Barny Holmes’ journey to becoming the fifth generation of his family to run a Bradford packaging business has been a long one – literally.

And it wasn’t planned.

After growing up in New Zealand, where his parents moved when he was 14, Barny never expected to return to the city of his birth. But now he’s back, he intends to stay working in Bradford wile living in Ilkley with his New Zealand-born wife and two teenage sons.

It was after buying a camper van and touring round the UK and Europe on a family holiday that Barny returned to Bradford to work as a forklift truck driver at the firm jointly founded by his great grandfathers in 1890.

Holmes Mann, in Harris Street, Little Germany, was established by Jonas Holmes and Matthew Mann, who built wooden packing cases for Bradford’s wool trade, originally in Leeds Road until moving to its current base in 1930.

It now offers a range of packaging materials, corrugated cases, paper tubes, printed tape and wooden pallets, as well as being a key distributor for the Siat range of packaging machinery.

The company’s expertise in building wooden packing cases has seen it win some interesting jobs, including making wooden packing cases with polystyrene fittings to transport valuable portraits of the Prince of Wales from Dean Clough in Halifax to London.

Holmes Mann also manufactured a virtually flat packing case for a metal gasket which was used by Red Adair to extinguish a North Sea oil rig fire.

The largest packing case it has produced was made to pack gas separators from Abu Dhabi. The crates were the cubic size of a modern starter home – 40 feet in length and 14 feet in height and were assembled around the gas separators, and required a police escort to the docks.

Last year the firm devised a plywood box to hold Olympic torches for London 2012, one of which was presented to former employee John Skinner, who ran with the torch through Ripon.

While working there, Barny learned that his uncle, who was joint owner along with his father, wanted to retire, which sparked his interest in taking over.

“It was not something I’d set out to do or even thought about,” said Barny. “I was happy driving the forklift. But it’s great that I managed to take on the business and keep it in the family “Although I’m now the boss, with all that involves, I still roll up my sleeves and work alongside the lads when necessary. They’re a great group of people and I want to make a go of things for them as much as for myself and my wife and kids.”

In New Zealand, Barny had a varied career, including in the leisure and hospitality sector running bars and working in the skiing industry. He also worked in the motor trade, where he won an award from Ford and eventually launched his own wholesale car business supplying dealers. He also spent two years in Australia working in the construction sector While respecting Holmes Mann’s heritage, Barny has definite plans to modernise and refresh its operations.

“The business has a great track record and a good reputation for its products but we need to adopt a more modern approach to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace. and build a strong base for the future.”

This has started with a soon-to-be-launched new website devised by Bradford-based creative communications agency Dulay Seymour.

“They’ve done a great job which I’m pleased about as I’d like to put work in the way of as many local suppliers and contractors as possible. I want to build a good future for my family, my workers and also help other Bradford businesses where possible,” he said.

Holmes Mann, which employs about 40 people, makes products for customers generally within a 100-mile radius of Bradford. Extending that geographical reach is also on Barny’s ‘to do’ list and he hopes attracting more customers will also create jobs.

“That’s very much the plan,” he said.

Barny has been helped and enthused by Bradford entrepreneur Steven Street, who founded and built up Relay Recruitment into a leader in its field and is now involved in various other initiatives, including mentoring others. They met through the Ilkley-based LS29 Group for parents with children with special needs – both have a child with autism.

“Steve has been a big help and provided me with sound advice and encouragement and the ability to see the possibilities for the business. I’m really excited to be back in Bradford.

“I know people knock it, but it’s a good place with a bright future and I want to play a part in that through taking Holmes Mann to a new level,” said Barny.

He’s looking to increase the firm’s £3.3 million turnover this year, partly by raising Holmes Mann’s profile and boosting its brand.

“I want to see steady growth through improving our sales, modernising our processes and expanding the operation. We’re in a good place. There’s not many firms in our sector that do all the things we do, so the potential for future development is very good.

“Ideally, I’d like to move into another site as our current premises are a mish-mash of buildings. If that’s not possible we’ll have to develop where we are.

“I’m looking at the options. But we won’t stray far as my people mostly live locally and I need to think about their lifestyles. We’ve got a one team approach and I want to keep things that way,” Barny said.