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U3A Writing: The Brine Run

...Dad would go in his tanker which was painted in blue with the ICI logo on it. Tanker 148 was my dad’s. He would go to Cheshire in the morning, go into the Huddersfield ICI to empty the load, and then go back again in the afternoon for another load.

Every now and again in the summer holidays I would have the opportunity to go with him on the afternoon run...

Hazel Dracup tells of afternoons out with her Dad.

My father had seen his childhood ambitions to join the Metropolitan Police in tatters when he was wounded at Dunkirk aged 20 back in 1940. Having been discharged from the Coldstream Guards, he turned to what he knew best which was ‘driving’ when looking for a job back in Civvy Street.

Coaches, buses, heavy goods vehicles - he went behind the wheel of them all during the 36 years he worked for a well known local transport firm, as well as being its heavy goods vehicle instructor and then a depot manager for the last ten years or so of his working life.

When I was aged about ten years old, his company was doing contract work for the ICI in Huddersfield (amongst other things) to collect brine from over in Cheshire. Apparently it was used in the manufacture of ammonia at the time.

Dad would go in his tanker which was painted in blue with the ICI logo on it. Tanker 148 was my dad’s. He would go to Cheshire in the morning, go into the Huddersfield ICI to empty the load, and then go back again in the afternoon for another load.

Every now and again in the summer holidays I would have the opportunity to go with him on the afternoon run. I would meet him in town at 12.30pm by the Post Office on Northumberland Street. I would stand and watch for the big blue articulated tanker coming up the road which would stop for me to climb into the passenger side of the cab.

Off we would go on towards Marsden in the days before the M62 even existed. It was wonderful being high up in the cab. Sometimes we would stop on Manchester Road for fish and chips and eat them before we set off again.

After Marsden we would go over Stanedge which is part of the Pennines, then through Uppermill and Saddleworth which in those days were part of the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Leaving Yorkshire behind and entering Lancashire, Ashton-under-Lyne was the next large town and before long we were within the outskirts of Manchester.

In and out of the city we went towards Cheshire, past Stretford and Sale, then Altrincham where there was a transport café called ‘The Bear's Head’. Dad and I would call in for a cuppa and a bottle of Vimto for me and sometimes one of the other drivers from Huddersfield on his way back would be there. Dad and he would have a good natter!

Back in the cab would make our way towards Northwich, but we would turn off the main road a few miles short of the town in a little place called Lostock Gralam. Here was the site of a large ICI works.

Inside the complex, we would go alongside the railway line for quite some distance before turning off. There were lots of pipes going in and out of the ground, and not so many buildings.

Dad would park his tanker up in the relevant bay and climb on top of the tank and unscrew the cap. He would then insert the sleeve (which was wrapped round the overhead pipe) and open the valve to fill the tank with brine.

This took quite some time. Once the tank was full, and the cap fastened down, Dad and I would begin the return journey.

Because we had a full load, this would take much longer. The worst part was climbing up Stanedge, it seemed to take forever. Three quarters of the way up, Dad would pull into a lay-by and take forty winks! I would jot down the registration numbers of vehicles that passed by and look in my book to see in which town they were first registered. Was someone trying to tell me that my first job on leaving school would be in Motor Taxation - for the then West Riding County Council?

Sometimes Dad would go a slightly different way through Oldham, for my benefit, we used to look at pub names, count telephone boxes and so on. Dad would tell me stories of what he used to get up to when he was a young boy.

Back at Huddersfield we would leave the tanker at the depot which was yards away from the ICI. The night man (dad worked shifts of three weeks on days and one on nights at the time) would be responsible for emptying the tanker. We would then return home around 6.00pm to a hot meal which would be ready on the table.

These afternoons were never boring. I was often car-sick when travelling by car at the time, but I never had any problems in Dad’s cab despite stuffing myself with goodness knows what. For me these afternoons which took place over several years, were a wonderful experience and ones that I will never forget.

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