Shining like a diamond

In December 2022 / January 2023, Features47 MinutesBy Alison VerranJanuary 15, 2023

Industry notable Henry Lingman recently celebrated an amazing milestone – 60 years full-time behind the wheel… and he’s still going strong.

We had the pleasure of joining Henry and his family, along with more than 100 others, at a celebratory evening in Rotorua. Legendary faces with stories to tell, alongside current workmates and fellow drivers, who have all been a part of Henry’s trucking journey. The surprise event was organised by two of Henry’s sons, Henry Jnr and Elliott, along with Ryan Teddy, Shamos Hunter and Pumba Bryant.

Henry took it all in his stride. “It’s nothing really – it’s just another 10-year anniversary. In my speech, I was going to say, ‘I’ll see you guys back here for my 70 years!’”

The early years

Henry was born in Kawakawa in 1943 to Peggy Tapsell and raised on a farm 20km down the road at Ohaeawai. The family farm also housed a Maori Battalion training camp where Henry’s father, also named Henry, lived. Henry’s paternal grandfather, Knut Ljungman, emigrated from Sweden to New Zealand on a whaling ship in 1909. It was a difficult name to pronounce, so Knut changed his name to Charlie Lingman, and the surname has continued through the generations.

At about five, Henry moved with his maternal grandparents to Rotorua, living in a large tent, until his grandfather built them a family home. Henry often spent his weekends on Mokoia Island, in the middle of Lake Rotorua. His grandfather, Kiharoa (Joe) Tapsell, was caretaker of the island. As he grew up, Henry also lived in Maketu, Kaikohe and Auckland.

Enjoying life as a teenager in Rotorua, Henry scored himself a part-time job working at a sideshow on the Rotorua lakefront. He oversaw the ferris wheel rides. “My girlfriend, Mary Whakaue (now my wife) had brothers who didn’t like me. They were all big solid fellas. One day they decided to throw light bulbs at me from the ghost train. I took off and jumped in my Ford V8 twin-spinner. As I drove away, I looked in my mirror and realised the ferris wheel was going round and round, with everyone still on it! No one else knew how to stop it. It probably stopped when it ran out of petrol. I went back the next day to collect my pay and was told to clear off!”

The beginning of an amazing career

After leaving school, Henry’s first full-time job was on the Auckland Wharf, starting with temporary work ‘sea gulling’ (loading ships), followed by a more permanent job stacking steel for Steel Construction in Central Auckland.

Henry recalls: “It was 1962, and I was 19 years old. Phil Bryant was driving an S Model Bedford, carting steel. He didn’t want to work any overtime, so I did his job from 5pm to 9pm after working all day stacking the steel. All I had to do was back into the bays, filling them up for the boilermakers (engineers). After a while, the bosses said I really needed to get my truck licence, so one day, I decided it was time I did. The truck I went in was an Austin Artic. The examiner got me to drive up Wellesley Street, past the Civic Theatre, and then I had to back the Austin into a side street. The examiner said to me, ‘You’ve done this before’ and I told him, ‘I’ve been doing it for a few months.’ He said, ‘I’ll give you your licence if you give me £2.’ I didn’t have £2 on me, so they had to send the bill to the company.

“Back then, an Artic licence meant you could drive any combination. Once I had that licence, I delivered steel to all the jobs around Auckland. There were a few interesting places, including the steel to build the No.1 stand at Eden Park, all the freezing works around the place, the Devonport Naval Base and many of the high-rise buildings in Auckland. Every day was different.

“One day in 1964, I was carting steel in the middle of Auckland. Crowds of people were around. I was standing on the truck deck while the steel was being unloaded, and the crane driver tooted and pointed. I looked over and The Beatles were leaving the hotel next door! No wonder there were so many people.

“One time, I had to cart steel down to Rangiuru (Bay of Plenty) to build the freezing works there. It wouldn’t fit on a train wagon, so it was my job to take it by road. Back then, if it couldn’t go by train, we had to have a special permit (an exemption) to take it that far by road, along with a police escort.

