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Malcolm Coates

As a child growing up in southern England in the 1970s I knew my dad, Malcolm Coates, wasn’t like other dads. His job was driving trucks (or lorries as we called them back then) and he went  everywhere – across Western Europe, to Hungary, Romania, Greece and Turkey  and, as the years went  on, even further. By 1975 he was driving  to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, spending weeks away at a time. His truck was his workplace, his bedroom and his kitchen (he fitted a  huge steel box and it was full of canned food and a primus stove).

As I got older I started spending my school holidays in the passenger seat of dad’s Volvo, travelling between  farms in the south of France, factories in Stuttgart, industrial estates in Denmark. I never got further than Europe though – before I was old enough to go the 1979 Iranian Revolution put an end to most of the Middle East trips .

We moved to Australia in 1982 and, despite short stints at ‘normal’ jobs,  it was inevitable that dad would end up on the road again. In 1985, en route from Melbourne to Brisbane,  he  was killed in an accident near Coonabarabran.

In a box under the bed I have a handful of memories of his  adventures in the 1970s: some photos, passports, diaries, an invoice book and an ageing Radclive Transport brochure. I’m sharing some of these snapshots of a truly unique way of life …

Photos

These are  vivid documents of their  time despite being poor quality shots that are showing their age. (They’re all undated and I don’t know where most of them were taken, apart from  two that have something written on the back, noted below).

Passports

Diaries and invoice books

Radclive Transport

Radclive operated  from Faringdon in Oxfordshire. Dad drove for  them from about 1974 and and eventually hung up his truck keys to become their Operations Manager in 1980. As much as nine year old me  enjoyed  having the run  of the Radclive yard  on the  forklift, working in the office didn’t  suit him – less than two years later  we left England for Australia, where he ended up doing  a different type of long haul driving. Below is a Radclive brochure from around ’77 featuring dad and his trusty F89 Volvo registration FJO 522S (he  was lucky enough to walk away from a serious accident in another Radclive Volvo  in the former  Yugoslavia,  an event accompanied by a fantastic story that  has been told in our family for so long  I’m not sure which bits of it are true).

Get in touch

I was 14 when dad died so I never got to talk to him as an adult about these experiences. I don’t know all the places he went, most of the people he met and how it affected who he became. If you knew him or were part of this world and would like to  share your experiences or  talk more about it please leave a comment below or contact me.

January 6, 2015

Comments

Hi Steve, What a great read, full of memories. I’m also an ex pat middle east driver living in Australia. I did the job much later ( 90’s ) and it was bit different to the time when your dad did it., but I do remember Radclife getting about.
I live in southern Tasmania and am on B doubles at the moment, hauling timber out the forests..
I like the way they’ve the Russian destination in red.

Jeff….

Hi Jeff,
Nice to hear from you. I hadn’t really paid attention to that colour coding in the map but yes…

I was on the job through 70s & 80s didnt know his name but definatley knew his face, you didnt always ask names, I drove for a few arabs on internals in Saudi, then went on the overland for Cyril Burke of Barnsley, also worked for Bestler out of Germany to all points Arabia.
I then started C.Brearley International ltd overland to the middle east, we had several motors on. Your dad was one of the gents of the game, sorry to hear he has gone,
If you send some pictures to Hicks of Newport I think some of the guys such as Robert & Di Hobbs, knew him well.
all the best
chris brearley.

Hi Chris,
my name is Eddie Rhodes from Durham and I was an owner driver with a Seddon Atkinson pulling for Davies Turner, and I did the Middle East in the early 80’s.

Although your name definitely rings a bell, I was was good friends with most of the Hicks drivers and especially Robert and Dai Hobbs and also Roger Bell. I also made other good friends on the job from Duxbury’s etc. etc. etc..

I’ve just come across this site and I’m really pleased to find it, but while I’m retired now I still think of all my old friends from the job and I’ve often wondered what, and how are doing now?

It would be nice to set up a Facebook page so the old Middle East drivers could keep in touch?

