A pictorial history of Sparrows International Crane Hire
A pictorial history of Sparrows International Crane Hire


21/01/17 Derek Chapman

During one of my many frequent visits to this lovely site I noticed the name of *Brian Piercy in relation to a comment from Dave Stockman and Sparrows Contract Services. This immediately made me think of dear old Sam Tuckwell, his brother |Peter and strangely enough the transport manager Alfie Cole. Has anyone else got any reminiscences of these old stalwarts? Keep up this good work Frank, please.

*For the record Brian Piercy was recognised as being one of the best heavy lift experts in the country his last job was the erection of the 6 vessels (one being 742 tons) at Marsden Point in New Zealand, Sam and Peter Tuckwell were both in the beginning of Sparrows Contract Services when initially it was called Machinery Installation.

Alfie Cole joined Sparrows when they took-over Fred Short Transport, he was an experienced low loader driver, one of his first jobs with Sparrows was operator of a new Coles 30-ton Strut Jib crane, there is a picture of him on the web site. Alfie was a character and he was a good choice to become manager of Sparrows Transport Division.


Discussion closed
  • Derek Chapman (Sunday, December 25 16 11:55 am GMT)

    Hi Nicola, Yes I remember your dad very well & with fond memories. I was working in the Exeter Depot as the Rep when your dad carried out the crane inspections those days. We all found him such an easy guy to get on with who always had time to explain if there were any problems or work to be carried out. He actually stayed with my family once or twice when he travelled to the south West as it was not fun staying in hotels over night by yourself. We enjoyed some nice times of an evening with him. I can always remember when he was called away from Exeter one day to go to London for some emergency and the only accommodation he could get was an hotel which served meals the Japanese or Chinese way on a communal rotating table.. When he told me how he managed with that fiasco it really cracked me up. His death was a great loss and a wake up call to a lot of people on the rigs. Thanks for the memory.

  • Frank Sumsion (Saturday, December 24 16 05:23 pm GMT)

    Hello Nicola
    I am Frank Sumsion and I run this web site, I remember your Dad when he first joined Sparrows he soon became very popular and great asset to the company coming up with good ideas to improve the performance of the recovery vehicles. He designed and put together the blades to go on the front of them when Bath was hit by snowstorms back in the sixties, He worked in both the workshops as you say in Bristol and Bath and is well remembered, his name came up on Facebook just a few days ago when he was mentioned by Kelli Davis who now lives in Canada, there is another member on Facebook who was working on the next offshore platform when your Dad was so tragically killed, I will try to find a few other site visitors who I know will remember him well. Take care Frank Sumsion

  • Nicola Clermont (Saturday, December 24 16 08:29 am GMT)

    Hello eveyone, does anyone remember my Dad Neil Ford? He worked in both Bath and Bristol sites. Would love to hear any stories or memories, any photo's? So many names i recognise here. Dad was killed on the rigs 23 years ago now but i still get such a smile from seeing the sparrows cranes out and about x

  • Barry gutteridge (Wednesday, August 17 16 09:29 am BST)

    A great tribute to a firm i worked for at the wednesbury depot i met dave moon when he was at our depot and i think i met frank at the bristol depot or head office gordon was over our depot when
    stuart gregory was manager

  • Barry Mildren (Friday, August 12 16 06:48 pm BST)

    Frank drinking a huge gin and tonic in Zarragosa reading the comments from lots of old friends. I am thinking about the days when we came to Madrid and got the San Ciprian contract for a 4600 ringer
    and a 4100 ringer. Amazing what we did with your charm and my schooboy Spanish. Grumpy, no-fags Barnaby was ops manager and he did his usual efficient job of organising the team of drivers in San
    Ciprian. The tragedy was the loss of George Sheldrick killed by a freak wave washing him onto the

    concrete dolasses. It was a terrible shock for all of us. Went to Gordon's funeral in June. The last of the three who gave me the chance to learn and develope my commercial skills. Good to see so
    many old friends on the site. Talk to you soon

  • Gordon (Friday, August 05 16 10:15 pm BST)

    Fascinating, Thank You so much for your time and effort in creating this site

  • Allan Swan (Saturday, July 23 16 04:07 pm BST)

    Hi Frank now retired from sparrows offshore after 43 years and enjoying my retirement now living in France keep the good site going, not found any more photos but if I fined any will post them to you

  • Dave Stockman (Thursday, February 11 16 02:28 am GMT)

    I joined Sparrows in 1972. I am very proud to say that I had am so lucky to have learnt my trade there as a rigger, progressed to temporary foreman at times. Brian Piercy, Brian Frost, mick Burke and
    lots more including my Father.
    I was lucky enough to have worked on a lot of projects. Conoco, East Germany rostock. Thames barrier, Kenfig motor way and so on.
    When my Father died I wanted to get away, that will be 21 years in April. Since then I traveled to Thailand with Foster wheeler and made Thailand my home. Worked for other great companies mammoet and
    Sarens around the world. It's all thanks to the early days of a great company sparrows and the seasoned professional people that worked there. Has allowed me to.progress to where I am to day. The
    first job in Thailand with FW was erecting Dow petrochemical green field site. Well heavy lifting company was Sparrow the crane ( joint venture company)
    MK 1500 ( up graded MK 1000) Allan Jackson and Ivor sewell were there. Small world. Great days.

