Royal red letter day for fire firm
And Camilla is given a whirl in an engine
It was a moment that had security officers twitching, but a great coup for booming Emergency One in Cumnock.
Production director Robert Wells arrived without warning to scoop Duchess Camilla into his big fire shiny red truck.
And he gave it blue flashing lights and siren and roared off round the yard in the £ 250,000 engine.
Meanwhile Prince Charles was inside on one of the hand- built assembly lines and unaware his wife was having so much fun.
Robert said: “It was unscheduled but I thought she was up for some fun.
“Willie Burns, the joint managing director, had already got her into a cab inside.
“I arrived to pick her up and Camilla and some of her party jumped in. I asked her if she wanted some speed, and she said yes.”
The Royal couple were given a full tour of the plant by Willie and other managing director Mike Madsen on Thursday.
The firm now supplies just about every force, including Northern Ireland, with trucks and heavy duty tools.
Now it is looking at exporting primarily to Commonwealth countries to continue its meteoric growth.
Mike said: “We met the Prince last year at Dumfries House where we launched the first of the new London Fire Brigade vehicles.
“He said then he wanted to visit and sis clearly passionate about manufacturing as well as this area.
“This royal visit is great timing for us. Nobody know we are here . . . but hopefully they will now.”
The assembly operation, began in 1989, now employs 180 including 30 apprentices who get extra support by the Princes Trust.
Six years ago there was a management buy- out and there are six directors, all of whom are not shy of ditching their shirts and ties for a grubby boiler suit.
It’s the largest builder of fire engines in the UK and so busy extra production is expanding into the old community college building next door.
It acquired the site last month and part of it is already being used as the “London” line as it produces one tender a week for the capital fire brigade.
Every year 150 engines roll off the bespoke production lines, some turntable ladders worth up to £ 600,000.
There are just three ladies among the red boiler- suited craftsmen, engineers, coachbuilders, fitters and auto electricians on the factory floor.
Among them was Leeona McEwan, 18, who began work just five weeks ago.
Leeona said: “I am the only female trainee and Camilla asked if the boys were treating me well.
“They were both quite glad to see there was a woman and wished me luck for the future.”
Staff were thrilled Prince Charles, a strong advocate of craftsmanship, spent so long chatting to the lads.
Sales director John Bell said: “We have been under the radar for a long time and not been promoting ourselves. We are proud to get such great exposure from today’s royal visit.”
The first apprentice Stuart Harrison, who became a coachbuilder in 1995, now works with his apprentice son Stuart Jnr and other staff have family in the factory.
The first workers Prince Charles spoke to were Princes Trust apprentice Tony Robertson and electrician Dale Woodward.
Tony, 17, said: “He asked us what we were doing and I said wiring in light clusters.
“I was impressed by how interested he was.”
Peter Grant, creating sub- assembly parts, said: “The Prince just stopped at me . . . I must have a friendly face.”
Princes Trust apprentices Royal couple with the boys, and solo girl Leeona McEwan
Hold tight Joint managing director Willie Burns enticed Camilla onto a truck