After 50 years working as a cobbler in the centre of Newport - during which time he raised many thousands of pounds for charity - Kelvin Raddicliffe is getting ready to retire. DAN BARNES met him to talk about his remarkable career over the past five decades.

WHEN Kelvin Reddicliffe started work at Timpson Shoe Repair in Austin Friars - now near Friars Walk - at 15 years old, he had no idea he would still be there 50 years later.

But in February a 50-year career, 25 of which were spent as branch manager, the 65-year-old is getting ready to retire.

He's had no small list of achievements over the past five decades.

In 1999 he was a finalist in the national Punch Show Repairer of the Year competition – named among the 12 top cobblers in the UK in the process. And the next year he was appointed as Timpson Millennium Engraver and received the award from the Duke of Westminster.


Then, in 2007, Mr Reddicliffe was named Manager of the Year at the Retail Week Awards at Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

“I was up against Hugo Boss that evening,” he said. “Sir John Timpson flew us back early from Tenerife for the occasion.”

But he's done a lot more than just repair shoes.

“I have made and repaired many unusual things in my career,” he said.

“The most memorable was a shoe for a duckling called Lucky whose foot was pointing the wrong way.

“I made it the style of a Roman sandal, which helped her considerably.”

The story of Lucky, ‘the duck with the sandal’, went global – appearing on outlets as varied and far apart as the BBC, Daily Mail, People magazine and SBS in Australia.

When the month-old bird fractured her leg, owner Allison Morgan was told by vets her only option was to have Lucky put to sleep.

South Wales Argus:

Cobbler Kelvin Reddicliffe (left) with Tania Ansell, of St David’s Hospice Care, at Timpson’s, Austin Friars, Newport

However, Mrs Morgan refused to give up on the muscovy duck and set about finding a way to get Lucky back on her feet - with the help of a specially made shoe.

Although the break in Lucky’s leg healed, her foot was pointing in the wrong direction, making it very difficult for her to walk.

That’s where Mr Reddicliffe came in.

He managed to fit Lucky with a “Roman sandal” to keep her on the straight and narrow.

The sandal, which was made in three sizes to support Lucky as she grew, protected her foot and took the pressure off her webbed feet as she walked around.

Mr Reddicliffe also created a small headstone for Lucky after she died following surgery complications.

Some of the newfound fame accrued from helping Lucky the duck might have been on show when Mr Reddicliffe and his wife Jan went to the United States on holiday.

While out visiting the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California the pair broke out in an impromptu rendition of Cwm Rhondda on stage.

“This was much to the bewilderment of some Japanese tourists who asked us for our autographs,” said Mr Reddicliffe.

In 2006, he helped to mark the centenary celebrations of another Newport icon.

As Newport Transporter Bridge was celebrating 100 years dominating the city skyline, Mr Reddicliffe created A Bridge Not Too Far From Our Hearts – a piece of classical music for a full orchestra which was played the Crow Point festival during the anniversary celebrations.

“I have also just finished writing some music about the Chartist Rising and will start recording it shortly,” he added.

Aside from show repair, helping stricken wildlife and music, Mr Reddicliffe is also well known as a supporter of local charities – including St David’s Hospice Care – and has raised many thousands of pounds for good causes over the years.

South Wales Argus:

Kris Broome, of St David's Hospice Care, and Kelvin Reddicliffe.

He has helped to ensure that the memory of Newport’s iconic Chartist mural is kept alive by selling framed pictures of the once unique structure.

Mr Reddicliffe, who has a permanent display of the work on the walls of his shop, said at the time: “Interest in the mural remains red hot.

“I have sold my pictures to people from across the country and from all corners of the world.”


He has also helped to keep other icons of the city alive for new generations to enjoy.

Earlier this year, the city’s former department store Wildings closed down, leaving a piece of panoramic Chartist artwork lingering behind the window.

The two-piece panel artwork depicts a scene from the Chartist revolt outside Newport’s Westgate hotel. It is an enlargement of the original picture, painted in 1978, by renowned Newport artist John Wright.

South Wales Argus:

Kelvin Reddicliffe with the panorama panel used in an historic Wildings window display

A Chartist Revolt expert as well as a cobbler, Mr Reddicliffe rescued the artwork and put it for sale in aid of St David’s Hospice Care.

South Wales Argus:

Kelvin Reddicliffe donated the Victorian signs to the museum. Picture: DBPR

The piece, which created quite a bit of interest from potential buyers, was sold for £500 to Pat Drewett of Our Chartist Heritage (OCH) the local Newport group passionate about the Chartists and their message.

Mr Drewett said at the time: “We didn’t know of the existence of these panels until alerted to them and their sale by Kelvin.

“We’re very pleased to have been able to acquire them and will use them as a central, educational feature at events such as at the Newport Rising Festival later in the year.”

While he may be hanging up his shoe repair tools next year, Mr Reddicliffe has said that his passion for local good causes and helping to support them will remain undiminished.

“I will continue to do that after I retire,” he said.