“I was down in Rotorua one weekend, and I scored a job with W.L. Richards, carting stock. I drove an S Model Bedford towing a semi. Back then (pre-deregulation), we could only cart to the rail yard. On a Wednesday, there were stock trucks everywhere’ and some of those fellas couldn’t back a truck and trailer because that combination was just new then.

“They were hard-case trailers back then – there were no locking pins on the dolly. We would do two or three loads of stock to the train. Then, when the train was full, we were allowed to take a load up to Auckland by road. There was no motorway, so the trip up and back took a bit longer than these days. There were no logbooks either, so we could just drive all night.

“I used to catch the bus to and from work. The others on the bus would smell me, stinking of stock, so I used to catch the 6pm bus with all the drunks. It was six o’clock closing time at the pubs. Those guys didn’t care that I smelled bad!” Livestock cartage was certainly different back in the 1960s. “When we were loading stock, the cow-cockies would make us put sawdust on the truck decks to protect the animal’s feet. At the end of each day, we would wash out by the stream that fed into the lake. All the stock trucks did it! They would all back up and wash out the sawdust and shit, straight into the creek. You wouldn’t get away with that these days!”

A family man

Henry’s life moved on to a new chapter on 1 April 1966 when he married Mary. Together they had seven children over the following 26 years (Wylie, Lexi, Roger, Catherine, Henry Jnr, Gloria and Elliott).

That year also brought a new work chapter for Henry – a move to NZ Lumber, then owned by Bert Godfrey, carting wood chip from the Waipa Mill in Rotorua to Kawerau. Henry drove a Leyland Hippo truck and trailer, a 1418 6×2 Mercedes-Benz with a lazy axle, followed by an ERF and a Fiat. “I worked there for a few years. Bert was a great boss.”

The American dream

The early 1970s ushered in another change for Henry. “One day I heard about this guy, Graham Manson, who had a passion for American trucks. Graham was starting a new contract, carting export wood chip, so I got in touch. He said, ‘Wait until we get the new polystyrene trailers and I’ll give you a job.’ The polystyrene trailers were a new design engineered by Neil Peterken. I got the job and was given a Kenworth W924, with a 380hp Caterpillar 3406A.”

Henry shares Graham’s passion and has always loved to show off the impressive American machines. It was the 1970s when Kenworths were an imposing feature on Kiwi roads. “On a trip through Hamilton in Graham’s W924, I decided to drive through the main street to check out the car yards with all the flash American cars. Next thing, a cop on a motorbike stopped me and I thought, ‘Oh shit, I’m in trouble.’ He approached and said, ‘I want to have a look at your truck!’ Everyone always wanted to check it out – they were so impressed by that truck.”

Graham went on to buy a new White 4000 with a Cummins NTC 350hp engine. Henry proudly comments: “That was my first brand-new truck. Graham designed a mesh gate on the back of one of the trailers towed behind the White. The mesh helped with wind resistance when the trailer was empty, and the mesh was fine enough to contain the wood chip when loaded.”

Kenworth W924 ‘The Fonz’, as a logger for Don Gordon contracting to Fletcher Timber Co.

Kenworth LW923 in original Graham Manson colours at Marsden Point gas pipeline.

Antics & capers

Over the years, Henry has instigated and enjoyed plenty of high jinks with fellow drivers. While working at Graham Manson, Henry drove alongside Alan ‘Ash’ Ashby, Paul ‘Butch’ Hopcroft and Calvin Paddon. “Sometimes we would go for a ride with each other if there wasn’t much work on. I had always wondered what a cow or sheep felt like when they were riding up in the top deck, at the back of the trailers. We had the polystyrene trailers on, carting wood chip from Tangiwai to Mount Maunganui. I said to the boys, ‘Why don’t we have a go riding in the back of the trailer?’ The wood chip was about 3ft below the sides of the trailer, so we could easily sit in the corner.

