George and the Hippo

June 17, 2019  •  1 Comment

The Smith & Youngson Tannoy burst into life and rang out across the yard…

"Bamba lo George Monkhouse, Bamba lo George Monkhouse" ( grab George Monkhouse}

“Buya lapa office mwamusanga, mumsanga”. (Come here quickly)

George left the truck he was working on and made his way across the S&Y yard to the workshop office. Inside was a Zambian driver who had just reported to Stuart Littlejohn the yard manager that his truck had broken down.

George, I want you to take this driver back to where his truck is and either fix it or bring it back to the yard.

George went back to his Zambian team and instructed them to load a Toyota Hilux with tools and fuel and with the driver and an assistant, known as a spanner boy in those days, they headed off down the Great East Road.

I can’t remember exactly where the truck had broken down but it was about a good two hours drive away from the S&Y yard in Lusaka.

Eventually following the driver’s instructions, they came to where the truck had broken down. A quick glance confirmed to George that it indeed had broken down but what the driver had omitted to divulge was that the Leyland Hippo was at the bottom of a ravine.

Time to sit down, light up a smoke and make a plan….

George had passed a couple of Cat Graders on the way to the breakdown, so he doubled back and did a deal with the operators which probably involved a case of Lion or Castle Beer each.  The graders made their way to the escarpment and George coupled them up with some wire rope and attempted to haul the Leyland back up to the road. No chance, the Leyland was much too heavy even with two Caterpillar 12E Graders pulling on the dirt road.

Time to sit down, light up a smoke and make a plan….

George gathered up all of his gear and headed back to the yard where the yard manager was far from sympathetic.

George, he said, I sent you out to bring back a truck and I don't want to hear your excuses. I want that truck back in the yard.

So the next day, bright and early, George commandeered another Leyland, loaded it up with more wire rope and a couple of heavy duty tic tics ( the ratchets on winches make a tic tic noise hence the local name) 

Back to the breakdown they went with a team of workers and prepared once again to get the Leyland out of the ravine. George hooked up the winches, bribed the two grader operators with more beer, climbed down into the ravine and attached a wire rope to the truck. Well, they sweated for a couple of hours but apart from getting the Leyland to move a few feet upwards, they realised that there was no chance to get the truck back onto the road.

Time to sit down, light up a smoke and make a plan….

George gathered up all of the equipment, the wire rope and the tic tics and headed back to the yard., where the meeting with the yard manager was, despite the heat experienced in the tropics, decidedly frosty. Stuart Littlejohn laid it on the line and told George in no uncertain terms, that he wanted that Leyland Hippo back in the yard tomorrow or it would be VC10 time. Now the threat of a VC10 meant the possibility of being fired which resulted in getting a ticket for  a VC10 back to the UK. It was the Zambian equivalent of getting your P45.

So George lit up a smoke and made a plan…

The next morning George loaded up a Leyland truck again but this time selected some Zambian workers who had some  special skills in truck recovery. Once again they retraced the journey back to the escarpment and started to unload some of the extra equipment they had brought along with them. An Oxy-Acetylene cutting torch, known in the trade as a  ‘gas axe’

It didn't take long to cut the Leyland Hippo up into small, manageable  pieces which were then  hauled up to the road with the tic-tics and loaded onto the truck.

Triumphantly but perhaps anxiously George returned to the yard, not expecting what reception he would receive from the yard manager Stuart Littlejohn. "Well done George", was the unexpected greeting,  now you are using your skop (head). Now I have another quick job for you in the morning.

You see in Zambia, in the tail end of the 1960’s and 1970,s , nothing was ever thrown away, every nut & bolt was saved and what George had  brought back to the yard, albeit in pieces, was a valuable cargo and many parts would be used again.

-----------------------------

George Monkhouse 


Comments

Sandra Groom(non-registered)
Our childhood home. What memories you stirred up! Thank you!
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