Now back in the premises at Scotch Hall where he started the Allendale Motor Company business in 1970, Mick Robson has a busy day ahead, taking care of two Land Rovers from the estate, but he kindly obliges me with a friendly chat, even though I mistook him for his young-looking dad Leo.
But Mick is in forgiving, expansive mood, telling me that the premises on the spot in the Market Square where the Forge now stands were a good place to work (from 1976 until 2003, with petrol and diesel pumps too until the late ’80s), but that the worksheds at Scotch Hall suit him and his long-serving staff (Roy Charlton on 27 years, Ainsley Gowland on 14, but Dorothy Cook/Jackson on the books coming in at 40!) very well indeed.
It’s true though — all of the motor engineers in Allendale are at a certain age now, and looking towards a gentle retirement perhaps, as they seek to train new mechanics to take their place. And that’s not an easy proposition, finding just the right skill set to deal with all sorts of vehicles and their idiosyncracies, solving problems right, left and sideways for faithful customers. At least, Mick smiles, he initiated Saturday closing in the village, taking a gamble that he’d not lose too much business in exchange for a weekend off, and the other garages soon followed suit.
Mick also sells vehicles, though not at quite the same rate as at his peak, when some 350 a year moved through his books. And, we’re always thinking of diversification in these diary entries: he rents out 6 housing units on the Scotch Hall premises.
Mick’s part-time helper was grumbling at the gear box he was trying to fix, and it was time to take my leave, but not before marvelling at the long-term perseverance and diligence of businesses like the Allendale Motor Company, which has, of course, become an institution here now. The tales the workshops could tell!
If knowing what’s gone on, what’s going on, and what’s likely to go on in these valleys is a kind of conversational currency, then Mick is rich beyond measure, and I could spend hours just listening to the stories, but then no work would get done. So I took my cue and my photographs, and with reciprocal cheerful farewells, left the workers in peace.