Thursday, 30 April 2020

The Journey Down to Cornwall for a St. Austell Funeral

David Hall decided to increase the awareness of his service in 2011 by placing Business Cards in 20 Transport Cafes around Britain, including Woody’s Diner situated in the Stourton Cross Picnic Area just off the A30. David was recommended to contact Mrs Fay Long by Alan Kelso, now part of the management team at William Armstrong Longtown Ltd looking after the Livestock Fleet. 

David has known Alan for over 50 years as Alan’s Grandfather was Albert Kelso who owned Fellside Transport in Lazonby where David spent his holidays riding in the grey Leyland Beavers with red wings and Alan washed out the containers on a Saturday morning, in the yards in front of the garage or down the alley close to the fields. It was David’s exposure to Albert Kelso and his Leyland Beavers that led David to pursue a career in transport, to buy a 1950 Leyland Beaver when the opportunity arose and finally to start Vintage Lorry Funerals in 2002.
Back in the late 1980s Alan Kelso was on the road driving a 385 horse power F12 Volvo for T. Bell & Sons, Rosehill Estate, Carlisle, pulling a Double Deck Livestock Trailer. Alan would often take a load of 470 to 500 lambs, breeds ranging from Cheviots to Texels, to the abattoir of H.R. Jasper & Son at Launceston, wash out and then park up at Woody’s Diner overnight. In the morning Fay or her staff would cook his breakfast before Alan departed to collect Store Cattle from Taunton, Bridgewater, Highbridge or Chippenham loading up to 38 cattle for delivery to Cumbria or South West Scotland. Alan would take the load to Carlisle and if the trailer contained Cows destined for Saltcoats Abattoir, Alan would then hand over the rig to a second Driver, who was often his Dad, John Kelso. 

One day when Alan got to Woody’s Diner, at around 1500 hours, he found that there was a puncture on a trailer tyre and back in the day a Lorry Driver would change his own wheels. Unfortunately as Alan was standing on the extended wheel-brace, the wheel-brace slipped and Alan fell to the ground using his hand to break his fall. This resulted in a bad wound to his hand which was ingrained with road dirt. Fay Long was an angel, she picked out the grit, cleaned up the wound and bandaged it so Alan could get home. Alan will never forget the kindness Fay showed him over the years and he had no hesitation in recommending that David should contact Fay.
Woody’s Diner proved to be the best Transport Café at marketing Vintage Lorry Funerals as standard packs of 40 cards didn’t last long and after three replenishments of the Marketing Stand David sent up a bulk consignment of cards. It was understood that the throughput of cards was due in part to Fay’s personal invitation for customers to take a card from the box. Within 3 months David received his first opportunity from a card picked up from Woody’s Diner. A Builder from Bath was visiting his family in Cornwall and stopped at Woody’s Diner on the way home. Sadly within a short time the Builder passed away in his Brothers arms, caused by a heart problem which no one knew about. His Mother found the Vintage Lorry Funerals Card in his jacket pocket and his Sister contacted David to book the 1950 Leyland Beaver for April 20th 2011. 

David phoned Fay Long after the Bath funeral and offered to send her some flowers or chocolates, however, Fay didn’t want any thanks, and she was just pleased that the Builder’s demise was not due to her cooking!
On March 27th 2019 David was on his way to St Austell for a funeral and he called into Woody’s Diner to meet Fay Long and shake her hand. Fay followed David out to the lorry park to see the Leyland Beaver and she said that it looked as good as she had imagined from the picture on the Business Card. Fay declined the opportunity of a photograph in front of the lorry saying, ‘Maybe 20 years ago, but not now.’ 

David proceeded to St. Austell and found the Kwikfit location, where the Leyland Beaver would be parked undercover overnight, which was just around the corner from the Funeral Directors. David was talking to Stewart Yeo, Supervisor, about how he had popped in to see Fay at Woody’s Diner when Kevin Taylor, Manager, came across to speak to David. Kevin said, ‘It’s good to meet you, however, I have seen your lorry before. When you pay the bill in Woody’s Diner you are given the receipt and one of your Business Cards, and I have still got the card in my glove compartment.’

