Tonkin's Garage


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GOING                 GOING                   GONE
                           The Garage Up For Sale  A Sad State  The Final Picture Before Demolition                                

                        THE STAFF          STAFF GONE 2000      BREAKDOWN VAN        

  Tonkins Staff       TONKINSWALLBUNG.jpg (64491 bytes)        Tonkins Van With Staff

W.H.Tonkin & Staff                       Tonkins Garage At St Teath

Sadly a bit of the history of Tintagel went in 1999, with the demolition of Tonkin's Garage in Bossiney Road, Tintagel. It had been a part of the village for nearly 70 years and the name over the Garage entrance always remained as `Tonkin's Garage'. In 1928, William Henwood Tonkin, built a garage and petrol station in Bossiney Road, Tintagel. The builder was Tom Ham. In 1947 the bungalow at the rear of the building was built by Dennis, builders. He already had a garage in the centre of St Teath and he ran a most successful business in Tintagel until his retirement in 1952. During his ownership of the garage he had agencies for Hillman and Morris vehicles and BSA, Norton and Enfield motor cycles. Tonkin's was the first garage in the village to have electric petrol pumps in 1938. I had a chat with William's son, John Tonkin, and he told me other interesting facts about the business. Regent, National Benzole, Dominion, Shell and Esso petrol were served at the pumps at various times. A Taxi Service was also part of the facilities offered by Tonkins. At its busiest time 12 staff worked in the business and apart from William, these included Geoff Warren, Les Dawe (Tintagel), George Sleep, Gill Biddick, George Emery, Wesley Stephens, Edward Mewton, Edgar Couch (Foreman), and John Tonkin. One member of the staff, Jim Pickard, stayed with Tonkin's Garage until his own retirement in the early 90s. In the war years the garage was turned over to a machine shop for necessary war materials. Another story John told me was of the loss of Tonkin's sole petrol sale agency in Tintagel in the early part of the war. There was a dispute over who should have this agency and Grose's Garage, who had disputed Tonkin's over their right, won back the agency to sell petrol. This was not accepted by W.H.Tonkin, and through a petition from villagers and the local MP, Tonkin's once again gained the petrol agency. The reason given was because they had a more suitable forecourt for army vehicles to fill up with petrol. Mr. A.S.Macpherson took over the business from W.H.Tonkin in 1952, and he also had a successful business until he died in the 1978. Brian Sandercock bought the garage and after a successful start, sadly, due to ill health and other reasons, the business closed in 1993. Since that time there have been a few attempts by various people to restart the business but due to the competition from Supermarkets and cut price garages they all floundered. In the 40s and 50s Tintagel had many petrol stations. Fry's, along with their fleet of buses, Les Baker, at the top of Vicarage Hill, Grose's, next door to Trelawney, Desmond Grant's Stores at Bossiney and of course Tonkin's. Nowadays Tintagel has no garage serving petrol.  Fry's Luxury Coach service terminated on January 1 st 1999. The 90s gave Tonkin's Garage a bit of notoriety but sadly now the garage, petrol pumps and service is no more. It is to be replaced by a couple of bungalows. Ah well, that is the progress that Supermarkets give you. One day there will be much regret in smaller villagers and towns when they have destroyed all businesses possible . ...David Flower

                   Three Photographs of Tonkins Garage in The A.S.Macpherson years

Tonkins Garage with Three Pumps Outside     A.S.Macpherson aka Mac      Tonkins Garage with Four Pumps Outside
                                      Atholl Macpherson Is Photographed In The Middle
                            Photographs and Text Kindly Supplied by Atholl's Son - Professor Andrew Macpherson

Atholl Macpherson (1922-1977) bought Tonkin's Garage in late 1952. He had trained in the Armstrong Siddeley car and aero engine divisions in Coventry and in 1942 became a freeman of that city. After war service in REME he returned to Armstrong Siddeley before working in the Gold Coast of Africa (now Ghana). He visited Cornwall with his parents for a holiday in 1952 and decided to buy a motor business and settle there.
Good-will for Henwood Tonkin meant that the name was not changed. The business was always highly seasonal with an overload with the influx of holiday-makers in the summer months and a quieter local trade in the winter. These were the days in which many motor businesses were family concerns even the Morris distributors in Plymouth that supplied Tonkin's was owned by the Barton family. Cars needed servicing every 3,000 miles and an engine rebore after about 80,000 miles. Tonkin's also did a lot of bodywork as the results of holiday-makers' accidents were almost always repaired locally an area in which Jim Pickard became a specialist. Petrol was also part of the core business and there was a small component of Morris car sales. Taxi services were run in the early days, but these declined as most local people obtained cars and summer visitors tended to come by car rather than in the train. During the Suez crisis (when petrol was rationed and the motor business was consequently limited) Tonkin's got by partly through ornamental iron work manufacture.

Additional land was bought at the back of the property, the stores were enlarged and progressively larger petrol storage was installed to meet the requirement from Esso to take full tanker drops. Macpherson tried to be the first in Cornwall with a self-service pump but the fire brigade at first refused to agree to its installation!

The garage was profitable but the proprietor had to work hard. Petrol sales required an attendant to go out and put the fuel in the car before the advent of self-service. This was a seven-day a week activity between Whitsun and October. Macpherson also did almost all the out-of-hours emergency calls and crash recoveries himself this and a tumour that was certainly present for many years before being diagnosed probably contributed to his tendency for abrasiveness. He also served (at different times) on Camelford Rural District Council, Tintagel Parish Council and the Parent Teacher Association of Sir James Smith's School. Behind the scenes, his wife Helen (whom he married in 1956) worked typing up the bills and other correspondence, and drove many miles to collect urgently needed spare parts for repairs. These days it is almost unbelievable that nearly all repairs and petrol sales to local people were given on credit.

One Sunday afternoon, when I was seven, I asked him what part of the motor business he liked most. Without a moment's hesitation he replied 'putting money in the till'. Many years later when terminally ill he said that he had enjoyed the life in Cornwall and the independence which being self-employed had given him. Were he able to write this, he would also express his appreciation for the loyalty of those who worked for him, including Jim Pickard (for all 25 years), John Tonkin, Edgar Couch, Ivor Newt, Andrew Bond, Roy Pennington, Andrew Macpherson, Dick Fry and Christopher Weaving.

His death in 1977 ended the Macpherson family association with Tintagel, as my mother sold the business to Brian Sandercock in early 1978.

          Article Published by Kind Permission of Professor Andrew Macpherson


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