Ron Sykes was a garage owner and Brian Tilsley's employer and later partner.
Although he valued Brian's work, Ron was forced to sack the young lad in October 1980 when Brian used a car belonging to Tony Newall, a customer, to take him, Gail Tilsley and Audrey Potter out for the evening. Mr Newall was also at the same steak restaurant that the party used and saw his car being driven away. He called the police who summoned Ron to the Viaduct Garage where they found it returned, with an engine still warm. Ron span them a tale about Brian taking the wrong car home but the next day Newall told Ron that he wanted his bill reduced by £50 for the inconvenience. Ron gave him the discount and sacked Brian. His mother, Ivy, went to the garage and used her legendary tact and charm on Ron, telling him that he sacked Brian illegally and threatening him with a tribunal. Ron gave as good as he got and told Ivy to sling her hook. Gail, heavily pregnant, decided to have another go herself and visited Ron. At first, he refused saying that nothing had changed to make him alter his mind. Gail broke down in front of him, telling him of their financial problems and the oncoming baby. Ron promised Brian a good reference but saw Gail's state and relented. He told her to get Brian to come back next day but made it clear that he was only doing it for the baby.
By the following April, the recession of the early 1980s was biting deep and Ron was forced to cancel overtime at the garage. A few weeks later, circumstances had temporarily changed and Brian was working all over Easter Monday, with a mortgage to pay and the four-month old Nicky Tilsley to feed and clothe. Brian asked Ron if a wage rise was practical but was told that things were still too tight. Gail managed to get some part-time work back at Jim's Cafe but Brian was opposed to her returning to work as he saw it as being his job to be the sole breadwinner in the family. Ron offered Brian the possibility of some work at his petrol station on the Ashton Road when the night shift employee there broke his arm and was signed off sick for six months. Gail was furious at the extra hours that her husband would be working when he was opposed to her returning to work.
Five months later, Brian was on a night shift at the filling station when Ronnie Burgess and Michelle Fenton attempted a robbery, with the girl distracting Brian while Ronnie rifled the till. In the fight that ensued when he was spotted, Ronnie was badly hurt and Brian was charged with unlawfully wounding him. Ron returned from a holiday in Spain to the news but was dismissive of Brian, telling him he was "a berk" to leave the kiosk unattended and that he was on his own. Ivy was once again determined to confront Ron but this time Bert stopped her. Brian himself stood up to Ron and told him he wished he’d let Ronnie get away with his money, losing his temper with him in the process. Mike Baldwin also made Ron see that Brian was in serious trouble and he therefore footed the bill for Brian to see solicitor Roger Mulholland, going with him for the appointment where he spoke up for Brian. Mulholland tried to pressure the police to drop the charges but was unsuccessful however Brian was found not guilty at the trial.
In January 1982 Ron gave Brian some shock news: he was selling the garage and moving to Qatar in the gulf, working on a contract to service the government departments' motor fleet. He offered Brian a job with him there for £200 a week, tax-free, for at least six months - the alternative would be the dole. Ron further told Brian that his own wife was supportive of the move, in fact, she had already packed his bags! Both Gail and Ivy were unhappy at the news but saw there was no alternative and Brian left.
Two months later, Ron returned on his own for a short visit, going for a drink with Mike Baldwin in the Rovers. Ivy heard from Betty Turpin that they’d been in the pub and she and Gail wondered why Brian hadn’t returned as well. Independently, Ron told Mike that the firm they were working for would only pay the costs for one of them to fly home and that Brian had only just come to terms with being so far from home, and didn’t want to suffer homesickness again. Ron visited Gail and told her of the boredom they suffered and how much Brian was missing her. The effect of this news was spoilt though when Gail discovered that Brian had gone on leave to Cairo until they spoke by long-distance phone and he explained how much a return home would have eaten into his hard-earned money.
Brian did return home in July and told a livid Ron that he wouldn’t be returning to Qatar, even though a new contract had been signed. Ron suspected that Gail and Ivy were putting pressure on Brian but he denied that. Ron suggested they tell their employers that Brian had fallen ill, that had caused him to miss his flight back and to fly out the next day. Brian again remained behind and Ron started to chase him up. When he tracked Brian down he told him to be at the corner of Nelson Street and Albert Street the next day. Out of curiosity Brian went along and was shown some derelict premises which Ron was interested in renting for a new garage business and offered Brian a 60/40 partnership using £2,000 he earned in Qatar. After some soul searching, Brian and Gail agreed to the proposition and Sykes and Tilsley's Garage started business, although it had a tricky start when Brian did business with Frank Skinner, despite Ron’s telephoned warning from Qatar that he was not to be trusted.
Ron returned permanently from the gulf state in October 1982 at a time when Brian was the attention of teenager Sharon Gaskell. She pushed a letter under the door of the garage for Brian and Ron opened it, telling Brian firmly to make sure the matter went no further. Although Ron was ostensibly back to take a full part in the day to day working of the garage, he failed to appear on the premises and Brian soon grew tired of carrying the burden himself. By March 1983 matters had reached a head and Brian confronted Ron over his short working hours and the fact that they were having to turn customers away. Ron offered to buy Brian out but only for his own original £2,000 investment. Brian refused that so Ron gave him an alternative – borrow the money and buy him out. Brian was reluctant but Gail less so and she persuaded Brian to apply for a loan. He did so successfully with the bank. The two men with Gail toasted the end of their partnership and went their separate ways.
List of appearances
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- Mon 2nd Aug
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