Riding Shotgun on the West
Coast Road Run
For the best part of two years, we worked towards
arranging for the Western Isles to host part of the West Coast Road Run.
All the months of hard work, and regular phone calls to Jim Beresford,
finally paid off in September 2002.
Our day started in Stornoway at
9.00am on a beautiful autumn morning at our usual meeting place at the
old ferry terminal. There, waiting on the quayside and looking splendid
in the early morning sun, was MGB 286E, a 1967 Bedford SB5 on loan to us
from the MacBrayne Circle. It was driven from Stornoway to Laxay by
Calum (Gobs), and from Laxay to Tarbert by ‘Murray’, who was taking part
in the Road Run with his cousin, Murray Shearer, from Aberdeen - the
owner of JVA 59N, a forward control Land Rover 101.
WITPG members and commercial vehicle
at Stornoway during the West Coast Run week prior to setting off for
At Tarbert a large crowd began
gathering to watch the arrival of the lorries as they came off the ferry.
Scott Bennett from Scarista, Harris - himself the proud owner of an
immaculate 1934 Austin 7 - played the bagpipes as the vehicles drove up the
link span from the ferry to the carpark. After the ferry docked, normal
vehicular traffic started coming off the boat. Then, as Archie Shearer’s
Austin Load Star suddenly appeared at the ferry ramp, I heard someone behind
me say: "Ah, this is more like it." It sure was a sight to remember as the
parking space filled up with an impressive line-up of 22 commercial
For John Alex, Calum and myself it was
a time to renew some old acquaintances and welcome them to the Western
Isles. John Alex was to have another ‘spin’ in his beloved Bedford O type,
which belongs to Jack Muir of Alyth, Perthshire. This lorry was a big
favourite with the people of Lewis and Harris, as it was this type of lorry
that would have served the island’s villages back in the 1950s. Calum was riding shotgun with Bob Tuck
in a well turned out Albion Reiver belonging to Tyson H. Burridge,
Cumberland. I was along with Archie Shearer from Lockerbie in his excellent
1964 petrol engined Austin Load Star.
Jim Doig of Terregles, Dumfries, one
of the event organisers, was on a real busman’s holiday - he had brought
along his superb 1966 Leyland Double Deck Bus, LNY 536D. The bus had
originally worked with Caerphilly Urban District Council, South Wales. It
had a good load of passengers on it - they were participants in the Run who
had to leave their vehicles behind at Uig, Skye.
It was fitting that the Road Run was
to be started by two Harris men who were involved in road transport all
their lives: Roddy MacAskill (owner and operator of R.M.A. Ltd and the
quarry at Ardhasaig) and Calum MacLennan (Calum Blacky), a former bus
operator from Govig, who cut the ribbon to set the first leg of the Run
under way. All entrants were given the excellent
route map produced by Hugh MacInnes of Cuan Ard Press, Ness. The route would take the lorries up
the steep climb of the Ardhasaig brae, then on to the Clisham. From there it
was easy-driving to our first scheduled stop at the Callanish stones and
Centre for some lunch.
We were joined at Achmore by
Western Isles Classic Car Club members with their vehicles, who were to
follow the Run around the West Side and back to Stornoway. With the
morning passing all too quickly and the sun still shining from a blue
sky, what had started as a good day was turning into an excellent one.
A stopover in Callanish also gave WITPG members
and spectators another opportunity to take a closer look at some of the
With the drivers and crews fed and
watered, we were off on the road again, heading to the restored
blackhouse village at Garenin, Carloway.
John Myers’ 1964 Scammell Highwayman Low
Loader making short work of the Ardhasaig brae
The level of support the Run was
receiving was tremendous, with car drivers flashing their headlights as they
passed the lorries. The old lorries were also attracting the interest of
many local residents as they watched them from their front gardens as the
cavalcade passed by. With kind permission from the
Gearrannan Centre, who normally do not allow any vehicles to enter the site,
we were granted permission to reverse some of the old lorries down to the
blackhouses, where we had arranged a photo shoot with locally based
professional photographer James Smith. This provided a magnificent backdrop
against which to photograph the vehicles.
