It wasn’t long after that that we all moved to the house which we still call home today that daddy bought the Range Rover in 1977, drove it a couple of years, then decided to rebuild it from the chassis up and convert it to diesel… a long, arduous process which would have seen him in the garage from 5.00am to possibly 2.00am day in and day out.
While he was carrying out this restoration he was driving a 1978 CF Bedford Van which he had reshelled from a new shell, shotblasted axles, Recaro seats, roof lining, inside panelling etc., and was sitting like a new pin – ‘A Team’ material (if you’re old enough to remember them). When the Range Rover was completed the van was surplus to requirements… so what does Brian do?
CUTS IT IN TWO, SETS 8′ INTO THE CENTRE, FITS A HIGHROOF AND BUILDS HIMSELF A CUSTOM MOTORHOME. He gave a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘handy-man’.
Words cannot do justice to the quality of work that my dad turned out, and yes, I am biased, but I also know my stuff… anyone who knew Brian and saw his work, not only the quality of it, but the ingenuity that went into designing some of the items, would say that the man was gifted, uniquely talented, and above all, a true gentleman.
Let me give you an example, one of many, as to how fussy he was…
He hated a rattle in any of his cars and, as is the nature of a motorhome, you have to have crockery, etc. in the vehicle. Dad had a ‘tea set’, cups, saucers, etc., that he intended to use for ‘the CF so he made a hinging pull out three tier shelf with the shape of each cup, saucer, plate, salt and pepper shakers, etc., cut into it so as each item was held secure and therefore wouldn’t rattle.
When this was completed, sanded down (it was mahogany) and varnished (almost 3 days work), daddy decided he didn’t like the ‘tea set’ he was using so bought a different one and started all over again… such was his pursuit of perfection.
He moved after some years from his employment with Owen Harrigan (both remained strong friends) to an engineering firm in Ballymoney run by George Watt, and Jimmy McKeegan (Watt & McKeegan) where he honed his engineering skills. I remember calling in on my way home from school one day to see him grinding a crankshaft on a big orange machine with ‘PRINCE’ stamped on it… I was fascinated to see ‘my daddy’ at his work.
Through time Watt & McKeegan parted company and dad then worked for a time for Jimmy McKeegan (McKeegan Engineering) just around the corner from Owen Harrigans garage. I remember visiting him there and meeting good friends of his, Danny Morrison and Bertie McElfatrick (sorry if I got the spelling wrong Bertie).
It was around this time that I started to accompany daddy to the work he carried out after most people would have went home to rest. I was ‘employed’ as his ‘gofer’, getting him spanners, etc. I loved it and could have given school a miss (and often did, just to be with him).
He worked a lot at lorries which was heavy work before all the airtools, etc., that modern mechanics have access to today. He worked for such well known local contractors as Barkley, Connelly, Bartlett, Jimmy Simpson, and a couple of others who I’ll not mention as, let’s say, their payment schemes left a lot to be desired (you know who you are).
He also carried out work for another local businessman well known for his classic cars, stock car racing and huge cranes… his long time friend Tommy Shaw of Ballymoney. I actually called with Tommy and his lovely wife Margaret recently to thank him for attending daddy’s memorial service, as Tommy himself is having some health problems. If you’re reading this Tommy, “take care, and all the best”. I know daddy would have told you himself, had he been capable.
Hope to see you again soon.