THE SEED HAD BEEN SOWN
By Robin Masters
As a young lad I always had an interest in the Great Western Railway and BRS lorries, particularly eight wheelers. Fuelled by the Ian Allan spotters books that fascination has stayed with me all my life. Therefore, it was no surprise that, way before I left school, all I wanted to do was to drive lorries.
In my early teens, I landed a Saturday and school holiday job working in the yard of J.M. Stokes Ltd. in Evesham. They were major growers and distributors of fresh fruit and veg in the Vale. Indeed, they had farms and depots in all the main growing areas of the country and also a pitch in Covent Garden. My job was to help unload incoming produce in the mornings and in the afternoons, to help load the company lorries that were destined for journeys that evening and night. Occasionally I was sent out with a driver to load at one of the company's farms and in the summer months, when the loads were particularly big, I was sent on journey work, usually doing several drops on the way down to Plymouth and into Cornwall and a trip to the Capital to help out with a multi drop load round the London markets wasn't unknown. I was loving the job and the Transport Manager told me there would be a job for me when the time came for me to leave school, so that really set me up and I couldn't wait to start driving. The J.M. Stokes lorry fleet was 100% Bedford and comprised of S types, J types, A types, an O type and a few of the new TKs that had not long been introduced. They were mostly 8 tonners but there were 3 quite
new 5 ton TKs that caught my eye because they were just under 3 ton ULW and I could drive them when I'd passed my driving test. I passed my driving test in January 1964 and within a few weeks I was regularly driving one of the 5 ton TKs, 667 KNP. Initially, I was doing Bristol market regularly then gradually progressed to West Country work, London and even Glasgow occasionally. I couldn't get enough of the work though my mother wasn't too happy about her seventeen year old son driving day and night all over the country.
THE BLUE HUT A30 (PLAN)
I was doing very much the same work as the drivers with the bigger lorries and there was one particular marathon job that we got was a combined job to Cornwall and Covent Garden. When the Cornish broc and spring cabbage season was in full swing, we would take a full load of empty crates from the empties department down to the Penzance area. That would take a full day and after getting across the seats for the night, the next morning, our agent would meet us and he would take us to perhaps three farms in the Marazion area where we
would unload the empties and start loading the fine Cornish greens. Hopefully, we would be loaded by about 4 o'clock in the afternoon then it was time to make a start on the long drive to London. The Cornish crop had a great reputation for quality and to move the produce to market at its peak, by road and rail, required good organisation. Roamers from around the country would easily find a backload. Local hauliers, farmers running on "F" licences and short wheelbase tippers, more used to carrying china clay, would all join the procession of vehicles to Exeter, where some would turn north and the rest would head for the A303 and the capital. It was a long hard drive and then to unload amongst the chaos of Covent Garden, was the "hammer blow", though it was a great feeling to see an empty lorry and the prospect of an easy ride home. Evesham was reached in the afternoon feeling like "a worn out dishcloth".
I stayed with J.M.Stokes until I became 21 when I could legally drive bigger lorries. I tried a couple of local hauliers. before joining Marshalls where I enjoyed the best years of my working life. The photo of me with my Marshalls ERF was taken when I was "in my prime" and with my favourite working lorry. I spent about twelve years at Marshalls, we covered the country, from north to south and from east to west and my ERF Gardner 240 never let me down. It would not hold a candle to the massive power outputs of modern lorries, but in its day, in the early seventies, the 240 coupled to a Fuller gearbox was a great combination. Fitted in the chassis of an A series ERF gave the driver the edge over many other types, (though drivers of Cummins powered lorries would probably dispute that).
From there, I moved to DCL and I reached retirement at Wincanton and a couple of years part-time with Spiers and Hartwell.
Just before I joined Wincanton, the opportunity arose to rescue an ex- BRS Bristol 8 wheeler. As a young lad I was a big fan of BRS lorries and the Bristols were unique to BRS. To own one of these would be just unbelievable and a chance that I couldn't let go. I'm no engineer, so with the help of Garry Hill, and many friends too numerous to mention, ROG 687 came into my possession.
Over the next six years the Bristol was restored into its proper BRS livery and put back on the road. It has remained my pride and joy ever since. I've now owned my Bristol longer than BRS owned her and I shall continue to do so as long as I can still get in the cab!! From the point of view of a working motor the favourite vehicle I drove was the ERF at Marshals...
...from the pride and passion angle it's got to be my Bristol!
Robin Masters, Knight of the Road