Telephone: 01899 220551, 07825 013196



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Company History

The firm started trading in 1946, when David Clarkson and his partners bought out a small local carrier called M/ S J Ramsay. Fortunately because of the modest size of the fleet, they managed to avoid becoming part of British Road Services (BRS).

David Clarkson eventually bought out his partners and assumed sole control of the business. The companys original vehicles were a second-hand Dodge and a Leyland Cub which had already been in service for many years. They were gradually replaced with Bedford O models rated at either five or seven tons. These were mainly used to collect milk from the surrounding farms, before delivering the 10 gallon churns to the St Cuthberts (Co-op) dairy in Edinburgh.

Load of Milk DS4190

The number of runs varied throughout the year and usually increased during the summer months when the cows were allowed outdoors. During those months a double deck removable steel frame placed over the drive axle to increase the load capacity was used. Occasionally a second smaller frame was placed at the front, but the lack of power steering made this unpopular with the drivers.

The milk contract was labour intensive; the empty churns had to be drained and washed at the dairy in Edinburgh, before being re-loaded for the haul back to Biggar. They then had to be exchanged at the correct farm the following morning. Furthermore, every churn had to be stamped on both lid and base with each farms name and address. This was particularly useful in case one of the lids inadvertently blew off on the journey home. The missing lid could usually be found the following morning, thoughtfully placed on a fence post by a considerate neighbour.

Because the vehicles were only carrying empty churns, there was the opportunity to find a return load for the drive back to Biggar. This could be anything from animal feed, lengths of timber and copper piping, or even cases of wines or a few barrels of beer. They would be loaded on a canvas sheet, spread over the empty churns. If the return traffic was especially busy, all of the churns were stacked on the one lorry to free up the others for full loads of animal feed or bagged fertilizer.


By the early 1950s the overnight parcel and pallet networks were starting to establish north of the border, albeit on a smaller scale than todays large operations. They were often referred to as hub and spoke distribution. D M Clarkson Ltd was a shareholder in a company based in Edinburghs Grassmarket district, which acted as a co-operative for several other smaller carriers working in central Scotland. The firm was called Carriers (Clearance) Depot Ltd and employed a man to take telephone messages from customers in the city and then relay that message to the appropriate carrier for the delivery area of the consignment. For example a mother in Biggar could arrange to have her childrens luggage sent to and from a private school in Perthshire by having the trunks transhipped in the Grassmarket via a Perth carrier. Likewise a wine merchant or brewery in Edinburgh could telephone Fountainbridge 4021 any morning, and the driver would pick up these calls around noon when most vehicles would stop nearby for a lunch break and a brief gossip, and collect the consignment that afternoon.

During the 1960s, D M Clarkson acquired John Hogg Carriers, a local company also based in Biggar. This made good sense for the future expansion of the firm, as Hogg had already established reliable links serving Glasgow and the rest of Lanarkshire. The business also had two further carrier quarters at Bell Street and Hutchison Street in the city centre, similar to the Grassmarket operation in Edinburgh. This greatly increased D M Clarksons sphere of operations, and the Renfrew feed mills in particular generated a steady flow of trade for the local agricultural merchants.

It was around this time that David Clarkson also reorganised the companys fleet. During the early days the fleet mainly consisted of six-cylinder petrol Bedfords. However, it proved to be more efficient to switch to diesel engines, like the Perkins P6 or Ford D four cylinder as fitted to the Fordson tractors of the time. A couple of Fordson Traders were bought in 1959, but were replaced the following year by Bedford S types equipped with 300 cubic inch diesels.

The company stayed loyal to Bedford throughout the sixties, acquiring several TK models. By this time the lorries were all fitted with two-speed axles that transformed the vehicles performance. However, problems occurred with the speedometer cable that ran via a small correction gearbox to deal with the final drive ratio change from low to high. The correction gearbox didn?t always change at the same time as the axle, leading to exceptional speedo readings. Fortunately there was no tachograph to worry about at this time and drivers learned from experience to estimate the road speed. This was helpful especially when travelling empty or downhill.

Twin Steer Milk Tanker ADS490

There were other changes. Payloads were gradually increased and at least one Bedford KG was acquired with a York third axle conversion fitted with a 370 cubic inch Power Plus Leyland engine to keep it rolling. Another KH model was specified with a Primrose twin-steer conversion powered by a Leyland 400 and five speed Turner gearbox. As the 10 gallon milk churns were gradually phased out, the original Bedford two speed lorry axle was also replaced with an Eaton equivalent and the lorry fitted with a 2200 gallon bulk milk tank. This initially caused a few problems as the original Bedford handbrake, which was mounted on the gearbox output shaft, was supplemented by cable operated hand brakes on the new steering axle all operated by the original Bedford handbrake lever.

When the new KM model was introduced with full air brakes and spring handbrake cylinders in the late 1960s, the problem seemed to have been solved. However the 466 cubic inch engines were not reliable and the power steering boxes were forever leaking oil. Subsequently, these vehicles were replaced with Leyland Clydesdale and Reiver models, fitted with cabs made in Bathgate. The engines were Leyland 401 or 410 types.

After a number of attempts to acquire a reliable vehicle, a novel bespoke vehicle was built. A firm in Manchester was found that specialised in taking older A series eight-wheel ERF chassis and converting them to a double-drive six wheel configuration by re-conditioning and replacing parts as required. The result was a virtually new vehicle capable of taking a new registration number. The cab was new from Middlewich and the engine was a Gardner 6LXB mated to a David Brown six speed constant mesh gearbox. All the brake parts were also new. The end result was both economical to buy and operate and led to a long association with ERF latterly with Cummins 11 litre engines. Of course, this sort of mix and match would not be possible in the current climate of EU type approval.


BX56 Volvo

Borderline Garage, Hartree Road, Biggar, South Lanarkshire, Scotland ML12 6JJ,

Telephone: 01899 220551, 07825 013196

Website: www.dmclarkson.com Email: dmclarksonltd@gmail.com

Company No. SC244556

© D. M. Clarkson Ltd 2021

Last Updated: Oct. 2021