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

A funeral in Cherhill

In April most years David Hall enters the Leyland Beaver on the CTP Spring Road Run which involves a 100 mile trip around three White Horses in Wiltshire, the Westbury, Alton Barnes and Cherhill White Horses. Commercial Transport in Preservation is a group of Transport Enthusiasts who meet once per month in Salisbury, where the audience is entertained by Speakers on transport related topics. During the year CTP runs four road runs, the Gillingham Gathering in February, The Three White Horse Run in April, the Noggin Nash & Natter at Longbridge Deverill, on the A350, in July and a south coast run from Salisbury in the September.

Stuart Smith normally accompanies David on the Road Runs and he enjoys hearing about some of the amazing journeys that the Leyland Beaver has undertaken since he was last in the cab. In 2017 the Leyland Beaver went past Arthur Mays Funeral Home in Westbury four times on Sunday April 2nd twice during the CTP Spring Road Run and once travelling to Warminster for the start and once travelling home from the finish at Crockerton on the A350. At the start point David told Stuart that his next job was for Arthur Mays and the width of the entrance road seemed to get narrower each time he passed.

It was remarkable in April 2019 that the first funeral after the CTP Spring Road Run should be at Cherhill from a house from which the Cherhill White Horse could be seen. David had passed the entrance to the street as he trundled down the A4 towards Calne, however, he didn’t realise that he would receive a phone call from a Lady whose husband had passed away after 4 years in a Care Home.
The Funeral Director was situated in the middle of Calne and the location to load the coffin was in a small yard space behind Calne library and Stuart Smith was a great help as one of his Daughters works at the Library. David was sent pictures which demonstrated that a turning area existed and if this was clear then David could drive into the loading area and then reverse back into area behind the rear doors for the Funeral Director. This was a departure from the normal modus operandi in which David always reverses into a yard space from the main road, however, it would have created a high level of risk because the road through Calne is the busy A4 and the road around the library is often frequented by pedestrians taking a short cut to the town centre.
The Widow was worried about the width of the roads within Cherhill so David Hall went to Calne and Cherhill to provide solutions to the perceived problems. The direct road to the Church was too narrow, however, David suggested that the A4 could be used as it was a former three laned road at that point. It was also significant because during the 1950’s Leyland Motors positioned clocks on a tower by the roadside with ‘Leyland Motors for All Time’ spelt out with reflective squares and one of these clocks was erected at Cherhill.
When David checked out the area behind the library he was horrified to find a transit van parked in the loading area which was owned by a company that was servicing a door in the library. David spoke with the company and suggested in future the driver should leave a note in his window containing his mobile number so that the driver could be contacted if anyone should need the vehicle moved.
On the day of the funeral David was very concerned about whether or not someone would be parked in the loading bay and he turned right off the main A4 road, hoping that lady luck would be smiling on him. On turning the corner he found that the loading bay was clear, however, vans belonging to workmen attending to problems at the shops were parked in a way that would prevent David reversing out of the loading bay without any obstructions. David got out of the lorry and looked for any of the workmen to ask them to move their vans, however, no one could be found.
So David thought that if he could put the front of the Leyland Beaver right into the corner of the yellow hatched boxes of the loading bay there was a chance that he could turn it on a Sixpence and position the lorry between the van and the cars. The Leyland Beaver has an incredible lock, much better than any other classic or vintage lorry and MXV 610 has a Symms Injection Pump which has a unique feature that allows the lorry to gradually move when the engine is on tick-over. This allows David to concentrate fully on steering and when to apply full lock and when to release it.