“On my first ride, Calvin Paddon was driving. I told him I would flash the torch when I had had enough. That didn’t have to happen because it was such a great feeling, riding across the Desert Road on a moonlit night. As we went through Te Puke, I could hear ‘whhht, whhht, whhht’ above me… it was the powerlines going overhead!” (By all accounts, if Henry hadn’t kept his head down, it could have been disastrous.)

“One time when I was driving, Ash had a go riding up in the back of a 40ft semi. I didn’t see him flashing his torch, so I just kept driving, thinking he was okay. It started snowing, so I thought I had better stop and check how he was going. He came running up beside the truck and yelled, ‘You f**ken ba***ard, didn’t you see my bloody light flashing?’ He was frozen!” Henry recalls.

Ash, Calvin and Butch all went to school together and have been friends with Henry since they were 17 years old. Ash remembers his ride in the trailer very well. “Christ, I don’t know how many times I flashed that torch! My hands were going purple. I’m busy flashing, and the next thing I hear another gear change and Lingman keeps on going. I don’t think Henry realised you have to actually look in your mirror if you want to see a torch flashing. I’ll tell you what, though, people pay big money up at Rainbow’s End to get a ride like that!”

Ash recalls Henry’s Kiwi ingenuity. “Henry and I were at Tangiwai one day, loading wood chip. There was a conveyor belt, loading the chip into our bins. We would pull forward until it was all loaded. The feeder onto the conveyor belt was quite small, so Henry decided it would be a great idea to open the front service hatch above the feeder to get the chip out faster. The weight of the extra chip broke the belt, and no one got loaded! Henry was full of good ideas like that!”

Butch has great memories of working with Henry. “Henry was an absolute pleasure to work with. Such a steady influence on us young fellas. We were all in our early 20s, and we looked up to him. He was always cool, calm and collected. Nothing ever phased him. Despite often working in the mud, shit and grime, Henry was always immaculately presented. We aspired to be like him.”

Butch recollects it was Henry who told the others they had to ride in the back of the trailers. “Henry told us Graham wanted us to ride in the back over the Desert Road to see how much the trailer leans. He said that us young ones needed to know this, to be able to learn about driving with high loads. It wasn’t Graham’s idea at all – it was Henry having us on!

“We regularly carted out of the Tongariro Sawmill at National Park. There were often prisoners escaping from the prison nearby. Henry didn’t smoke, but if he knew there had been a prison break, when he arrived at the mill on nightshift, he would light a smoke and hold it up high with his torch, while singing a song. He reckoned if there were a prisoner in there, he would see the smoke and think Henry was 8ft tall!”

The stories keep rolling from Butch. “Back when we were carting out of Tanners Mill at Tairua, on the Coromandel Peninsula, there was a myth that there was a hairy man living in the area (The Hairy Man of Moehau). The local radio station used to go on about it a lot. Henry reckons he saw the hairy man. In fact, he said one time he stole his lunch. He said the hairy man was so tall, he just reached up and grabbed it out of the truck. Another time, the boss at Tanners rang Graham Manson and asked who had left the compressor going all night at the mill. Turns out, it was Henry. He didn’t want to go all the way back into the mill to turn it off in case the hairy man was there!”

Henry’s anecdotes continue. “One time, I was driving near Turangi. A couple of prisoners had escaped from a nearby prison. The police routinely stopped me. I think a lot of them had never seen a Kenworth, so they stopped me to check it out. They just had a look around and then told me I could go. I got a couple of kilometres up the road, and they came flying up with their lights and sirens. I pulled over and they pulled up in front of me. When I was stopped the first time, a cop had climbed up into my trailer to have a look for the prisoners. Neither the cops nor I knew he had climbed in, so when they told me to go, I had taken off with a cop in my trailer! He was so furious, he wanted to pull me out of the truck and deal to me. His mates were rolling around laughing!”

