Drivers Stories

A story from the 6th of March 1987.

Friday the 6th of March 1987 sticks on a lot of peoples as they remembered where they were at when the news of the Herald of  Free Enterprise capsized at 1900 hours leaving Zeebrugge.

Well I remember coming home after being away all week I had left my lorry in Tobermore and got home at approxmently 2130 hours, at about 0030 hrs in the morning I was awakened by the house phone I answered it wondering who would be ringing at this time when my employer Will Drennan said Craig there has been an accident with one of the lorries its on its side in Ringford, Scotland the driver has been cut out of it and is on his way to hospital I need someone to go out to it, I said ok gave me half an hour and I will meet u in the yard. I arrived in the yard and started to get a empty tautliner some chains and tools and as I didn’t know what I was going to I said I would get Uel Montgomery to go with me to which Will said that Uel was not home yet he was delivering in Belfast in the morning I looked at him with a sly look and said if I can contact Uel there will be no more said (no mobile phones back then) I rang Uels house and when the phone answered I said tell Uel I need him to go out with me on the 7:30 sailing and one of the drivers has had an accident and we need to tranship the load, Uel came to the yard right away. I then went up to James Mc Geehan & sons yard and lifted their straight towing bar (imagine going into someones yard in the early hours of the morning and helping yourself to recovery items, bare in mind drivers and companies helped each other back then.)

Uel and myself set off for the 7:30 boat out to Cairnryan it was a rough sailing with high wind and snow the atmosphere was very sombre after what had happened in Zeebrugge. The boat docked in Cairnryan  and we made our way down the A75 to Ringford and saw Uoi1641 lying on its side on top of the crash barrier, the police Tom Crowthers and 2 lorries from the groupage company in Manchester were already there with the help of a local farmer with a tractor and front end loader we started to tranship the load out of the boxvan, after we got the load transhipped Tom Crowthers started to pull it back onto its wheels as the snow had got heavy Tom said he would tow the lorry u into a layby as he didnt want to get stuck in the snow towing it back up to Cairnryan.

The groupage company left to go back to Manchester leaving Uel and  me with the remainder of the load, a boxvan with the side out of it and a lorry with the side out of a cab no windscreen and only on spoke of a windscreen. The first thing we did was move the damaged boxvan up into the layby and then hitched up to the tautliner and set off up to Cainryan coming up the road we realised we had not eating from our breakfast on the boat and we said we would get something in Cairnryan, coming up to Newton Steward we heard Rosie and Anne on the CB and we said jokingly that we would be stopping on our way down for something to eat we carried on up to the boat dropped the trailer and went to the hotel for something to eat, on our way back down towards Newtown Stewart Rosie shouted that she had made us something to eat we didn’t have the heart to tell her we already had eaten and when we stopped she had a very good dinner made (so two dinners in less than one and a half hours) we set off down to Ringford and coupled the straight bar onto the lorry and pushed the smashed lorry in below the damaged boxvan we then set about getting the airlines and electrics to the damaged lorry after this was done Uel produced a pair of vicegrips and clamped then onto the other side of what was left on the steering wheel, (that the fire service had cut the steering wheel and had just left one spoke) It was suggested that Uel would steer up the road and I would change with him it was now into the small hours of Sunday morning and it was still snowing and I had the heater up full blast in the T45 roadtrain to get dried out as we came up to the roundabout at Newtown Stewart a County Mounty went driving around needless to say my heart skipped a beat but he did not bother us I looked back at Uel and he waved to keep going, when we arrived in Cairnryan we thought as we were up and I was warm and dry and Uel was blue with cold we would ring Will Drennan, the conversation went something like this hello we are in Cairnryan now we have the trailer booked on the boat and we have towed the damaged lorry and trailer up as well what do you want us to do the answer was tow the lorry and trailer to east wests yard and bring the tautliner to the yard on Monday morning. (as Drennans yard was in the middle of the bible belt of Tobermore and it frowned on to take the lorry in when the people was going in or out of church) I looked at Uel and winked we put the phone down and by this time it was time to load the boat. When we got off the boat we took the tautliner to east wests yard and while doing so we checked to make sure there was nobody about the weighbridge we then went back to Larne and hooked up to the damaged lorry and trailer again then headed for Tobermore as we arrived in Tobermore the people were starting to come out of church we had a lot of problems getting into Drennan”s yard think it was something to do with the want of a steering wheel when we thought we had held the people back long enough from getting their dinner we turned into the yard, a lot of people came in asking if that was one of the lorries of the Townsend Thorsend boat to which we said yes (well it was off the Larne boat) Will arrived and we think the expression of his face said it all. Would u get away with the carry on like this now back then you never let anything beat you and it has been talked about many of time about the eating of Rosie and Annes Sunday dinner. I must also say that the driver of the lorry was released from the hospital later on Saturday and the Ringford byepass opened on the Tuesday morning nothing was ever said about Uel dropping his trailer in Larne and bouncing home on the Friday night another driver delivered the load on Saturday morning. Would anybody want to use Craig Matthew and Uel Montgomery recovery services. I thought I would share this experience and I wonder was the straight bar ever returned.

