On leaving Ropery School at the age of 15, Cliff began his apprenticeship with Wildbores, a joinery, shop fitters and funeral directors on Wembley Street in Gainsborough. He biked to work from Blyton and work began at 7.30am. For the next six years, Cliff was to learn the trade. He recalls the first time his duty was performed as a funeral director. Mr Wildbore said to him "Are you coming in with me" to which Cliff replied, "Well, I’ve got to learn sometime" and so he duly followed his boss into the very basic room 8ft by 10ft with a marble slab in the middle. That first time, Cliff recalls it was a lady from Morton and they went in to measure the size of the body to enable them to make the coffin.
Cliff was then taught how to make a coffin. That first one he helped to make was made on two saw stools and whoever you were making it with insisted you had to try it out! Then, the lid went on. As you can by now picture the scene, after a few minutes Cliff tried to get out. The helpful tutor was sat firmly on the coffin lid. Cliff thought, they’ll let me out in a minute and settled down, only to be aroused as a big wooden mallet was bashed just about where his head was resting in the coffin. No chance of a kip then? Full of humour and hard work, Cliff is forever grateful for those days.
The workers were expected to act as pall bearers for the funerals. A typical working day was a busy one doing joinery, and when the time came, quickly getting changed into a black suit, usually getting a ride to the church in the funeral cars. Duty over and it was back to work in your working clothes again. The bearers didn’t travel to the crematorium which, of course, in those days, the nearest one was at Grimsby. Mr Wildbore and his hearse driver took the body to the crematorium and separate bearers from there performed the duty at that end. Only the main family mourners would follow to the crematorium in a limousine.
Six months into his employment, the firm would buy basic tools, and each week about two bob would bestopped out of your wages to pay for them. Wildbores was a great place to work. Cliff had the utmost respect for Charlie (Wildbore's son). He was a very fair man. If it was a particularly cold day, he would sidle up to Cliff and say "Are you a bit cold, boy? Well work a bit harder, earned heat is the best!" Cliff hadn’t been there long and Charlie told him "If you break anything, come and tell me. You might get a rollocking, but you’ll get a bigger bugger if you don’t". Sadly, Charlie died and eventually the funeral directors ceased trading, but Cliff stayed with them until it closed. On leaving, Cliff decided to start on his own in the village where he still lived with mum and dad, and so begins the first 50 years. Cliff still maintains to this day, he owes his success and experience to Wildbores for a wonderful start in his working life and will be forever grateful to them for taking him on all those years ago.