Graham Manson reckons Henry is “a very agreeable guy. He was always there to lend a hand with any jobs that needed doing. He had no hesitation in helping, even after a 12-hour shift. He’s the sort of guy I would always employ, if he ever came back for a job.” Graham had no idea the boys were riding in the back of trailers back in the day. However, he did find out a few years later and can now laugh about it.

During the 1970s, Graham sold his business to TD Haulage at Mt Maunganui. Eddie O’Neil and Henry had an agreement to stay in Rotorua doing the same work, the only difference being they were behind the wheels of two brand-new Kenworth K124s powered by 350hp Cummins engines.

After three years with TD Haulage, Henry felt the need for another change. “Don Gordon from Paeroa used to come into TDs to wash his truck. One day I said to him that I wouldn’t mind having a go on logs. He happily gave me a job. I drove a Kenworth W924 with a 350hp Cummins, towing a three-axle pole trailer. I was running export, Taupo to the Mount.”

Ultimate acquisition

“While working for Don, contracting to Fletchers (Fletcher Timber Company), I was called into the office one day. I thought, ‘Oh no, what have I done?’ They said they wanted me to be their first owner-driver. I told them I didn’t have any money for a truck, and they said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll give you a letter to sort that.’ I went into the Kenworth dealership and said I wanted to buy a Kenworth. The salesman thought I must have wanted to buy a small model truck and he said, ‘Sorry, we only give those out when you buy a truck.’ I handed him the letter from Fletchers, and he said, ‘Geez, we’ve never seen this before.’ I bought myself a Kenworth W924 – the last American imported Kenworth before they were built in Australia. I spec’d it with twin stacks, twin air-intakes, leather bucket seats, a gull-wing bumper, and extra grill bars. The stacks were facing to the rear, and I didn’t like that, so I got them to turn them to face out to the side. It gave them the look of two thumbs up, so I called the truck ‘The Fonz’ (from the American sitcom Happy Days). Because of that, people started calling me ‘Fonz’!

Henry’s entertaining trucking stories are endless. “One day I had to pick up ‘Santa’ and take him to a kid’s Christmas function. It was a really hot day. As we were travelling to the function, Santa pulls out a bottle of Waikato and takes a swig! When we arrived at the venue, Santa scoffed and said, ‘Now I have to say ho ho ho to these little buggers.’ He grabbed his sack of presents and started heading in. All the kids came running … straight past Santa and over to my truck! An adult yelled out to the kids ‘there’s Santa’, but they weren’t interested in him – they just wanted to see my truck! I heard one little kid say, ‘F**k Santa!’”

Back to the serious stuff

The 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens (Washington State, USA) ended a lot of the export timber from New Zealand. This terminated Henry’s contract with Fletchers after nearly three years.

In 1981, Henry cut down his truck to a tractor unit and started a contract with Trailways, carting pipes for the Marsden Point Refinery pipeline. “I ended up selling the W924 and replaced it with a Kenworth LW923 that I bought from Graham Manson. The rough conditions on the pipeline were hard on the gear, and I had to keep having it towed out all the time. The bulldozers would make tracks for us to drive on. The terrain was steep hills and mostly clay. We had to make a tailgate for the rear of the trailer, to stop the pipes sliding off the back. I didn’t really enjoy that job, but it was good money. I continued with Trailways for nine years, carting all sorts of general freight, during which time I bought a 375hp F12 Volvo with a 14-speed gearbox.”

Henry owned Trailways’ first Tautliner. “I had a great run where I would cart concrete blocks from Rotorua to Taupo, load up with parts of kiwifruit boxes and take them to the place in Edgecumbe where they made them up into boxes. I would pick up the finished boxes in Edgecumbe and take them to the Mount, then pick up Firth pavers for the trip back to Rotorua. The Tautliner saved me so much time instead of having to strap or cover all the loads.”

