How It All Started – 50 Years of Progress

John Edmund Coleman decided to leave his native home in Ballydorgan, Co. Cork, Ireland to seek a sustainable future in Birmingham, just before the outbreak of W.W.2. Here he met Nora Frances Staunton, who with similar ideas had left her native home in Ballyheane, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland. They saved and married in March 1940. Then buying a small home in Allerton Road, Hay Mills, where my sister, Maureen and I were born.

John and Norah Coleman. The Founders of Coleman & Company Ltd

During their time at 43, Allerton Road, my father had an opportunity of work that enabled him, with, `the aid of a borrowed fiver`, to buy his first lorry, an ex Army 5 ton petrol engine Bedford. The work was hand loading trench arisings onto the lorry then disposing of same, shovel on and shovel off. The work was offered by George Faulkner of Bovis on a deep sewer site in Birmingham City Centre; my father quickly accepted the opportunity, and so it all started. At first my father parked the lorry at Oakfield Garage, Hay Mills, where a strong and lasting friendship with the owner, Bill Meddings and his sons Bob and Ray, soon developed. Repairs, of which there were many, carried out at weekends and evenings. Very soon he bought a second, to be driven by his brother Stephen, and then another and so on, work was hard but plentiful. Parking became a problem, as we grew the house also became a problem.

A property with a large garden at, 131 Albert Road, Stechford was bought; the Lorries were then parked in the back garden. Mother raising a family, doing office work, helping father with repairs in the evening, Father out working by day, repairs at night, helping to get the house together, making curtains etc. at weekends, of course Maureen and me were an enormous help, (or so we thought) a real team effort!

The business, J.E.Coleman, with his brother Stephen, now employed 6 drivers, did all sorts of work to get a “few shillings”, apart from tipper work; the enterprising duo were now also general hauliers, collecting goods from the Canal Shippers, Fellows Morton and Clayton, Fazeley Street, Birmingham for delivery nationally, to wherever, all very hard manual work. Then on 8th May 1953, under the 1947 Transport Act, my father received the princely sum of £2,400:00 for the entire business as part of a Government initiative to form British Road Services (BRS) to transport goods in a National Transport Network, Coleman`s were nationalised. Trading Accounts Year End 30th April 1953 showed Turn Over £3015.15.9d show Gross Profit £1,284.3.0d. It was in July 1953 that the last tramcar ran in Birmingham.

After a short holiday and he was off again, J.E.Coleman trading as Coleman Bros. During this period Birmingham was well and truly recovering from the W.W.2 devastation, tramways were being removed, an opportunity for work was obtained from Tarslag, (the forerunner of Tarmac, who were the forerunner of Carillion) who were reconstructing Digbeth, removing the old tramlines and cobble paved carriageways. Roped excavators, 19 and 22 R.B face shovel loading the trucks 5 tons (?) each load, then, shovelled off, soon screw tipping gear became available so the vehicles were either replaced or converted, but if the loads were too heavy the hand shovel was still used to lighten the load before the screw tipper could work. A big problem was that when the vehicles “were loaded” the underside of the body would come into contact with the rear wheels, causing the lorry to suddenly stop, usually breaking the axle drive shaft. The solution to overcome the problem was simple; secure a block of wood to the underside of the chassis, so the wood could come into contact with the axle casing before the body hit the wheels, no spring were modifications neither available nor required! As time progressed what were modern tippers with hydraulic tipping gear were acquired.

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2 Responses to How It All Started – 50 Years of Progress

  1. Steve Lelliott says:

    Dave, you should have kept that first lorry – would’ve been vintage now – profits weren’t bad either- but on the facts as presented I reckon the owners of the business had the same problems as the rest of us – Their kids.

    • Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your post. Great to hear from you. Yes, it would have been great to have kept our earlier trucks. At the time I guess we just didn’t think about 50 years down the line.

      Kids being a problem? Never!

      Hope all’s well and stay in touch.


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