  • george brown (Sunday, January 31 16 06:58 pm GMT)

    Frank, I was so happy to find this imformation and thrilled to find that you were well and were working on the old company. I am very sad to find that so many of my friends were no longer with us and
    that young Ken Scot of ofshore had passed away at such an early age. Ken started with the company the same day as I did I worked with Robin Shellay prior to working with yourself in heavy cranes I
    was very involved with the 1000 ton in Scotland and crawlers in Scott Lithgow, UIE. and Methil Yard prior to speding a shorttime in Equipment sales. Love to have a long chat with you
    would love to

  • Colin Matten (Monday, January 04 16 06:51 pm GMT)

    I remember it well, my father was the late Percy Matten who started at Exeter Quarry road and moved to Plympton in Plymouth when Sparrows opened their depot. As a young lad I spent many hours in many
    different cranes but especially remember the 30 ton Priestman on a Foden chassis that had the gas ring in the front well of the cab allowing fried breakfasts every day. Dad then became foreman after
    this he was the area sales rep and then a short time as depot manager. I have photographs of me when the Wrigleys group moved production to Estover in Plymouth in the Ford D Series and in the
    Priestman cab. Dad sadly passed away as noted on your website last month and I would like to thank all of the Plymouth team that attended his funeral and all the memories that they brought with them
    especially Dave Barnaby, Max Metherell and Jackie Sluman. Super Sparrow reigns on.

  • Don McLean (Thursday, December 24 15 02:18 am GMT)

    Hi, just came across your your site, i was involved with your guys in New Zealand ,at Marsden Point Refinery.
    I was a driver for Dales Freightways most of my life, and was the driver of one of the S24 Scammells, that hauled the Gottwald from the wharf to Marsden point, and also the 4 reactors, the 742t I
    remember the Gottwald crane operator, Norm ??, we also transported the 11320 American from New Plymouth ,NZ, to Marsden Pt. The operator of that was a NZer ( Mark ?), I have some very good photos, of
    us loading and shifting the Gottwald on site , if you are interested i can send them to you. I am 69 years old now I have recently retired....however, i still do part time Heavy Haul driving for
    Tranzcarr Heavy Haulage
    Don McLean

  • Clare Barnaby-Jones (Saturday, April 04 15 05:58 pm BST)

    Thank you for your kind words about my dad\'s partner Irene. She will be sorely missed from Dave\'s family x

  • Derek Chapman (Wednesday, April 01 15 12:06 pm BST)

    Interesting to see request re Big Mac McGovern. I remember him well. The 1st crawler operator I came across when I started with Sparrows many years ago. Could load crawler sideways onto lowloader.
    Frightened the life out of me, but he could do it with tyes closed. As always great memories, great days.

  • Michael McGivern (Sunday, March 29 15 03:54 am BST)

    I am trying to find a model of one of the sparrows crawler cranes to remind myself always of my late father and the hard worker he was. I would also be keen to have a nice photo of the same type of
    crane that I could get enlarged and framed, thank you.

  • Michael McGivern (Sunday, March 29 15 03:51 am BST)

    My father (John McGivern, RIP), worked for Sparrows (Plympton) back in the early 70\'s and drove one of the crawler cranes. Very hard working man who did his best despite terrible arthritis.

  • Allan Jackson (Friday, February 27 15 08:56 am GMT)


    Steve Cooke sent me your page hope you are keeping well.

  • Anthony Mc Elhinney (Thursday, February 26 15 02:30 pm GMT)

    Anthony Mc Elhinney

    Well done on your article brings back many happy memory\'s and happy times spent on many site working alongside Sparrows boys Keep up the good work thank you

  • Ivor Sewell (Monday, February 23 15 06:19 am GMT)

    Now living in Thailand aged 75

  • Barry gutteridge (Saturday, February 21 15 10:28 am GMT)

    It\'s great to see and hear of some of the old cranes I drove for
    sparrows out of wednesbury and some old freinds the best firm in crane hire I ever worked for

  • John Lowton (Tuesday, January 13 15 12:55 pm GMT)

    My name is John Lowton, I worked for Ainscough Crane Hire from 1984 - 2014 I too enjoyed being part of a family company. I went from crane operator to H & S Director. I loved my visit to your

  • Paul Gunstone (Thursday, January 01 15 12:03 pm GMT)

    Good morning & Happy New Year. I just stumbled upon this great site by accident. My father was Gordon Gunstone, who worked on the car & light commercial side of the workshops for over 22
    years, right til the end of the real Sparrow crane days. He was in the workshops at lower Bristol road & later moved to Rose Green Road St George Where he stayed until the last days. I notice he
    is missing from the listing of the early days at lower Bristol road, as is Fred Holt & Fred Newman? Great site & keep up the good work! PG

Derek Chapman 6th June 2015

Hi Frank,

I remember meeting you when I was a young buck rep(21 years old) visiting Bath too many moons ago. I keep being drawn to this great web site as it helps me re visit the happiest days of my career. I am 66 years old & currently woking 3 x days per week on a Plant Hire Desk in Exeter. Can't break free from the bug. But whatever I have done or wherever I have been in my working life nothing will replace the great days with Sparrows.

Thanks for the memories.

Derek Chapman


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