Royal red let­ter day for fire firm

And Camilla is given a whirl in an en­gine

Ayrshire Post - - ROYAL VISIT - Stephen Hous­ton

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

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