Shire's Garage - my memories, by Pam Shire
My grandfather Mr E A Shire started the garage in 1928, which was then called the Premier Garage. It became Shire’s Garage and Engineers in 1947. My father Ken Shire told me that there was a pipeline for the Eastover Railway to the garage and petrol was pumped to the garage.
In 1940 3 gallons of petrol cost 9 shillings and 2 pence. The petrol pumps were not electric, so they had to be hand pumped. My father kept one pump for many years which came in useful when we had power cuts. I did use it and I have to say it was quite hard work. When petrol was rationed, one of the workmen, after serving a customer used to pull the hose out straight and pour the drops of petrol into a can, and by the end of the week he would have a can full of petrol. In the 1940s an Ambulance was kept at the garage, which my father sometimes drove helping to take people into hospital.
We were broken into many times by the boys from the remand centre. In one of the break-ins the burglars took the large safe from the office and used our Land Rover to take it away. It was found in a field at Muchelney. It must have been quite hard work, but after all that work the safe had no money in it as we banked every night.
We were open for petrol Monday to Saturday from 8 in the morning to 7 at night and Sunday from 9 to noon. One Sunday afternoon our home bell rang (we only lived two doors up from the garage), and there stood the Bishop of Bath and Wells the Reverend Cary in his robes – he had run out of petrol!
In the office we had a small telephone exchange and at night the phone was put through to our home, which meant my father was on call every night of the week for breakdowns. We were on call many times to help people out of flood water, having driven into the water not realizing how deep the water was. One call out we had was one of our customers who had driven off the road as he drove across Aller Moor and had driven his Mini into a ditch. We went to find the car but could not find it in the dark, so the next day we went with the customer and found the car. We could only see the roof of the car. With some difficulty we managed to get the car out of the ditch. It was full of ditch water, but our customer opened the doors to let the water out and got in, and to everyone’s surprise the car started.
In 1969 when we were cut off by large snow drifts the snow blew into the garage and covered all the cars in the workshop. We did manage to dig out the Land Rover which we lent to the local doctors.
At the back of the garage for many years were large wooden garages which were rented out and used as store rooms.
The National Bus to Bridgwater was kept overnight at the back of the garage. Mr Gaylard, the driver of the bus, lived next door to the garage, and the other driver Mr C Tilly lived in Curry Rivel. The bus left Langport at 8 in the morning and the last bus back was at about 7 in the evening. Once the bus came back in the evening, a chain was put across the entrance to the forecourt to stop cars racing across the forecourt.
My grandmother had a grocery shop in the garage at first, then a separate shop called Premier Stores next to the garage. In 1939 you could buy a large tin of Roses chocolates for 6 shillings and 10 pence. Later on the shop became a hairdresser for a few years run by my aunt, Mrs Violet Moss. Then my mother turned it once again into a grocery shop. This had to be pulled down to make way for customer toilets. The shop was moved into the garage office and the office put into the extended car showroom. I took on the shop and turned it into a bakery with a café called the Picnic Box.
We are extremely grateful to Pam Shire for sharing her memories and photos of the garage with us.
Click on an image to enlarge it and see the caption
Presentation at Langport
‘Christmas comes but once a year but when it comes it brings Good Cheer’. This old adage will certainly be remembered by Mr CHARLES BURROWS and his family who live at Long Sutton, nr. Langport, for on Saturday last, at SHIRE’S GARAGE and ENGINEERING COMPANY, Langport, he was presented with a cheque for £3,093.13p. This sum represented the cost of a Maxi 1750 car and a cash prize of £1,000 which Mr BURROWS won in a National Competition organised by British Leyland – The Austin Morris Competition. The Competition was open to anyone who test drove, placed a firm order for, or bought a Mini, Maxi, Allegro, Marina, 18-22 Series, or one of the MG’s – Midget, MGB, MGB GT, MGB GT V8, between the 15th June and the 31st July 1975. To win the competition, Mr BURROWS was required to successfully answer questions related to the selected model, number the reasons why Austin Morris are Britain’s best-selling range of cars, in the most appropriate order of descending importance, and complete the sentence – ‘I prefer to buy British because’ using not more than 12 words.
The forecourt of SHIRES GARAGE was buzzing with excitement as the cheque was presented by Mr BOB BERRY, General Sales Manager of Leyland Cars, South West Division, who was accompanied by Mr JONATHAN JAMES, Sales Representative of Leyland Cars, South West Division. Also present were Mr KENNETH SHIRE, who was accompanied by his wife and daughter, and Mr PHILLIP SHIRE, Directors of SHIRES GARAGE, who are British Leyland Dealers in Langport, under Wadham Stringer of Taunton, Main Dealers. Wadham Stringer were represented by Mr RON JOHNSON, General Manager, Mr ALAN PROLE, Parts Manager, and Mr RON COLES, Wholesale Manager. Mr BURROWS, who was accompanied by his wife and three children received the cheque to choruses from the Langport Wombles, and under the watchful eye of Father Christmas. Even the hissing of steam from a FODEN Steam Lorry, built at Sandbach, and owned by Messrs G.W.R. HIGGINS of Langport and used to transport the Wombles, failed to drown the applause which accompanied the presentation. To complete the occasion, Miss PAMELA SHIRE presented Mrs BURROWS with a bouquet of flowers, and the good health of the winner was drunk in Champagne. Certainly Mr Burrows will never forget Christmas 1975, or his Maxi’s Registration Number, LYB703P.
Transcribed in 2020 from a typed account taken from an unknown source, but presumably a local newspaper article.