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One of the longest established haulage firms in London is McGovern Bros)

We look at the success of McGovern Bros (Haulage) Ltd which is closing in on a half century of business on London.

Irish people have been emigrating to the bright lights of London for many years as from the 1950s onwards; they have gone in the search of gainful employment. For some, it was a life changing experience as they set up new lives over there, while others returned after short spells.

Irish people with a capacity for hard work and a spark of enterprise have helped satisfy the demands of a growing population.

In the early days, the construction industry attracted huge numbers of Irishmen and still does today, while the Irish have also branched out into many other industries including haulage.

One of the longest established haulage firms in London is McGovern Bros (Haulage Ltd) which was established by Tony and Peter McGovern (RIP) over 48 years ago. Tony still runs the business today alongside a trusted team of employees many of who have been with him for many, many years and this includes his Transport Manager Danny Lynch.

The Tyrone native, along with the McGovern’s, is just one of the large diaspora that left these shores in search of employment and a new life. When arriving in London in 1979, Danny started working for McGovern Bros.

“This was the first job that I got when I came over and I have been here since, apart from a short spell when I returned home,” said Danny. “I went home for Christmas in 1979 and ended up staying for three years. I came back in 1982 and said to Tony ‘Have you still got a job for me’ and he asked how long was I going to stay this time? I’m here 33 years now on top of that one year in 1979.

“I’ve always been into trucks and when I came back in ’82 I got a lift with a friend who was driving a Scania 141 from Stranraer to Marseille. I ended up doing the driving to London to give him a break. “Tony is very good to work for and there are a few people that would be here a long time. 

“Michael Fahy is much more than a mechanic, he is a foreman, fitter and our restorer. He is 43 years here and his nickname is the ‘watchmaker’, because he is so precise and skilled. Guys from other companies who are doing work on trucks, if they have problems, they come to Michael for advice, because he is so knowledgeable.

“He is doing a lot of restoration and we had a six wheeler which we bought in Meath, and he converted it into a tractor unit. He has turned a 8 wheel bulker into a 6 wheel double drive. He recently restored a Foden F39 tipper from start to finish. Everything he does is certified without a problem, he is a genius really. Tony will tell you that the company would not be where it is today without Michael, who was born in London but has an Irish accent as his mother was from Galway and his father from Clare.

“Noel Egan is with us for 36 years. He is from Clare and came to us as a machine driver but now manages transfer stations. “Brigid McGovern works in the office and she started in 1982. She runs transportation, co-ordinates everything, signs the cheques and manages day-to-day. “Frank McGoldrick from Donegal is here for 37-years. He is in his early 70’s and is still driving. He is the most gifted driver I have ever seen. 

“From 2001 until 2014 he drove an Scania 8-wheel tipper and there were 1,176,000km on her when we sold it. The day the taco changed from 999,999km back to zero, I drove it with Frank beside me in the passenger seat and we have pictures of that. “The main part of the engine was untouched in all that time – the heads or sump were never off because he is such a brilliant driver. We were going to sell it in 2011 and Frank said he may retire at the same time. So we put a new exhaust on it to comply with emission requirements, kept it and Frank continued to drive it. He is in a new Scania now.

“Dave Morrison from Aberdeen is 37-years here. “Peter McGovern, who is Peter’s son and Tony’s nephew, is here 30-years plus. He started as a fitter and is now involved in the day-to-day of the roll on-roll offs.

“So between us all, we have a lot of miles on the clock,” joked Danny.

All through those years, McGovern Bros (Haulage) Ltd has specialised in waste management as they have worked closely with many London boroughs over the years. “There was a time that we had 60 trucks on the road collecting and transferring waste, but we have scaled back to 15 artics and ten rigids. We now run some owner drivers and are able to sub-contract when we have lots of loads to do. We would move a lot of bulk waste and bring it back to our two transfer stations.”

Recycling is an important aspect of waste management and construction and both are fast growing industries. McGovern Haulage is one of the leading companies involved with recycling. 

By being located at Claremont Way Industrial Estate in London, just off the M1 and North Circular, McGovern’s recycling plant is busy and making a big impact. Part of the recycling process at McGovern’s yard involves moving vast quantities of recyclable waste (household, business and construction materials) in order to be sorted and processed, and the resulting by-products to be moved and shipped out. Helping lighten the load at the McGovern plant is a LiuGong 856III wheel loader that works alongside Case and Liebherr. 

Tony McGovern of McGovern Haulage and associated companies knows only too well that construction machinery is used to the full and often in difficult conditions and that buying a machine has to be carefully researched. “All the machinery and fleet is well maintained and we have a couple of mechanics here full time. We would also upgrade the fleet on a fairly regularly basis like every few years. All the trucks are Scania. We find them the most reliable truck on the road.”

These days, the company is involved with two councils and public departments that they continue to do work for. The biggest counter party of them all is the London Borough of Hillingdon. The company has also worked with the Department for Transport in the past.  “We are still fairly busy and are kept going all year round. Tony is in the process of winding down now and is keen to take a back seat in the business. He is very involved in property and started a vintage collection 12-years ago.”

Tony and Danny have been lifelong friends and aside from working together, they have a passion for vintage trucks and they are regular attendees at shows both in the UK and in Ireland.

“We brought nine trucks over for the Waterford Show earlier this year. We also had the same number of trucks at a show in Nottingham as well. We would bring the trucks over on low loaders and it is something that we enjoy doing.”

Danny surprisingly revealed that in all the years over there, he has only been to Truckfest in Peterborough on one occasion, but for a good reason. “I was at that years ago, but we are involved with a prestigious truck run at the same time. The London to Brighton run is held at the same time and we are heavily involved in that.

“Tony loves going to the shows and he is getting more involved in vintage tractors as well, which has always been another passion of his.”
Of the trucks brought to the shows are an AEC, Foden, GUY, MAN and a classic Scania 143.

McGovern Bros (Haulage) Ltd
32 Dudden Hill Lane, 
NW10 2ER
Tel: 020 8459 6586 

Taken from Irish Trucker & Light Commercials magazine, Vol 18 No 8, October 2015