Peter Ayre, one of the firm’s senior partners, retired on 31 March 2016. He has been with the firm since January 1974, having left school in Edinburgh. Peter was born in Berwick and was educated at Holy Trinity, Cargilfield and Fettes. He was actually an employee of the firm when he went to Cambridge for a three year degree in Economics and Land Economy, from where he graduated in 1977. He completed his articles with the firm, qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in 1980.
Peter’s grandfather JT Ayre had come up from Newcastle to open a Berwick Branch office of Greaves & Company in 1919. Besides the Newcastle office, the company had four branches by 1928. After his sudden death in late 1947, his young son Gordon Ayre (who was teaching in the Royal Navy at the time) came to the Berwick office. However, he was not qualified, so was joined by Arthur West and the company later took the name of Greaves West & Ayre. Eventually a practice on its own, Greaves West & Ayre has merged over the years with other accountants (such as Walter Baker & Co in 1961 and GS Fleming & Wood in 1993).
When Peter joined the firm in 1974 the partners were: his father Gordon, Brian Thomas, Jim Coats and Ian Davidson. In those days there were only two offices – at Sandgate (the original office) and Hide Hill, which had been newly occupied. The partners were all in the Sandgate building, with staff located in both offices. Peter reckons that back then there were probably only around 30 staff in the firm; there are now over 90 and ten partners. When Peter was made a partner in 1984, alongside Alan Patterson, the partnership numbered eight, including Alan Rodger and Alick Hay who had joined previously.
Peter remembers in his earlier years, once he had qualified, lecturing and doing presentations to North West Durham Agricultural Training Group and Agricultural Secretaries – “so this is not something new to the firm. This was by invitation and we did not charge for the talks which included tax, accounting and VAT etc.” Peter completed the usual stints in the accounts and audit departments, but spent quite some time as a tax clerk. In recent years he has served on the Institute’s Financial Service Faculty Committee.
He recalls it was around 1980 that we saw the start of the age of the computer and, in his own words, “I became the IT department”. Alick Hay had been working on the Star wages system and Peter became very involved in developing the next stage; this was Tudor Business System, running accounts on a PC with twin floppy disks. During those early days the firm only had two computers, a situation which changed through the 1990s, with more machines being added, until they were networked for the tax department. By 2001 the firm had computers in each of our four buildings with partners having computers on their desks. Today every employee has a computer, many with two screens, and we use laptop and tablet technology. Six buildings are fully networked, we have a number of servers and we have an IT team providing advice to clients on their arrangements – how far things have come!
Peter has spent many happy years in and around Berwick with his wife Susan and two children. Alison set out on a legal career in London whilst Richard is the fourth generation Ayre in the firm, also a qualified Chartered Accountant. In his spare time, Peter has rowed (gaining an Oar at Cambridge); in days gone by he played and coached at Berwick Rugby Club and used to have more time for golf. Now he does a bit of hill walking and he has always found time for sailing. It is this passion that he will be following in his well-earned retirement.
Peter will miss the many clients whom he has served over many years – from south of Durham to North of Perth, in between, and further afield. He has enjoyed his work over the many years and wishes all readers the very best. The firm in turn wishes Peter a very long and happy retirement.