The uvcvc would like to offer our deerest sympathy to our members Ronnie and Kathleen Mc Crea on the death of Ronnie’s Sister Catherine O’Lynn. The uvcvc would like to offer our sincere condolence to our member Sean Rice on the death of his Mother. The uvcvc Is saddened to learn of the death of well known restorer and story teller Vernon Dykes. Vernon  Handy work can be seen on a lot of road runs he always liked to have people around him and was never short of a story to tell.  The uvcvc would like to offer our sincere condolence to the Dyke family circle. drivers story 2 Came across this in export & freight july 1980 when export &freight road tested a ford transcontinental 4432 Driven by the Late Tom Kempson who had some of the 1st Dafs in N. I. when he ran his own lorries. Tom drove for Hugh Murphy in later years and was a very highly respected Driver who was always willing to help when fellow drivers were in trouble. drives story 3 drivers story 4 My first Cross Channel Run Michael Mc Geehan. I recall my first cross channel ru in a 1964 Leyland Super Comet which had a dual purpose tipper with the body built around the 5th wheel. On the sat morning I started to remove the tipping body by using 4 barrels and a couple of strong planks of wood, The rams detached from the body and stayed propped up the rear of the cab. (A system still in use to this day). This resulted in a very long wheel base unit. In preparation for the journey I spent the sat and sun fitting 2 new mudguards as there was no time to paint them I headed of with them in their Leyland salmon pink undercoat colour. Monday morning I headed for the 8am sailing from Larne to Stranraer British Rail Boat. Not being an account holder we had to pay  by cheque, The rate was almost £35 which included driver and helper. British rail gave you a advertising sticker for your windscreen when i displayed this I felt so proud and I could show I was across the water. On the boat I got talking to a driver who was driving a black ERF with a white fridge (might have been John Rea’s) He warned me to watch my speed on the A75 and particular down past the moss (At this time I didn’t know the Moss was a Cafe) He talked about all the towns and villages we would go through no bye passes then. After the boat docked and I started to disembark of the boat following the lorries on front onto the A75 thing were going well through all the villages and towns until we got to Caurrerstown. Just past the filling station there was a queue of traffic at road works as I started to slow up I noticed a Mc Burney Atkinson behind me with smoke coming from his wheels I was able to pull onto the grass verge to allow him to get stopped. The driver gave me the thumbs up and on we went (no rude signals then). I had a load of farm machinery on which ment i had to go through the centre of Dumfries to avoid the low railway bridge (a tape measure would have been handy), Through Annan and past the blacksmith shop in Gretna to our first stop at the moss cafe which was a welcome stop for all lorry drivers always rough and ready and open 364 days a year. I was a very proud seeing our super comet parked along side the Scottish & English Lorries with their sheeted loads, no curtainsiders then and to see lorries and trailers double banked with their rear axle hanging in mid air on the way back to the north of Scotland. Our 1st del was at Lloyds of Carlisle and 2nd stop Aucharder where booked into a hotel for the night. The local company Robert Taylor who We were doing the work for sent their fitter Paddy Kelly with me as he had to assemble some of the machinery, I gave him a hand  as he wanted to go to Duncan of Aberdeen with me for a load of cabs for universal tractors we arrived in Aberdeen at lunch time. After lunch we got loaded with tractor cabs as we were unable to put them all on the deck we had to load four on top which had to be skidded, Bearing in mind these cabs were not in crates and had glass fitted. This new cross channel driver had to do his best with ropes no straps then or mobile phones to ring for advise. On leaving Aberdeen we had pre booked the same hotel  as the night before  we arrived at 8pm but decided to try and get to the other side of Glasgow when the roads were quiet.As it transpired we never stopped until we were in stranrear , When I went to book on the clerk would not accept my cheque funny Larne was able to Accept it and it was all the same company. Luckily I had enough cash with me for emergences we got the 1st boat in the morning arriving home mid afternoon Wednesday with load intact. (now where did I hide the 2nd log book). Robert Taylor LTD were potato merchants and agriculture dealers who had the sole agents for universal tractors in NI. The previous week I had collected seven tractors from Dublin Docks (these had to be cross loaded ) Along with their driver John Joe Mc Guigan who had eight tractors on a AEC Marshall and trailer. My Leyland Super comet being tipper spec had a Leyland 400engine, 6speed gearbox and Eaton 1800 2 speed axle on 1200×20 tyres which left her capable of 60plus mph. Hope I have not bored you with this story. Michael Mc Geehan. James Mc Geehan and sons Draperstown