The operation went according to plan with the lorry managing to fit between the van and the cars. As David was straightening up the Leyland Beaver the workmen returned and applauded because none of them thought that the manoeuvre David was attempting was even possible.
One of the workmen came forward to shake David’s hand because he had undertaken the funeral of Bob Hall in Trowbridge on September 21st in 2011 who was well known to the workman. The workman told David that people in Trowbridge still talk about his wonderful lorry and the magnificent job that David had done for Bob.
As numbers of squally showers were anticipated during the day, David used his see-through fly sheet to protect the deck during the journey from Bradford-on-Avon to Calne. Even though the journey was less than 20 miles the lorry needed a complete wash before the coffin was loaded and he knocked on the rear door of the Funeral Directors to request a small drop of hot water in his bucket. Unbeknown to David the Funeral Director’s location was not manned that morning and he had to speak to the café at the end of the terrace who were keen to help him. David was disappointed that he wasn’t told that the Funeral Director’s premises would be unmanned that morning because if he had known he would have brought two flasks with him, one with coffee and one with hot water for washing the lorry. David has used this technique a number of times when the coffin is transferred onto the lorry in some remote location.
Whilst the Leyland Beaver was waiting outside the house the heavens opened and the widow of the Deceased thanked David for his foresight in providing the sheet which kept the coffin completely dry. The family walked in front of the Leyland Beaver towards the church accompanied by the dog of the Deceased.

After the service in the church the Deceased was interred in the cemetery and the family members then thanked David for all that he had done. As David left the church and approached the A4 he had a wonderful sight of the Cherhill White Horse and the Lansdowne Monument.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Snow snookers a Southampton Send off

On February 1st 2019 Vintage Lorry Funerals was booked to take a 92 year old on his final journey in Southampton. Jonathan Terry had booked the lorry some three weeks previously and had been immediate in providing the information which David had required. The Florist was helpful in providing information on the flowers and the Family were attentive to David’s request for information on their Dad. They emailed a high quality picture which was cropped, enlarged, laminated and secured within the design for the deck. In addition the Family emailed a number of black & white pictures of the lorries that the Deceased had driven, which was unusual because normally photographs from the past don’t exist. Either the Deceased had never owned a camera or he used to disappear when a camera came out of its case.

