The Prince of Wales visited Gregory Distribution’s Cullompton head office on Wednesday as part of the haulier’s centenary celebrations.
During his hour-long visit, the Prince met and spoke with numerous employees past and present, including senior management, drivers, apprentices and 94-year-old Jack Gregory (pictured left), son of the company’s founder.
“I’m hoping that my grandfather Archie, who was the founder of this company, is looking down on us today with pride. Although I suspect he may be a little bit surprised,” said current chief executive John Gregory.(pictured right). “He might well have planned to create a family business that would last for generations. He might have dreamed that it would turn into one of the largest privately owned transport companies in the UK. Perhaps he even had the ambition to imagine his single horse and cart growing into a fleet of 1,000 trucks, 2,000 trailers and 2,700 employees, but never, never, could he have foreseen that the Prince of Wales would visit us to celebrate 100 years of this great, great business.”
Prince Charles inspected several classic trucks, including a 1919 Ford Model T, which was the first motorised vehicle on the fleet. He was particularly interested in a 1959 Bedford O series, which was the first new truck purchased by Jack Gregory.
He also spent some time talking to Scania GB regional executive director south west Nigel Jones, who showed him the CNG-powered G340 tractor that’s about to be trialled by the Devon-based haulier. Jones explained to him that the UK needs a better gas filling infrastructure, and stressed the importance of government assistance in terms of subsidies to aid widespread adoption of the fuel.
This year Gregory Distribution has taken on 100 apprentices, to mark the 100-year anniversary. The Prince was introduced to some of them in the workshop. “He was really interested in the diagnostic equipment,” said Lauren Broom, who has just completed her four-year apprenticeship with the company. Broom studied mechanics in college, but failed to find an employer. “It’s hard for females to get started in this industry,” she told us. “But Gregory Distribution offered me an apprenticeship, and four years on I now have a job.”
“This week marks 50 years of going to the moon,” continued Gregory. “This company today travels to the equivalent of the moon every day, that’s 240,000 miles. Whereas this truck here [Model T] used to do 1 mile per day.
“Your Royal Highness, your presence here today means the world to everyone here, and particularly to me and my father Jack. Together he and I represent 72 years of the 100 years. We want to remember today for ever, so sir I hope you don’t mind unveiling this plaque fittingly placed on the back of the Model T truck on which this Devon family business was founded.”
Before unveiling it, the prince couldn’t resist honking the Model T’s horn.