By 1990, Henry had had enough of staying away with some of his runs at Trailways. “I sold up my unit and made the move to Hunters in Rotorua, just helping with driving at first. I drove a Pacific P510 with a 400hp CAT engine, towing a three-axle pole trailer. I was carting logs around the Bay of Plenty. I filled in while Barry Hunter went off around the world driving his stock car. He used to go to the UK and race; he was a great stock car driver.”

The company changed the configuration of the Pacific from a longs unit to a shorts unit. “After that, Barry didn’t want to drive it, so I ended up staying with Hunters and driving it full-time.” A couple of months later, the company made another change to the unit, making it interchangeable – to be able to cart either shorts or longs.

Henry drove for Hunters for seven years. After a few years on the Pacific, he moved on to a Western Star 4864 with a 430hp Detroit engine. “That Western Star was a really nice truck. The Detroit has a different sound. Hunters ended up buying two of those Western Stars and my son, Henry Jnr, drove the other one.

“When I was carting to Mount Maunganui, I would often see Colin Sargison at the tally base. He would say to me, “What are you doing driving for that fella? Come and drive for me boy.’” After being asked the same thing several times, Henry decided to move to RFH where Colin rewarded him with a Western Star 4864 with a Detroit engine, towing a multi B-train, still carting logs. “After about three years with Colin, I jumped ship to Ivor Gainsford. I was tempted there by his Peterbilt 362 with a Cummins N14 Plus pumping out 525hp. It was a six-wheeler interchangeable four-axle trailer, and I was again carting logs.”

Ivor remembers Henry’s reaction to the Peterbilt. “When I bought the new Peterbilt from the States, it came in with twin stacks. Much to Henry’s disgust, I had one of them removed.

“Henry loved noise. At NZ Lumber, his ERF had a fibreglass muffler. The engine brake blew the deadening out of the muffler, effectively making it a straight pipe. You’d hear him coming through the Hemo Gorge. You could hear his Jacobs all over Rotorua. It would often wake me up. You’d hear every gear change. Henry loved it! With a naturally aspirated engine, you could hear every piston going up and down.

“A little bit about Henry… he was always punctual and always immaculately dressed. He’s very proud of the name ‘Fonz’. I don’t think I would know anyone who has travelled the amount of kilometres Henry has travelled.

“One thing though, Henry bred mischievous sons! One day I was doing an acid clean of the truck chassis. Ian Graham, Henry Jnr and Elliott were all there. I was spraying some onto the bolsters and a bit of it got in my eye. I yelled to Elliott to put the hose on me. He grabbed the opportunity to do exactly that and held the hose on me. I was drenched!” Ivor recalls.

Elliott remembers that day well. “I had a choice of picking up the garden hose or the high-pressure hose… guess which one I chose? It blasted Ivor so hard, he had to hang on to the bolster!”

The attraction of Ivor’s Peterbilt was short-lived. Henry was ready to move on again. “I enjoyed a couple of months on the Peterbilt, but I was missing working for RFH. I rang up Colin to see if I could get my old job back. I left him a message. When I got home, there was a message on my answerphone from Colin. ‘You f**kn black bastard, I told you not to leave the first time! When can you start, boy?’”

On his return to RFH, Henry was behind the wheel of an International S-Line 3600 B-train shorts unit. “I travelled all around the countryside. The furthest I went was when I took a load of redwood from Napier to Kerikeri.” Henry then had an opportunity to move on to the first Western Star Constellation in New Zealand. Under the hood was a 470hp Detroit Series 60 engine. “It was a comfortable truck, nice and wide, plenty of cab space. I had checkerplate put on the back, over the chassis rails and I added extra lights. It looked great!”

Henry at work recently in the Kaingaroa forest, doing what he loves in a place he loves. Credit: Elliott Lingman.

