A photograph taken over 50 years ago with myself as the driver certainly brought back some memories.
When I was demobbed from the Royal Air Force, I had a short spell working for British Rail. I then started work for Aylward Bros, a Teynham haulage company, in 1959 as a driver. The premises were where the car wash is now on the London Road. There were 20 lorries parked in that small space, which often tested your reversing skills.
The photo was taken one Sunday at the Lorry Driver of The Year Award, held in Maidstone, an annual event.
The previous day I had to load reels of Blue News Print, which was destined for the ‘Racing Club’, a popular horse racing paper at that time, and printed at Nuneaton in the Midlands. I loaded paper reels three tiers high, 18 in all, then roped and sheeted it down, which was required for every load on my allocated Albion Clydesdale lorry, for an early start Monday morning. Each paper reel weighed half a ton so the lorry had a load of 9 tons.
The boss Mr Aylward then informed me that I had to go to the LDYA the following day. The photo shows I’m fully loaded, unable to see the back-end and so hanging out of the door, trying to keep within the markers. No power steering in those days, so most drivers had arms like Popeye.
At least three other Aylward drivers competed at the event and the photograph was taken by fellow driver John Kemp, who was also competing. Regrettably we did not win this time but the year before Norman Webb had won his class with an 8-wheeler. If anyone remembers the News of The World, they were issuing ‘Knight of the Road’ stickers, and Norman proudly had one on his windscreen.
At the time the Albion Clydesdale was very popular and reliable. The company always liked British-made lorries, and had several makes at that time which they often tried out. The best were the AEC brand which were made by the London Bus Co and were Kings of the Road.
Most of the haulage for the company were bricks, either from Smeed Deans at Murston or Eastwood in Conyer. When the brick fields closed Aylwards had to find other contracts and one was from the Bowaters’ two paper mills and Pilkington Glass, Queenborough. The work was mostly long distance to the West Country or taking newsprint to all the London dailies.
We spent many days away from home, and nights in digs, but we really enjoyed the full English breakfast and the companionship of other drivers from around the country - lorry driving can be a lonely job. At that time most large towns had lorry parks, so no sleeping in lay-bys.
The boss, Dave Aylward, was fair but believed in a ‘fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.’ As he himself had been a driver you couldn’t pull the wool over his eyes. Drivers were allocated one vehicle, and had to carry out maintenance such as oil changes etc. Dave would check around the vehicles on a Sunday morning and woe betide any driver or lorry that didn’t meet his standards. Every lorry carried a spare wheel and a basic toolbox and you were expected to keep your lorry going and have the knowledge to do this. This included punctures, and quite often other drivers would stop and help you change the wheel.
Drivers never returned with an empty lorry. It was our responsibility to find a return load and from the West Country this would often be china clay, or peat-based compost from the Somerset Levels.
Aylward Bros ceased trading in the 1990s when large haulage firms took over the contracts with Bowaters and pushed the small firms out as they could no longer compete.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Aylward Bros though it was hard physical work and a lot was expected of you. Today's lorries are sleeker and easier to drive but the regulations, traffic, stowaways and paperwork have increased tenfold. I wish them well.
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......Messrs. Aylward Bros., London Road, Teynham, Sittingbourne, for two lorries (6 tons);.....
From Truck Net UK
From Commercial Motor Archive.
From 'New Companies' originally printed
21st May 1965
Aylward Bros. Ltd. Cap. £25,000. Objects: To acquire the business ol haulage contractors, quarry owners and gravel merchants, etc., carried on by D. Aylward and R. Aylward as Aylward Bros.' Dirs.; D. Aylward. Glenbervie, London Road, Teynham. nr. Sittingbourne, Kent; R. Aylward, Sruppington Farm, Norton, nr. Sittingbourne. Sec : D. Aylward. Reg. office: London Road, Tcynham, nr. Sittingbourne.
THE LONDON GAZETTE, 6th SEPTEMBER 1968
Notice is hereby given that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between David Aylward and Roy Aylward, carrying on business as Haulage Contractors at Teynham, Kent, under the style or firm of AYLWARD BROTHERS has been dissolved by mutual consent as from .the 29th day of February 1968. All debts due to and owing by the said late' firm will be received and paid respectively by 'the said David Aylward who will continue to carry on the said business under the style or firm of Aylward Brothers.
—Dated this 26th August 1968. D. Aylward