The story behind one of the world’s oldest and most experienced whistle master craftsman
This month, one of the UK’s oldest and most longstanding whistle makers is celebrating 50 years of making the world’s finest whistles.
Harbens Lal, who celebrated his 71st birthday on October 7, is believed to have worked on more than 100 million whistles for world-leading manufacturer ACME Whistles.
These include a range of different types of whistles for everyone from dog owners to sports referees.
The dad-of-four, from Birmingham, has even made whistles used by match officials at many of the world’s major sporting events over the last 50 years seeing rugby turn professional in 1995, to the iconic Rugby World Cup final in 2003.
Harbens, who’s known as Mr Lal by everyone at work, said; “Over the years I’ve seen so many changes with new machinery, and there are always new ideas and whistles being created. We even took over the building next door to make more space.”
Mr Lal now works as a Capstan supervisor overseeing the welding of whistles in the factory, saying that one of his favourite whistles to make is the ACME Thunderer – the whistle of choice for rugby referees around the world.
Harbens moved to England from India in 1966 as a 15-year-old with his mother, brother and three sisters, reuniting with three brothers already living in Birmingham.
“My brother was working at ACME and told me about the job – so I came in for an interview,” says Mr Lal.
He added, “I love what I do, but for me it’s the people that make ACME so special. Everyone is just so friendly and supportive.
Despite his advancing years, Mr Lal revealed he has no plans to retire from the job he loves.
“I plan to carry on making whistles as long as I have my health,” he said. “I’ve made great friends here, my wife even joined me working at ACME.
“I feel blessed to be part of the ACME family and still look forward to coming to work five decades on.”
“Over the last 50 years I’ve learnt a craft. To be great at whistle making you need really high standards, commitment and passion for what you do.
“When you see a whistle at a big sporting event, or on TV, that you likely made – it makes the whole thing even more special. It is a great feeling.”
One of Mr Lal’s fondest memories of his 50-year career at ACME Whistles was the opportunity to meet Price William and Kate Middleton at the Birmingham factory.
“It was so good to meet them. The prince stopped, shook my hand and said how amazing it was that I’d been with ACME for so long.”
Ben Mc Farlane, marketing director at ACME Whistles added; “With a 150-year heritage behind the business, it is amazing to think that Mr Lal has been with us for a third of that time.
“We have such a fantastic team here at ACME yet there are few more passionate, knowledgeable and skilled than Mr Lal. He’s a master craftsman and a true gentleman to boot!”
To find out more about ACME Whistles, the world’s leading whistle maker, visit www.acmewhistles.co.uk