The long range weather forecast suggested that snow may feature at he end of January so David placed his back-box onto the deck of the lorry which adds weight above the drive axle and also carries equipment to assist the Leyland Beaver to escape from icy side streets where the roads around the house of the Deceased have not been gritted.
With only a light dusting of snow being forecasted for the evening of January 31st, David spoke with the staff at Mike Garbutt Transport, a company based at Market Lavington close to the A360 to get advice on which roads would be gritted. David was advised not to take his usual route using the A342 which in the past has proved susceptible to drifting snow and follow the A36 into Salisbury, depart on the A36 and then follow the A27 all the way to Sarisbury on the east side of Southampton. So David thought that this was good advice going through Salisbury to get to Sarisbury and it would be easier to follow the route with only two road numbers to remember.
David went to bed at 2100 hours and there was no snow on the ground and only a dusting of snow forecasted. David slept well and woke on the 0345 hours alarm to find that some snow had fallen. He got up, showered, got dressed and had his breakfast confident that with being on a hill he would be able to get out onto the main road. David’s concern level was raised, however, when his wife ventured out of the back door following her normal routine of opening up the garage housing the Leyland Beaver so that David can make a swift exit. Her first step revealed that some 7 inches of snow had landed and she returned to update David about the conditions.
David’s mindset was that he still could get out of his drive, down the street and onto the main road and if the main road was gritted and passable he was determined not to let this Sarisbury family down. So at 0415 hours David and his wife walked onto the street, the snow level was still 7 inches, and when they approached the main road it was evident that it had never been gritted or seen a Snow Plough, the main road was as bad as the side road.
As David and his wife were walking along the side road, she used her I-phone to provide an update on the road conditions south of Bradford-on-Avon. The information was not good, the A36 was blocked at Black Dog Hill, north of Warminster, the A303 was blocked and conditions in Salisbury and Southampton were described as treacherous. There was obviously a big risk that even if David could get out of Bradford-on-Avon he may be stopped before getting to Southampton and miss the funeral time. Although the Leyland Beaver is good in snow, often problems occur when articulated vehicles loose traction on slight inclines and traffic builds behind the stricken lorry on the hill preventing a Snow Plough to do the job that it is required to do. There would also be a risk that the Leyland Beaver could get damaged with some inexperienced driver sliding their car, into the vintage lorry, by using their brakes rather than just easing back on the throttle.
David reached the decision that he shouldn’t attempt to do the funeral and at 0430 hours he phoned Jonathan Terry’s night service and explained the situation to the man on the line, who told David that conditions were currently horrendous in Southampton. So David had a cup of tea and pondered what to do next. He had had his breakfast, was dressed and ready to start work, so he did not feel like going back to bed. So whilst David’s wife did house work David watched some football matches from the previous week which he had recorded but had never found time to see.
During the rest of the day David contemplated how the funeral had gone and he evaluated what he could have done better. Should he have gone down to Southampton the night before the funeral and get ahead of the snow, however, heavy snow was never predicted in the weather forecast.
At 1700 hours Jonathan Terry phoned to say that everyone understood that the Leyland Beaver couldn’t make the funeral and indeed Jonathan’s plans to use vintage Rolls Royce cars also were also abandoned.
Luckily David had a Bognor funeral the following week and this took his mind off missing the Southampton funeral. On Friday February 8th, 7 days after the Southampton funeral, David received a phone call from the Son of the Deceased who said, ‘You have probably been beating yourself up all week about not doing my Dad’s funeral, but don’t worry we all understood. The snow landed unexpectedly and some of Dad’s relatives in Gloucester, Fleet and London never made it to the funeral. It is ironic really because our Dad loved the snow and he often told us all about the times in 1947 and 1963 when he was trapped in his lorry by snow drifts and about the people who had helped him.’
David was relieved that the Family had been so understanding about the problem, however, it was a shame that the wonderful pictures that the Family had sent, now couldn’t be used in an Obituary article. But David thought, hold on, why couldn’t he write an article about the life of the Deceased and Mike Forbes , Editor of Vintage Roadscene, was very pleased to help David. David sent the A3 laminated picture of the Deceased, that should have been the centrepiece of the display, to the Son of the Deceased.

The Family were delighted and insisted that David should be remunerated for writing the article, being mindful that David had spent a week getting the lorry ready for the funeral for no reward.
The Family then sent even more pictures including a snowy scene from the 1930’s with the Deceased’s own Dad clearing the road near the farm that he was working on at the time. 
 Mike Forbes did the Family proud, allocating the whole of page 72 in the Scene & Heard section of Vintage Roadscene April and the Family were very happy with what David had done for them.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Help from an unexpected source in Dunstable

David was contacted by Carol Morris, of S.A.Bates & Son, Funeral Directors in Dunstable just before Christmas in 2018 regarding a funeral that involved visiting a house in Tring before travelling to Chilterns Crematorium in Amersham. S.A.Bates is part of a larger group, however, Carol, ably assist by Heather Matthews, run the operation as if it were their own business and this is exhibited in the way that they care for the families who put great trust in the two ladies.
David was amazed when Carol offered a number of dates and times for the funeral, which was the first time a Funeral Director had ever shown this level of flexibility. When Carol was travelling with David in the cab, he found out why she was so appreciative of David’s needs. Carol had recently joined the funeral industry, fulfilling a childhood ambition, however, prior to joining S.A.Bates she had a number of other jobs including being a Long Distance Lorry Driver, trunking loads between Scotland and England.
The family wanted an early morning funeral and although 3 months previously David had undertaken a 255 miles round trip in one day to Luton, on this occasion he decided to travel to Dunstable the day before the funeral. This was because the coffin was to be loaded at 0845 hours and the high risk of fog during December. Travelling to Dunstable the day before the funeral suited David as it would enable him to visit his Grandson’s grave in Green Acres Woodland Cemetery at Beaconsfield. Freddie passed away in June 2014 after only 15 months on this earth, and the staff members at Green Acres always welcome David to visit any time he is passing with the Leyland Beaver.
David normally contacts tyre services near the Funeral Director to store the Leyland Beaver undercover, however, most of these locations don’t start work until 0800 hours and there would have been a risk that rush hour traffic would cause a delay in the journey to S.A.Bates.
Luckily David’s wife found Stathams Recovery, a company that provides a 24/7 recovery service for Commercial Vehicles down the old A5 and M1 motorway. Stathams is closely situated for Dunstable and has a Premier Inn within walking distance. David spoke with Kim and asked if there was any possibility of overnight undercover parking for the vintage lorry and she said she would have to speak with John Statham. Within 24 hours David got an email to say that John would be delighted to help.
David spoke with the Daughter of the Deceased and ascertained that she wanted a simple approach with just the coffin and coffin spray. However, as the Deceased had owned a Haulage Company she asked if David could provide a canvass folded sheet to be placed on the rear of the deck, secured by old rope, depicting the scene of a 1950’s Lorry Driver on his way home after completing a load. David used an old canvass sheet that he had used many years ago, however, finding old brown coloured rope wasn’t as easy because most people now use blue nylon based ropes. A morning was spent on the telephone contacting people in Wiltshire who David knew from the Commercial Transport in Preservation (CTP) Organisation before he spoke with Mike Garbutt Transport in Market Lavington who found exactly what David needed in an old container that had been untouched since the 1960’s.

