Welcome, It's Monday, 25 September 2017

History

Birth of a transport empire

As a young man Alfred joined the Coldstream Guards with his brother, who went on to become a Sergeant Major. Unfortunately, Alf was taken ill, and it was discovered that he was only 15 so he was discharged.

He returned home and took on three jobs. Early each morning he worked as a tyre cutter, during the day he delivered coal with a horse and cart, and in an evening he worked as a doorman at the local cinema.

He met his wife-to-be, Anna, while she was working in a fish and chip shop. They married in 1923, despite her father’s protests that she should keep away from the rough Clarke family. Anna was from Aston and Alf was from Ladywood, both now suburbs of inner-city Birmingham (and home of the finest football team, Aston Villa).

As time moved on Alf progressed from his horse and cart to delivering coal on an already worn-out truck. It was then Anna told him to stop gambling and save his money to buy a truck of his own. In 1933 Alf started the business with one truck and found his first paying load to deliver. This was to Scotland, and for more than 50 years as the company grew it was known as Clarke's, the specialist Scottish Carriers.

(Photo taken 1962. Alfred Clarke - front right, Anna Clarke to his right. Bill Clarke (Senior) - back left, Brenda Clarke - front left)

Early days in corser street

In 1933 the business was operating from Corser Street in Smethwick, where it steadily grew until 1960. In 1942 the military came, and even though Clarke’s trucks were already being used in the war effort – moving arms and components around the UK – the best two trucks were commandeered for direct military use.

First big break

In 1951 the business was starting to flourish and Clarke's was offered the work distributing US Royal Tyres. Twenty-one extra trucks would be required, in addition to the existing six trucks working on general business. Alf needed to raise capital, so he borrowed money from the family, pawned their jewellery and emptied his three sons’ piggybanks. All were repaid with interest within 12 months. The three sons – Alfred, Maurice and Bill – grew up working in the business with trucks in the back yard, but that's another story.

A splash of clarke yellow

This picture was used for promotional work by both the local Ford dealer and ourselves. It shows our distinctive blue and yellow livery with red on yellow signage. The company colours came about because Bill Clarke had recognised years ago that all-blue trucks looked a little dull. Rather than completely respray the vehicles, which would cost too much money, it was decided to paint the top only. The colour was Volkswagen Yellow, though this is no longer used – it is also available as Clarke Yellow.

One big happy family

This group photo was taken around 1985, and although some of the people on the picture have retired or moved jobs, several still work for Clarke's, including:

Bill Clarke Senior - Managing Director
Robert Clarke - Operations Director
Bill Clarke Junior - Commercial Director
John O'Neill - Contracts Manager
Trevor Caron - Driver
Kenneth Pritchard - Driver

Suits you, sir!

Photo taken 1984 - from left to right :

Robert Clarke – Operations Director
Bill Clarke Senior – Managing Director
Bill Clarke Junior – Commercial Director

They say that every picture tells a story, and this one certainly does! It’s not just the slim young Clarkes with a full head of hair, but the fact that Robert hadn’t bought a suit for the shoot. He had to borrow a somewhat smaller suit that day – check out the cuffs and the bursting buttons. But hey, he still managed to look cool.

Testimonials

I just want to mention the professionalism of some your drivers (in Class 1 vehicles mainly) based at the Manchester depot. Being a cyclist on the road, I have to give praise for all your drivers that I have encountered on the roads around and near the depot in question. If they have to overtake, they hang back until safe to do so, and when overtaking, they give plenty of room, (I always wave a thanks to the drivers for doing so). If only other transport companies and other drivers used this kind of courtesy, the roads would be a safer place for vunerable road users. Well done to your drivers. Thanks