life. One of our women of steel still remembers the day when she was struggling to move heavy loads at Firth Browns – Harry stopped to give her a hand on the factory floor and have a chat. She had no idea who he was until colleagues explained his importance and seniority to her later. After that, whenever their paths crossed he always greeted her by name and with a friendly smile – he had no airs and graces despite making one of the most important discoveries in manufacturing history.

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Two surviving relatives of Harry Brearley(Inventor of Stainless Steel) visited the Portland Works,Randall Street,where he used to work.Pictured are Anne Brearley(Great Neice) and Hannah Brearley(Great Great Grand-Daughter)...........Pic Steve Ellis

What would Harry think of his beloved Sheffield today? I believe he would marvel at the things we manufacture today and I think his approach to life probably shows that he would optimistically be working hard to make sure our future is bright as we come out of lockdown. Harry was proud that his stainless steel helped the world. I have spoken to people who travelled far and wide back then to help other countries develop, using this wonderful, rust-free metal.

There wasn’t a selfish bone in his body, although the few bosses who tried to pull one over on him soon found out that he was also nobody’s fool.

I'm sure he would be tickled pink that the wonderful team of volunteers at Portland Works are keeping his story alive and preserving the spot where the first rustless cutlery was made. Hearing talks there about his life, sat alongside his relatives, has certainly been very special for me and other Sheffielders. Today, 150 years on, our future is still brighter because of Harry.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.