Trucker makes nearly 1,000-mile pilgrimage in best friend Kev’s memory
- Credit: Doug Shields
A lorry driver has travelled almost 1,000 miles through two storms on a vintage tractor to honour the memory of his late friend and work colleague.
Martin Chaplin, of Yatton, shared the dream of attempting a once-in-a-lifetime adventure from John O’Groats to Land’s End on his rusty 1966 International with companion Kev Crandon, of Worle.
However, the inseparable friends never got to make the historic road trip together.
Kev, aged 67, who was also a lorry driver, died following a fall from a trailer on January 16 of this year.
Dad-of-three Martin always felt the idea was just ‘pub talk’, until the vicar at Kev’s funeral read a eulogy written by Kev’s daughter Lorraine, which explained how much her dad was looking forward to tackling the route.
Having been forced to cancel the family’s summer holiday to Spain due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Martin set about planning the coast-to-coast tribute.
After plotting his route to avoid motorways, Martin spent eight days cruising along A roads and country lanes at an average of 13mph.
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He battled on despite suffering two breakdowns and a fuel leak which required a new gasket, as well as being battered by 90mph winds and rain as he ploughed through Storm Ellen and Francis.
The trucker was also pulled over and handed a £100 fine by a traffic officer, before finally reaching the windswept Cornish outpost.
Martin fought back tears as he posed with his family beside the world-famous Land’s End sign clutching a banner featuring a picture of father-of-three, Kev.
He said: “I was really emotional when I completed the journey. I was thinking ‘we did it, mate’. I had tears in my eyes when we got there.
“No way would I have ever quit. Even when I had broken down, I didn’t care how much it was going to cost to repair it. I wasn’t going to stop.
“I was on a journey and I had a goal. Kev wanted to do it, but wasn’t able to, so I did it for us.”
He added: “I had a lump in my throat when the eulogy was read out, and that was when I realised, I had to do it.
“I didn’t know that Kev was so excited about it. I was gutted we didn’t get to do it together.
“I was doing okay and was really enjoying driving around the Scottish roads and lanes because it is so beautiful up there, but, it started to get harder when I got to roads I knew. When I got to Gloucestershire I hit the wall a bit. I’d had enough. That was when fatigue started to set in.
“Then I got to Brent Knoll on the A38 near Burnham. Kev’s ashes were scattered on the top of the knoll, so I gave him a wave as I went past and told him I was going to finish the trip.”
Kev and Martin met when Martin took a job as a driver at Stowell Concrete factory in Yatton 15 years ago.
Kev took the new starter under his wing and taught him everything he knew about driving for the firm, which makes concrete blocks for residential and commercial properties.
Martin added: “Kev was just the loveliest bloke. He would help anyone with anything before they even asked and was always down the farm with me getting stuck into anything we were doing.
“He was always in good spirits and my kids loved it when he came to us for Sunday dinner.
“He was tough too. I remember once the side railing of a lorry fell down and hit him straight on the top on the head. I expected him to hit the ground, but he just rubbed his head and carried on. He was a special bloke, an absolute diamond. We all miss him.”
On August 15, Martin, aged 45, drove the tractor, nicknamed Big Fat Lady, onto a trailer and left his home in Yatton with his wife Helen and their three boys, Billy, aged 13, Henry, aged 11, and Joseph, aged nine.
The following morning, he left John O’Groats on the tractor while Helen and the boys drove the family’s 4x4.
Martin covered 927 miles on his pilgrimage, travelling from 15 up to 130 miles a day.
Kev’s daughter Lorraine Wheldon, a 44-year-old childminder, said: “My dad was really excited about making the trip with Martin, but Martin only realised that when he heard our eulogy.
“They were best friends and my dad was like a second granddad to Martin’s children. He loved their family.”
Lorraine who has two brothers, Michael, aged 45, and Phillip, aged 36, added: “We have a farming background, so dad had always been around tractors.
“The John O’Groats trip was something he always wanted to do.”