The route then led us across the
Barvas Moor and into Stornoway, where the vehicles were parked in the old
Hebridean Bus carpark. I think everyone who had ever driven a lorry came to
view the fantastic line-up of lorries that were on show. Later, a social evening was held at the
Caledonian Hotel, where WITPG members got a chance to meet Run participants
and inquire further about the history of individual participating vehicles.
|The WITPG presented an award
by members for the best overall vehicle in the Western Isles leg of the
Run. The award itself was a superb, framed, photograph of Stornoway by
James Smith. The award recipient was Peter Midgley of Otley, West
Yorkshire, who is the proud owner of SWF 707, a 1956 Albion Clydesdale
in its original livery - H B Wright & Son of Cottingham, East Yorkshire.
It was used by them until 1981 and restored over a six-year period. On behalf of the group I was pleased to
present Peter with his award, but was happy that I personally did not
have the difficult task of choosing the winner - in my eyes they were
all worthy winners.
Midgley's 1956 Albion Clydesdale (SWF
The award presentation rounded off an
excellent day, with the weather also playing its part in making the event
complete. I’m sure that participants and spectators alike had a brilliant
Despite a change in the weather the
following morning - with cloudy, overcast, but dry conditions - spectators
still came out in force at the carpark in Stornoway. The departure time for
Harris was scheduled for 10.30am.
All participants were assembled
for a route briefing, but we had one final duty to perform before
heading south. The Western Isles Classic Car Club had kindly donated two
awards: the Ladies Choice, for the ‘prettiest vehicle’, which was
presented to John Pomeroy of Warminster for his 1937 Albion 3 tonner,
painted in the livery of Coombe Hill Carriers (Type CL122, registration
number DXK 851).
The ‘Spirit of the Rally’ award
was presented to Thomas R Anderson of Strathaven, Lanarkshire, and his
1969 Atkinson 2-Axle Rigid, registration number UVD 738H - the green D.
M. Smith Atkinson and load, consisting of a Series 1 Landrover and a
1937 Fordson model N tractor.
RIGHT: Ladies Choice
winner John Pomeroy with his 1937 Albion 3 tonner (DXK 851) at the
Gearrannan blackhouse village on the West Side of Lewis
There are many people we need to thank
for their invaluable assistance, without which this event would not have
Caledonian MacBrayne played a major
role in enabling this Run to come to the Western Isles. They gave the
entrants a 50% reduction on fares and also a concession for vehicles over
3.5 tons unladen weight by allowing them to board the ferry without
welded-on lashing points. However they required to have bolt-on rings and
straps fitted, to comply with existing Health & Safety and insurance
requirements. Grateful thanks must go to Caledonian
MacBrayne’s Marine Superintendent, Captain Norman Jones; David Taylor, Cal
Mac Manager at the Uig Ferry Terminal in Skye and Kenny MacAskill, Harbour
Master, Tarbert, Harris, as well as the Master and crew of the M. V.
As we headed for
Harris the weather deteriorated, and by the time we reached Tarbert it was
raining heavily. I had received a phone call from the Head teacher at
Seilebost primary school asking if some of the lorries would stop at the
school so that the ten children in the school, who were doing a project on
transport, could see the lorries. Calum ‘Gobs’, driver of the MacBrayne
bus, picked the children up at the end of the road to the school and gave
them a ‘spin’ to Scarista golf course (our cut off point) and back to
Seilebost. Two of the boys got a trip in NSH 123R - a 1977 AEC Mandator
Ballast Wagon that was restored in the company colours (Tillside Haulage) of
its owner David Tompson of Alnwick, Northumberland I certainly didn’t have
any teachers in school that would have let me have a ‘spin’ in a lorry!
As we headed back
to Tarbert I hitched a ride in XFD 297H, a 1970 Foden S36, powered by a six
cylinder 150 Gardner engine with a 12-speed gearbox belonging to Jim
Beresford from North Yorkshire. Since the Skye 2000 Run, Jim and I have
become great friends. We happily reflected on the events of the past two
days over the throaty burble of a Gardner engine which seemed quite at home
on the undulating terrain of the Harris roads. There was encouraging talk
of what was originally envisaged as a one-off event now becoming a bi-annual
event. So, fingers crossed, the West Coast Road Run could make a return
visit in 2004!
All too quickly
we were being directed into our parking lane at Tarbert and it was time to
say our goodbyes. The last two days had been a dream come true for myself
and the rest of the WITPG members - a memorable event that will forever
remain imprinted in our memories.
On behalf of the
Western Isles Transport Preservation Group and everyone who took part
in the West Coast Road Run, our grateful thanks. Special
thanks to Jim Beresford and Jim Doig for all the many months of hard work
that they have put in to the event.
Until the next
article, by RJ MacDonald, first appeared in the November 2002 issue of the