Best regards
Eddie Rhodes

Hi Eddie, I remember you well and ran with you quite a lot also Robert Hobbs. I am Ali Christie and had Athlon Addison old Scania NEV 710P running for Davis Turner out of Battersea, one looses touch after so many years but life moves on. Steve I may have come across your Da but I’m sure he would have known Athol. TURRA to TAHARAN. I really enjoyed the your article. Thanks

HI Steve…I also live in Australia (Toowoomba QLD)..and my Dad was a Middle East driver…He worked for Ashworth International from Burnley Lancashire when he started doing the M\E run back in 1976 ish…..It would not surprise me at all if our Dads crossed paths……I have a Facebook page Trucks Middle East 1970s……take a look and feel free to post any info or pics ….. Cheers Paul

Hi Paul,
Checking out your Facebook page now, great photos. I’m almost definite our dads would have run into each other. As a proud Yorkshireman Malcolm always loved a chat with a fellow northerner…

Hi steve im not sure u will re member me but I worked with your dad and new your mum as I spent a lot of time at your house in wroughton when u were very young and also the dog I rember dad duying a blue foden to necome owner driver and I had a volve after we worked at radclives I was work shop manerger I have some letters from him after he went to aus would love to talk more please get back thanks keith

Hi Steve
I used to work with your dad at Radclives .As a driver and in the workshop
I did a few runs with him to Germany in the late 70s .a great learning curve!
I also repaired his old Volvo 88 when he was an O/D for Radclives .It’s nice to see that you are getting comments for former associates especially your last contact
Keith(Jaws) Ruddman. Get back to me I could tell you more
Charlie

thanks steve what wonderful memories you have there. my father passed away in july 2016 he had me driving the old erf plastic pigs around ford of halewood at age of 12 or 13. so i went on to become the same driving trucks. i have no photos of his prized scaina 143. i remember going to hull with him one day it was in a ford transconti we spent more time being pulled over by the police wanting to look at this truck. if my memory is right it was the first high cab. it belonged to tilsley wilkinsons of glossop derbyshire. anyway thanks for them loving memories of real true men, thanks again pal

I once ran through Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria with a couple of Pan Express drivers but that was in the early 80’s

Two Thor drivers took me through Czechoslovakia to Budapest on my first trip,
I was very thankful to them, from there I was on my own through Hungary, Romania then Bulgaria Into Turkey. Blind panic most of the time..

Hi Steve,
I first knew your Dad when I was working for James &Hodder in Avonmouth,giving him groupage loads to Holland and Belgium.At that time he was running with another driver based in Calne.They later went on to make their first trips to the Middle East. Your Dad and I formed our own Company called COTRANS running a European service from a depot in Swindon and later being involved in running loads to the Middle East for John Banks based in Camberley.Surrey.I loaded the trailers with the U.K. loads and your Dad arranged the shipping. Your Mum & Dad kindly put me up sleeping in your front room on the sofa. Your Mum had just given birth to you at this time. Two very nice people. I will never forget the time Malcolm came home from Camberley driving one of John Banks lastest car purchases and decided that we both went out for a drive locally near Wroughton. Unfortunately we rolled the car and ended up on it’s roof in a small river. We managed to put our the electricity in the village and had to be pulled out by a farmers tractor but having to cut down a telegraph post first. Amazingly after pouring our hundreds of gallons of water, your Dad without a care in the world,sat in the drivers seat,started the engine and said “ well are you getting in ,Val’s got our tea ready”. There was not an inch on the car that wasn’t dented. Unfortunately we parted company after the Middle East company folded. I am very sorry to hear of his death whilst in Australia and hopefully this email fills in a few gaps of your memories of your Dad

Hi Steve,
great read about your Dad on the road to everywhere. 1976 I started internat. Hauls troughout western Europe as a young 20y.old swiss farmer re leave driving for Krummen Kerzers, Switzerland. I still remember the english Truck drivers with whom I could brush up my English and they always where up for a chat. Who knows if I ever spoke to your Dad Malcome ?
Now looking back I regret never ventured to the middle east, as I was offered loads to do so, but I felt just a bit young for this. Generally int. Drivers from other countrys then Switzerland where more in their therties plus.
Now I am a farmer already for 35 years here in Victoria Australia and have done re leave B-double driving work to supplement a bit the income at times and because of nostalgia from the time I was on the road as a young man.
( Listening to music from the seventies……)
All the best and cheers
Matthias

Hello Matthias,
Good to hear from you. Sounds you like had some great experiences as a young bloke and who knows, maybe you did chat with Malcolm.
All the best,
Steve

Hiya Steve.I remember seeing Radcliffe lorries when I did M/E driving in 75 and 76. I might have come across your dad, but not sure ( sorry about your loss ) It brought a lot of memories back ! I went to Iran Iraq and Saudi. I still have my passports from then. All the best Roy.

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