Switching highways

With the new millennium approaching, Henry decided it was time for his biggest change yet. “I’d had enough of driving on the roads, so I asked to go off-highway in the Kaingaroa Forest. I was sick of the cops; they just wouldn’t leave us alone.” Henry’s son, Elliott, chips in and says: “Mum was happy with him going off-highway. Dad couldn’t stop at all the bakeries anymore! He loved his pasties from the Matamata bakery.”

Henry’s first truck in the forest was a Pacific P510 stems unit, a tri-drive with a 400hp 3406 CAT engine. This was followed by a Western Star 6900, 6×4, powered by a 500hp Detroit engine. “You’d be amazed at where that double drive would go. It had an extendable front bolster to enable off-highway stem loads. I could slide the bolster back in, hook up the four-axle shorts unit trailer and go back on the highway.”

The unit also had CTI. “You let the air out of them, and they’ll go anywhere… in the mud, everywhere. Some places where we would go to pick up the loads, they’re just dirt roads. In the Kaingaroa Forest, it’s often ash on the roads from the Tarawera eruption. It’s as hard as rock when it’s dry but awfully sloshy when it rains.

“One day up in the Kaingaroa Forest, three logs needed a spray-paint marking, up on top of the load. A skiddie worker decided to climb up and mark the logs while I was chaining up. When I had finished, I was given the all-clear from another skiddie to head off. Unbeknown to me, the first skiddie hadn’t been able to climb back down, so he had decided to walk back down the stems to get off. He hadn’t quite made it to the bottom when I was given the all-clear. He got the experience of a lifetime until the other skiddies waved and yelled at me to stop! The riding skiddie reckoned he had a bit of a surf on the logs as I drove along.”

In 2001, Colin asked Henry if he would consider carting stems out of the Matahina and Tarawera Forests into Kawerau. “I took the Western Star with me. They reckon anyone who drives down Matahina, if you can drive in there, you can drive anywhere! It’s more exciting driving in there. It used to be a joke on one steep hill, new drivers would say, ‘What do I need?’ I would say, ‘Toilet paper, 9/16 spanner and a prayer book?’ It’s just so steep and with the thick fog, heading down those steep hills, you just can’t see.

“When we carted into Kawerau, there were no limits on load weights, because the loaders at Kawerau would take the load off in three or four bites. In Kaingaroa, we’re limited to 65 to 70 tonnes, because the Wagner loader is limited to how much it can unload.

“Back then, in a 12-hour day, we were doing 550km, carting 400 tonnes.”

After a couple of years on the Western Star, Henry was offered another new opportunity. This time working the nightshift, with Charlie Hayward covering the dayshift. Together they drove the first Kenworth T904 with CAT C15 power and tri-drive in New Zealand. Personal circumstances saw Charlie finish on stems and Henry moved to dayshift. “That truck was the best combination, with it being CAT-powered with a brake saver, especially for that terrain at Matahina.”

A flow of new Kenworths followed, with two more new T904s, equipped with the same combination, the first Kenworth C508 for RFH, and a Kenworth C509. “With the hard work involved and the double-shifting, I always got the new gear. I had four brand-new Kenworths in a row. With the C508, I asked for alloy wheels on the front and Colin said, ‘I can do better than that.’ I ended up with a full set of chrome.

“I loved working at Matahina. There’s no boss down there – the boss just knew I would get it done. They were all good fellas to work with. Back in the day, when I was carting logs, I never thought I’d see the day that I would be carting a full tree!”

(Search “Stem Truck Matahina (Henry Lingman)” on YouTube, and you can see Henry driving his Kenworth C509, carting stems – Ed.)

“Two years ago, we lost the contract for Kawerau, so I’m back in the Kaingaroa Forest. It’s a lot easier running, quicker turnarounds, straighter roads, and no hills.

