One of the most familiar faces in Cumbria’s tourism industry is retiring, having spent more than 25 years overseeing the success and growth of one of the county’s best-known heritage attractions.
Edwin Maher’s name has been synonymous with the Lakeland Motor Museum since he joined the business in June 1993 at the age of 39. At the time it was located at Holker Hall, before a move to the current larger premises in Backbarrow in 2010. Edwin took on a wider role in 2013, as sales and distribution manager for the museum’s parent company, Winander Leisure.
Having been part of the museum’s team for almost three-quarters of the attraction’s history, Edwin oversaw the museum’s dramatic growth, from a modest collection of motor cars to one of the country’s leading transport heritage attractions with around 80,000 visitors every year, both from around the UK and internationally. The museum is home to a variety of exhibits including one covering the role of motor vehicles in World War One. There is also a fascinating display exploring the role of women and their machines during the world wars.
Edwin said: “Amusingly, the only reason I was given the job back in 1993 was because I wasn’t actually interested on old cars! I was approached by Donald Sidebottom who established the museum in 1978, who asked me how I felt about vintage vehicles and I told him I only really liked newer cars. Because he knew I wasn’t a vintage car enthusiast at the time, I wouldn’t be distracted by the exhibits and he offered me the job of looking after the collection at Holker Hall. He later revealed that if I had told him I loved old cars, he wouldn’t have given me the job in case I’d spend all day chatting with visitors and not get any work done! Obviously, I quickly fell in love with all the cars anyway!”
Edwin recognised the museum’s potential immediately and began a programme of transformation over the following five years – not only at the museum itself, but also by raising awareness of the attraction by networking with other motoring museums across the UK.
“It was important to me to raise the museum’s profile and develop recognition that the collection of vehicles and memorabilia was of significant importance in preserving motoring heritage for posterity”, Edwin continues.
“I’d always considered the museum to be rather special and I wanted to help it become a world class heritage attraction. I really do believe I have succeeded in that task. It was especially satisfying to see the museum celebrate its 40th anniversary last year, after being named ‘Britain’s Best Classic Destination’ by Practical Classics magazine”.
A highlight of his time with the museum came in 2000 when it was named Cumbria’s ‘Best Small Visitor Attraction’ at the Cumbria Tourism Awards. In that same year, it also won a similar award from the English Tourism Council.
In 2007, the collection was purchased by Winander Leisure which owns Windermere Lake Cruises – and at the helm as Managing Director, Edwin oversaw the construction of a brand new, purpose-built site at the former Blue Works in the village of Backbarrow, which has since welcomed 80,000 visitors through its doors every year.
In recent years, Edwin took on further duties including becoming the primary point of contact for other tourism businesses, to whom he would deliver promotional materials personally. Edwin now leaves the company to spend more time with his family, to travel and to enjoy spending more time on his hobbies.
“I’ve enjoyed my time working with Winander Leisure, it’s been great fun and I’ve made many friends along the way”, Edwin continues. “There have been so many amazing changes since I joined the Lakeland Motor Museum and it’s been a real pleasure to be a part of that. I am grateful to my fellow directors throughout the group for their support and guidance and also to the talented and dedicated individuals throughout the group whose efforts continue to contribute so much to the success of the business.”
Andrew Simon, Finance Director of Winander Leisure, is to join the Board of Lakeland Motor Museum following Edwin’s retirement.
Bill Bewley, Chairman of Winander Leisure, said: “We wish Edwin a long and happy retirement and thank him for his contribution to the development of the Winander group of companies.”
Les Micklethwaite, Chairman of the Lakeland Motor Museum, added: “We are sure that Lakeland Motor Museum would not have been as successful as it is today had it not been for Edwin’s efforts. He can look back on his career with great pride. We are pleased to welcome Andrew Simon to the Board and are confident that he will help us to build on Edwin’s legacy.”