David left Bradford-on-Avon at 0645 hours, just before the rush hour and saw a Stag dart across the road in front of the Leyland Beaver in the wooded wild area between Melksham and Calne. Traffic through Newbury and Reading was light and David arrived at the Woodland Burial site at 1045 hours. After spending some quality time at his Grandson’s grave, David had his sandwich before heading through Amersham, Chesham and Birkhamsted and then hitting the outskirts of Dunstable.
David arrived at Stathams Recovery earlier than anticipated, however, the staff members were pleased to see and hear the Leyland 600 engine with around 15 people assembled around the vintage lorry. Stathams Recovery has a 24 hour call centre on site and Drivers on standby to deal with emergencies. Whilst David was there a tri-axle School Bus had a problem with the oil seal on the drive axle which meant that a standard type of recovery, using an Uplift, wouldn’t be appropriate and Stathams despatched a stepped-framed trailer with a winch to carry the bus to the company’s garage.
John Statham welcomed David into his office saying, ‘I have often read your articles in magazines and always wanted to meet you.’ John and David had a business to business chat, however, John’s staff often needed to speak with him about various projects and it was evident that John ran a tight ship. David was unclear where the Leyland Beaver would be parked overnight as Stathams single bay workshop was as busy as a runway at Heathrow. David need not have worried because John had planned to store the Leyland Beaver in a heated separate unit in the top yard that is reserved for John’s own vintage lorries. David had to reverse up a steep slope into the top yard and then squeeze the Leyland Beaver between John’s Diamond T and his Foden S21. John kindly gave David a lift to the Premier Inn and told him to report in the morning to the female controller who starts her shift at 0600 hours.

