Tim Lee – Powder Mills lorry driver

Tim Lee was born in 1902 in Charcott, just behind the pub. He left school at 14 in 1916 and worked locally for a year before starting at the Powder Mills in about 1917, in the Chemical Stores, commuting each day from his parents’ home in Charcott by bike. He later graduated to lorry driver’s mate, with Peter Nixon as the official driver. However, as Peter Nixon liked a pint or two – or three – it was useful to have Tim Lee – who was virtually tee-total. So Tim learnt what to do just by being there, although Peter Nixon was not too keen to teach and there was no compulsory driving test in those days anyway. The lorry they drove originally was a Peerlees* – probably a Canadian make – and they would take gunpowder and guncotton to places like the Waltham Abbey explosive factory in Hertfordshire or to the barges at Gravesend. Tim Lee used to say the lorry – which had solid tyres – was so slow going up hills that it was quicker to walk. He and his wife and two sons, Richard and Ian, lived in Leigh. He continued to work at the Powder Mills until it closed in 1934 when he started his own business – mainly delivering coal.

* Bob Whitehead suggests that the Powder Mills petrol engined lorry was in fact a McCurd, put together in Hayes, Middlesex using American components. McCurds later took on the marketing of war surplus Peerlees trucks, which probably created the confusion.