Bit of a Legend

In Good On Ya Mate, August 20225 MinutesBy Gavin MyersSeptember 3, 2022

Giving 48 years of one’s working life to a company is impressive. When you consider that’s almost half of the company’s 100-year existence, the achievement becomes even more noteworthy.

In October 2021, Frews Transport of Canterbury celebrated its centenary, an achievement of which any company can be rightly proud. But another special milestone was in the making: transport manager Barry Taylor was preparing for retirement after 48 years with the family-owned group. And when Barry left the office for the last time on 10 June, it was 48 years to the day. How many people can lay claim to that?

“I was 16 when I first started driving a parcel van, then I moved onto the trucks. I started driving with Frews in 1974 because I was a young married man with a young family – I had to chase the dollar,” recalls 70-year-old Barry.

“I started with local driving, then out of town to Timaru, then Dunedin and Invercargill for a bit, picking up meat and frozen products. Then the odd trip to Auckland carting fresh pigs up there on rails,” he says.

Barry showing the mechanic John Henry how to do his job.

Barry started with old S Bedfords and over the years, drove everything from Accos, ERFs, Kenworths, Macks and Isuzus. “There was a Seddon among them – she was a good old girl, a rebuilt 4×2 tractor unit with a 290 Cummins, which they blew out to a 325. It could keep up with the big Kenworths.”

Around Christmas of 1988, Barry moved into the office as transport operations manager, but hanging up the keys wasn’t easy. “They worked on me for more than 18 months to go into the office. I eventually gave up and did it,” Barry says.

It’s a job Barry held right up to his retirement – coordinating drivers, trucks, machinery, maintenance, and daily jobs among the many other tasks typical of the role.

“There were some funny memories over the years. Some of the staff would come up with interesting stories. One of the guys had their wife phone me to say he wouldn’t be at work as he thought he was going to be sick, so he was going to have the day off in case,” he laughs.

That attitude was the polar opposite of Barry’s work ethic. As Hamish Frew, owner of Frews Contracting Christchurch, says: “Barry was always reliable, and put the business first. He turned up every day, even if he was crook. He always had that attitude – pretty old school.”

After almost half a century, there’s bound to be a bit of mystique around the man.

“There’s a bunch of stories and history, kind of legendary myths from those days – big loads, low-horsepower trucks, crazy feats of driving and perseverance,” Hamish says. “Barry become quite legendary around our workplace. That’s how we see him – as a bit of a legend.”

Hamish adds that Barry wasn’t ready to head into retirement without a succession plan.

“The company looked after me well over the years,” Barry says. “The older brigade is starting to retire, and the problem is there’s no new blood coming through. The young ones who come in want to get on the big flash rigs, not do the contracting work: it’s hard to entice them in.”

A couple of the line-haul trucks Barry drove.

But Barry has some good advice for youngsters coming into the industry. “You have to enjoy what you do. If you don’t enjoy it, you’ll never last. And you’ve got to like the people around you.

“If you look forward to getting up in the morning and it’s not a chore, then you’re in the right place.”

Forty-eight years would attest to those wise words.