David had a sleepless night having woken up worried about the Leyland Beaver as parking in a 24 hour Recovery Business wasn’t the same as parking in a Tyre Fitters garage. David declined a cooked Breakfast and just had cereal and toast before he left the Premier Inn on foot at 0645 hours.
David arrived at the Stathams Recovery security gate at 0700 hours and it was still dark, however, David could see that his worst fears had happened. Looking at the ramp up to the top yard David spotted that a JCB Excavator with two ‘tank tracks’ had been parked on the ramp which would prevent the Leyland Beaver getting out of the yard.
David spoke with the female controller who gave a young man the key to the heated shed, however, he was unable to unlock the door and went back to the Controllers Office. David had planned to get to S.A.Bates before 0730 hours to beat the Florist up the driveway and park the Leyland Beaver at the top of the driveway where it could stay until the funeral left for Tring. David became concerned that he would be late at S.A.Bates and also there was a risk that he could have missed the funeral. David walked into the Controllers Office just when she got a call about a job on the M1 and the last thing she wanted was David needing to get his lorry out of the yard. She confirmed that the key she had given to the young man was correct, but then she returned to the emergency she was dealing with.
Also in the office was an older man and when David asked him to help, he just motioned his hands like they were holding a steering wheel saying ‘I just a Driver,’ David said that, ‘No one is just a Driver, you are John Stathams contact with the customer, you are very important.’ David gave the Driver one of his business cards and told him that if he couldn’t get his lorry out of the top yard within 30 minutes he would miss the funeral. David said to him’ Won’t you please, please help me,’ with almost as much emotion as Tina Turner singing Help.
The Driver said, ‘OK I help.’
The Driver ran up the yard, up the ramp and inserted the key not in the lock but in two dead-locks at the top and bottom of the door. The door sprung open, he put off the alarm and he raised the roller shutter door. He looked at the Leyland Beaver and said, ‘Lovely motor, will it start?’ He smiled as David fired up the Leyland 600 engine.  The Driver, who told David he was from Albania then explained that he needed to get the security code for the Excavator and in no time he was jumping into the cab of the JCB. David was relieved to see the puff of black smoke as the engine of the Excavator started. The Albanian Driver was very skilled at manoeuvring the tracked equipment. In no time David was down the ramp, out of the yard and onto the A5 on which traffic was building up.
David got to S.A.Bates 30 minutes after the time he had planned, however, there was no one in the drive and despite the horrendous set back David was back on track. It was light now and as David was reversing slowly up the drive he noticed an overflow pipe that he managed to avoid. When David stopped at the top of the driveway he reflected that things happen for a reason and if he hadn’t had the problem and arrived at 0730 hours it would have been dark and he wouldn’t have seen the overflow pipe.
Carol and Heather were pleased to see David and his lorry, Heather joked saying, ‘Have you been here all night?’

The family were delighted with the lorry when it arrived at Tring and on the way to the crematorium something amazing happened. On the single track A413 vehicles were stacking back behind the cortege on this busy commuter road and at the start of the Dual Carriageway two cars, travelling at around 70 miles per hour, shot past the lorry and then no more cars came past. A Lorry Driver just behind the last vehicle in the cortege apparently took a dim view of car drivers not showing respect to the Deceased so he positioned his articulated vehicle to straddle both lanes.

Some interesting things happened to David on his way home. In the middle of Reading the Leyland Beaver was in the first lane and a bus approached in lane two. The Bus Driver opened the door and asked a number of questions about the lorry. David thought that the bus was probably out of service, however, he was shocked when it went past as there were a number of passengers on board, who were not pleased with the Driver for delaying them.
On the A4 David invites vehicles to overtake as the road was once a three lane road in the 1950’s, however, some car Drivers are reluctant to overtake with oncoming traffic approaching at speed despite having plenty of room. However, car Drivers are like sheep, one goes and the rest follow and over 200 vehicles got past the Leyland Beaver between Reading and Calne. On the section near the Cherhill White Horse the middle lane is hatched and some drivers are reluctant to enter the boxed section. One van was travelling very close to the Leyland Beaver and was ignoring David’s left hand indicator bursts, so David wound down the window and waved the van past. David suddenly realised that the van was in fact a Police Van, however, the Policeman came past and used, left, right, left indicators to thank David.
In the wild wooded area between Calne and Melksham David saw two Crane birds on the opposite side of the road where the Stag had appeared the previous morning.
David fuelled at Sainsbury’s Melksham where he is known to the staff and was home before it got dark. A few days after the funeral David rang John Statham to thank him and his staff for all their help, he also found out that the Albanian Driver was called Alin. So in addition to providing a lasting memory for the Family of their Loved One’s final journey, David would also like to Alin for his invaluable help whose actions saved the day and put the plan back on track.
Since the Leyland Beaver was in John Statham’s yard John Statham has appeared on the TV programme ‘Bangers & Cash’ in which he bought the Volvo F89, featured earlier in this blog, at an auction at Mathewson’s Thornton-le-Dale site near Pickering.