Saddleworth window cleaner Robin shows clear focus on his job

By Martin Plant

SADDLEWORTH VOICES: Local people’s lives, memories or stories are captured in this special feature.

In this latest edition, taken from a recorded interview by Martin Plant, Robin Millward discusses why he loves his window cleaning job, which sees him out and about – with his 79-year-old father Roy helping.

RESPECT is a key word for Robin Millward as he is responsible for keeping many Saddleworth homes looking clean.

But as he knows only too well, the job does come with its dangers.

After setting up his own window cleaning business, he is a familiar face around the area and neighbouring Mossley.

And one word stands out above all others in his approach, while also helping where he can and finding himself a pivotal figure during Covid-19 lockdowns.

Robin said: “My rounds today cover my local area, Mossley and Saddleworth.

“I like my job, being out in the fresh air and interacting with people. I try to do my best and to give a good service.

Robin Millward and his father Roy

“My dad, even though he is 79-years-old, still cleans with me two or three days a week. I can’t stop him!

“Once, we came across a house that had just been burgled. We knew the owner, a recent widow, so I drove to the school where she was picking up her grandson to sit her in my car to break it to her gently.

“During the pandemic, I was allowed to keep working, with my son Kyle (my dad had to stay at home).

“For a lot of people during this period we were a point of contact, especially those living on their own.

“Sometimes, those who talked to us were visibly upset by their isolation and we did our best to try to make them feel better. It was a hard time for everybody.

“We work in all weather. We are hardly ever stopped. One winter, years ago in Uppermill we ran into very heavy snow.

“We parked up, my dad and I, and trudged past a tractor which was buried wheel deep and stuck in the snow by the side of the road.

“The lad trying to dig it out did a double take as we passed by with our ladders and buckets and burst out laughing. ‘What are you doing?’ he said!

“I’ve always found that if you respect people, they are respectful in return. We try to be reliable and trustworthy and that certainly makes a difference.

“A working day usually begins at 8.30am. We could start earlier but we feel it’s more considerate to our customers to allow them time to get kids to school or leave for work.

“We knock off at teatime. My mum always said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I never eat till lunchtime when we stop for a short break.”

Robin may love his window cleaning life, but some days can be more fraught than others.

He added: “Rather like carpet fitters, window cleaners are subject to some typical medical complaints!

“We may get bad knees, or painful joints, as a result of being up ladders and out in all weather.

“On ladders, we tend to rest our knees on the rungs. Also, it’s not unusual to have a fall off a ladder. I’ve done that a few times.

“Once, on a wet day, I slipped and lost my balance and landed on a garden rockery. The customer let me sit inside for 10 minutes to recover.”

Robin lives with his wife Emma near Stalybridge. They have four grown up children – Jasmine, Josh, Kyle, and Kaitlin.

Born in Manchester in 1972. Roy, at that time, was a driver for a textiles firm and mum, Doreen, was a secretary in the same company.

He was brought up on Matley Lane and attended Hattersley High School. He has an older brother, Gary.

“Emma and I met at a house party over 30 years ago,” Robin said. “I was dancing wearing bright red jeans and a purple paisley shirt and I must have caught her eye!

“I wasn’t very academic at school, but I loved sport and played for school teams. In the fifth year, I helped to organise a five a side football league, complete with trophies and all!

“I’ve always enjoyed cross country running, too. Over the years, I have continued to play football and I’ve done the Manchester Marathon in three and a half hours. I still run two or three times a week, usually about 10k.

“I had a very happy childhood, playing out, and to some extent I wonder if kids today are missing out on that.

“Sometimes, say, it’s a lovely day at the height of summer, and I’m cleaning windows, I see kids sitting indoors with their headsets on playing computer games. I do think it’s a shame.

“I’m an outdoors sort of person, I suppose. Well, come to think of it, I need to be with my job!

“I’ve always worked, even when I was at school, probably because my parents had a strong work ethic.

“As a teenager, I spent my Saturdays in a fruit and veg shop bagging up potatoes. I then decided to set up my own little business selling potatoes in my local area.

“My mum and dad helped me get to the wholesale market and because my dad kept chickens, I sold free range eggs too!

“Also, at this time, my dad had a contract, cleaning public telephone boxes, so I helped him at weekends, or I worked with my brother who had his own window cleaning business.

“To start a window cleaning business, you can either buy rounds off someone or you can find them yourself on new estates.

“The day I left school, already trained up by my brother, I used money I’d saved from my weekend jobs and help from my parents to buy rounds for my own window cleaning business.”

Now he is fully established, Robin is bringing on the next generation as sons Kyle and Josh are in the same business.

That only strengthens the family bond – one which includes, nursing, football and providing a wide perspective on the world.

He told Saddleworth Voices: “When my sons decided to go into the same business, I made them do two years with me to train them, including health and safety. My daughter Jasmine is a hospital nurse.

“Kaitlin is a student and works for a health and fitness studio. She plays football for Curzon Ashton’s first team, which is semi-professional.

“She is playing at tier five level, which means that if she were a man she would be playing in the National League where most teams are fully professional and players earn on average more than £1,000 a week. Even tier six male players can be quite well paid. Women’s football, in general, needs more support.

“My family is important. Over the years, we have tried to make holidays a bit of an adventure and introduce our kids to different cultures and environments, especially as our own communities here become more diverse.

“We’ve been to Egypt and the Valley of the Kings, Kenya and a village orphanage, where we took some schoolbooks and stationery, India, Thailand, the Caribbean and Sri Lanka.

“It’s important to embrace other cultures and sometimes to appreciate what we have as so many people in the world have a lot less.”

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