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Early Start From the age of 15 to almost 65 I spent my life in Road Transport; looking back I can see the high and lows of that Career, if that’s the right word. My ex-boy at the Co-op, Lorry Driver Billy McDonald, says that if Road Transport had a Lorry Driver Apprentice scheme, the ‘Boys’ would be the Apprentice’s, he has a very good point! As a boy of 15, straight from school, life changed dramatically. I was of an age where it didn’t matter what I wanted to do in life, what mattered was, as the eldest child, I got a job and contributed to the family income. This was important to my mother, I suppose. My father was a cooper in the whisky trade and was paid by results; he had money, not for long as the publican reaped that benefit. Starting work with the S.C.W.S. Transport Division I soon learned that some of the things I was taught at school were lies, one of them being slavery was abolished! I discovered flour came in bags of 2 ¼ Cwt, sugar in 2 Cwt bags, butter in 56Lb boxes or 1 Cwt barrels, these are just some of the examples I can remember, I was also introduced to the delights of ‘Handball’! In the time before my retirement I also reflected on another lie from school, that of ‘Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy & wise!’. As to healthy, I have my problem’s. I certainly am wiser than when I left school, I hope. Wealthy? No chance! We get by with the Scot’s philosophy of ‘Mony a Mickle mak’s a Muckle’!

British Lorries The first lorry I sat in when I started work was a Bedford TJ 5 tonner, no heater of course but comfortable enough with no draughts. Later I spent a year in an Albion that must have built when Noah was a boy. Noisy, draughty, no heating and little comfort at all. A fringe benefit was easy access to the engine from inside the cab, the exhaust manifold was handy for heating our Scotch Pies on a winters day. Meals on wheels? Lorries after that came and went as either comfortable or otherwise. When I started driving I had a 30 Cwt, three-penny bit, petrol BMC, it permanently stank of fuel. The next vehicle I had was a Bedford TK, under 3 Tons ULW and complete with a heater and double passenger seat. I travelled many miles in that great wee lorry. At the age of 21 I then drove all sorts, Thames Trader flats, Bedford S Series removal pantechnicon’s, LAD Albion Reiver’s, 8 wheeled Leyland Octopus’s & Foden S20’s, Ford D Series artics. I left the co-op and went to BRS where I drove AEC Mercury’s with fibreglass cabs and various Atkinson tractors with AEC engines and duel braking systems, vacuum & air. Eventually I got a Seddon 16/4 with an AEC engine which was a good lorry; I drove this unit all over the UK from Wick & Thurso in the north to Cornwall, Kent, the Humber and all points in between. Reliable, the only thing I added for comfort was an old bed blanket my mother gave me to tone down the noise. When they started to go I had an Ergo AEC Mercury followed by a Mandator, both good lorries in their day. Dare I say, Excellent? I’ll get Brownie Points from my good friend Jim Read for saying that! In between I drove other makes at BRS, all British made, no foreign lorries in those days for us.


Sailor on a Concrete Sea Leaving there after a number of years I drove ERF’s or Plastic Pigs as I call them! These abortions were clearly designed by a masochist. I then got a Volvo F86, so quiet you could hear yourself think, so hot you could grow tomatoes, so comfortable that having driven in one day from Glasgow to London you got out of the cab fresh and without the aches and pains you would have got in one of those abortions I mentioned earlier. You could turn the Volvo on a sixpence (Remember them?) and with one finger too! Other’s I drove over the years were F88’s, F10’s, F12’s, FM’s & FH’s of various types, Scania 80, 81, 110, 111, 143, every one an improvement of the previous model, and so on until present day. Viva El Scania! The job’s conditions went from poor to good back to poor again, as did the wages. I discovered in my latter years at work that there was no respect for age or experience, what was wanted was Steering Wheel Attendants who did what they were told, when they were told, regardless of whether it was legal or not. 15 hours a day was not enough for some of them, nor the company. I don’t miss the job at all and wild horses wouldn’t get me back behind the wheel to earn a living again. My HGV Class one which I earned the hard way by Grandfather Rights has gone too, the day before my 66th birthday. I discovered at age 70 when my licence was due for renewal that if I wanted to keep the 7.5 ton entitlement I would have to sit a medical, that’s gone as well as it’s not worth the bother. I have lots of good and bad memories, digs were good or abysmal, the camaraderie was good there. Sleeper cabs were clean if you were that way inclined but lonely as most drivers now don’t socialise with their peers unlike when we had digs. The Camaraderie is gone and it’s now f*** you Jack, I’m all right! I reckon I was lucky in that I was around when things got better in transport and relieved that I don’t have to do the job any more. I also like the idea of the government sending me money every week instead of me sending it to them, a far better system! As Johnny Cash sang, I was a Sailor on a Concrete Sea! I also now know that in my quest for knowledge of what was round that corner or over the hill were another corner and another hill. Maybe I am wiser after all! 

Sla’inte Mhath (Good Health!) to you all!

Alex Saville

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