“My day starts at 9am, when I leave my home in Rotorua. It’s a 40-minute drive in my ute to the Webb (at Kaingaroa) where they process the stems. All the trucks are parked up there. We’ve got a workshop there, wash bays, everything. I jump in the truck and head up to a skid site to get my load. About 60% of the roads are tar-sealed up into the forest. Once we turn off onto the side roads, though, they are gravel. It’s then dirt roads into the skid sites, usually only a few kilometres. The skid sites are moving all the time, so there’s no point in them putting gravel on those roads. Occasionally they’ll gravel them if it gets too boggy.

“Most days, I would do about four or five trips up to a skid site. There are about seven or eight skid sites operating at any one time. We use logbooks just like the highway drivers, and we still have to have our half-hour breaks. There’s still plenty of regulations in the forest – probably more so than on the highway. They are big on health and safety and have security officers who often stop you for random checks. They make sure you have a fire extinguisher, a shovel (to shovel dirt onto a fire or to help dig you out if you’re stuck) and a first-aid kit. I even have all those things in my ute as well because I drive onto forestry land to go to work.

“A lot of the boys work four days a week. I was offered that, but I said, ‘No way! Who wants to only work four days a week?!”

It’s not over yet

Henry has no intention of retiring from driving. However, as he contemplates the future, he says: “Have you seen that movie, Forrest Gump? He just stops on that highway in Monument Valley… well, that will be me. One day, I’ll just stop on the Kaingaroa Plains and hitch-hike home on the next passing truck!”

Mary has been listening in to the conversation. When asked her thoughts on Henry’s 60-year driving career, she says, laughing: “I didn’t think he would last this long!” Would you like him to give up driving?… “No!”

Like father, like son

Both Henry Jnr and Elliott have followed Henry into the trucking industry.

Henry Jnr has been riding in trucks since he could walk. Following in his father’s footsteps, he now also drives off-highway, carting stems for RFH.

“I was brought up around trucks, so there was no question that I would end up driving. My driver-trainer was my dad. When I was a kid, I would go to sleep with my pyjamas on over my clothes, so in the morning, all I had to do was take my PJs off, put my boots on, and I was ready to go.

“When I was about 14, I went for a ride in the F12 Volvo with Dad. He was taking a 20ft refrigerated container to Wellington with a deadline for arrival. Dad had been driving for days and was so tired but knew he didn’t have time to stop. At Bulls, he looked over at me and asked if I thought I could drive while he had a quick sleep for five or 10 minutes. He gave me a quick run-down on things to remember… two hands on the wheel, don’t go over 80…

“Dad jumped in the back and before I knew it, he was snoring, and my five minutes was already half an hour! I had driven before, but Dad was always awake and telling me when to slow down and which corner to watch out for. This time it was just me. I knew I couldn’t be an idiot and I just had to do everything he had taught me over the years. Dad was having a good sleep and I was enjoying driving. Before I knew it, an hour or more had passed and then Wellington was approaching. I knew the Ngauranga Gorge was coming up, and I wondered if I should wake Dad. Everything he taught me was going through my head. I chopped it down a couple of gears, then another couple. I can remember looking in my mirror and I thought, ‘Whoa, I’m doing it!’ I pulled into the Caltex just before the wharf and thought I had better wake Dad. As Dad woke, he looked like he’d just seen a ghost! With the truck stopped, he thought something had happened. I said, ‘we’re here’ and he said ‘where?’. I told him we were in Wellington! At that point, I looked at the load and thought to myself, ‘Yeah, boy, I brought that down.’

“Dad taught me everything I know about driving. I owe it all to him. He’s just my dad, but he’s a legend in the game.”

Elliott’s trucking childhood was almost identical to Henry Jnr, just some 17 years later. Elliott reckons, “If my dad hadn’t introduced me to trucking, I would have been an NRL star for St George Illawarra Dragons! I was lucky to have both Dad and Henry Jnr to teach me all that I know.”

Henry Lingman lives and breathes driving trucks. At nearly 80 years old (and looking no more than 60!) he can only be described as a humble distinguished legend.