Page 1.   SD Enthusiasts' Club Newsletter  - Summer 2019.


The Exeter Service Depot in 1976.

 Mike Mullarkey, who was the Manager of SD’s Service Depot in Exeter kindly sent me some material that dates from the time when he was an SD employee. It included the lovely photo above. Mike has clear memories of the day that Malcolm Bates, SD’s Publicity Manager, arrived to take photos for a forth coming brochure. Those who know Malcolm will not be surprised to learn that it was by no means a straightforward job. Realising that he needed a high viewpoint Malcolm climbed a building opposite the Depot. This was primarily so that the motorway running from left to right should be visible behind the Depot. And to this day we can see that he succeeded in this. Most of you will have seen the photo above in Kaleidoscope of Shelvoke and Drewry, where it is caption No. 127, but it’s great to see it in colour.

The Exeter Depot was formally opened on 1st December 1976 and above Mike Mullarkey is seen at the time of the opening. Mike also sent a brochure that announced that the Exeter Depot was fully operational. I have drawn upon this brochure and a later one from when the company was known as Shelvoke Dempster for much of this article.

S&D were unusual in taking responsibility for most of their sales and service in Great Britain whilst relying on a network of distributors for their export customers. In 1979 the existing service network was strengthened and expanded to cater for the increase in production from the Letchworth factory. The late Bob Edlin was given responsibility for setting up the new service depots and he named the depots:- “The Magnificent Seven”.

The depots, which were in addition to the main base in Letchworth, were:-

Birmingham – Long Acre

Newcastle – Birtley

Manchester – Audenshaw




Merthyr Tidfil

The last three being opened after Exeter was opened.

Kaleidoscope also lists Cardiff, Bradford and King’s Lynn but I think they may have been operated by SD agents as was the Belfast branch operated by McCreath Taylor from Lisburn.

In 1979 several additions were made to SD’s service and distribution fleet. The Exeter brochure speaks of how “the completion of the M5 and M3 motorways has considerably improved communications.” And the Exeter depot was practically on the M5 Motorway!


Two key employees at Exeter are shown below.

Alan Johnson was Chief Storeman


Foreman fitter was Paul Josey seen above with Mike.

In addition to providing a comprehensive range of spares, said to be 14,000 items across the network, the depots could carry out pre-delivery checks, vehicle conversions and rebuilds.

Expansion to the Channel Islands.

Mike Mullarkey has written:- “Not so long after the Depot was opened I found out that spares could take two to three days to reach our customers in the Channel Islands when sent from Letchworth via Heathrow. I checked flight details from Exeter Airport and realised that provided orders were received before midday, we could get parts to Jersey airport the same afternoon.

I spoke to Jack Arnold, the General Service Manager at Letchworth, and suggested that it would be a good idea for the Exeter Depot to be responsible for the Channel Islands. He agreed!!  I contacted the customers that had SD Vehicles to introduce myself and to advise them of the service that I could provide.

It will not surprise you when I say that it was not too long before I flew over to meet the customers. As time went on I had several holidays with my family in Jersey, taking the car across on the ferry. On these occasions I would phone the customers and say that I would be bringing any parts they might need and these would be in the boot of the car, meaning that our personal luggage would be on the roof rack. This idea did not meet with the approval of my dear wife!!! However the customers were well pleased. So a strong relationship was formed, not just with those that actually bought SD vehicles, but with other contractors who acquired second-hand vehicles. I was very happy to supply services to anyone that had SD vehicles.”

Other facilities available.

As their customers continued to expect more and more efficiency from their vehicles the Service Depots stocked e.g. a range of service exchange units, a hydraulic hose making facility, chassis, body and cab parts. A hopper loan scheme was available for when the hopper on a body was damaged allowing the vehicle to be back in service within two or three hours whilst the hopper was repaired.

The parts and service operation was described as: “friendly as well as extremely efficient.” Having had the pleasure of meeting quite a few of the people involved I think that may well have been true.


The End.

The end came for Mike Mullarkey in 1991 when SD closed. But he continued for several years under the management of Norba Ltd. who took over the Exeter Depot. Throughout his years with SD Mike worked closely with Colin Humble, the Area Sales Manager for the South West. Colin once told me:-:”I sold them - Mike kept them running.”

A strong friendship was formed which carries on to this day.


Mike (left) and Colin enjoying the SD Newsletter in October 2014.




My thanks go to Mike Mullarkey for sending this brochure and for the second brochure details of which appear on the next page.


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