Retired Welder Appeals For Former Colleagues To Help Investigate Asbestos Exposure

Father-Of-Two Suffering From Incurable Asbestos-Related Cancer In Battle For Justice


A retired welder who has been diagnosed with a terminal asbestos-related cancer is backing calls for his former colleagues to get in touch as they may hold vital information about why he came into contact with the deadly dust.

John Magee, of Fulwood in Preston, has been battling mesothelioma for a year and believes the debilitating condition was caused by exposure to asbestos during his career at Bamber Bridge company James Watkinson (Engineers) Ltd, where he worked between 1963 and 1971.

Geraldine Coombs, a partner and industrial disease expert at law firm Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office, is representing John in his battle for answers and is urging his former colleagues to provide information about the working conditions he endured and to help identify the firm’s insurance company.

The 66-year-old worked as a welder for the firm which made boilers, oil tanks and chimneys for industrial plants and conveyor belts for coal mines and sweet factories. Responsible for installing the new pipe work he often visited local factories, coal mines and the Shell and BP gas works.

He also worked on jobs for James Watkinson at some well-known North West firms, including tinned fruit factory Libby’s at Milthorpe and the Slack and Cox brewery in Manchester.

His job for the firm, which we believe was taken over by B & R Fabrications Ltd in 1970/1, involved working with dusty and crumbly asbestos-lagged pipe work in the factory’s boiler rooms, which he was never warned could be detrimental to his health.

Geraldine Coombs, at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable cancer and causes so much distress to victims like John and their families. We often hear about people who have worked in boiler rooms and were exposed to asbestos-lagged boilers and pipes on a regular basis. Sadly, many employers did not do enough to manage the risks of asbestos despite knowing how dangerous the material is.

“I’d urge anyone who can shed light on who the insurers were for James Watkinson or B & R Fabrications in the 1960’s to get in touch so we can help John get the justice he deserves.”

The father of two started to suffer from the symptoms of mesothelioma in January 2012 when he felt constantly breathless. He was referred to the Royal Preston Hospital by his doctor where a specialist confirmed he was suffering from mesothelioma.

He also struggles to enjoy his fortnightly fishing trips to Kirkham and can no longer manage jobs around the house such as gardening, DIY and shopping.

He said: “The doctors have explained that the cancer is incurable and although I’m having chemotherapy they say there’s not much hope. Shirley, the kids and I are all devastated about the diagnosis and are struggling to come to terms with the fact my illness was caused by simply going to work every day all those years ago.

“The work I did for James Watkinson was always so dusty and dirty because I had to knock huge amounts of asbestos lagging from the pipe work in the boiler houses with a hammer. The lagging was often old and crumbled off easily which meant it covered my clothes and hair and I couldn’t help but breathe it in.

“There were no washing facilities at the company and no one gave me a mask to protect me. I hope my ex work mates will help me so that I can provide for my family before it’s too late.”

Anyone with information about James Watkinson’s insurers should contact Geraldine Coombs at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office on 0161 838 3059 or email