And He Drove The Fastest Milkcart In The West

I had intended to catch a national express coach to Bristol airport for the trip back to Turkey but my Dad was insistent that his allotment buddy, Ernie take me in his clapped out old transit van as he had an errand in the area. Ernie is the retired village Unigate milkman whom my Grandma used to describe as” a confirmed bachelor who dresses well”. milk Apparently, in his heyday he used to deliver to the most remote dwellings in and around our Devon village come rain or shine in his three-wheeled electric cart. He would get up in the middle of the night without a day’s sickness, so that the community could find bottles of gold and silver top on their doorsteps each morning.

As I had planned for this trip like a military campaign and my Mum had insisted on packing my suitcase for me the night before to ensure that it was done “properly”; I had a good hour or so to spare before Ernie arrived to collect me. I suggested to Dad that we go for a last stroll around the cemetery but as it was already a bitterly cold day with a fierce north-easterly wind blowing, he wisely declined saying that if we went, he probably wouldn’t be making the journey back. On that uplifting note I was relieved when Ernie pulled up outside earlier than anticipated obviously hoping for a swift cup of tea and a slice of my Mum’s homemade Lemon Drizzle cake.

Fed and watered, we made our way outside where Ernie gingerly loaded my case into the rear of the van. When I hopped in the passenger side, the smell was the first thing I noticed along with constant cooing; it was then that I realised that my fellow passengers were racing pigeons. I cast a reproving look at my Dad who in turn beamed a reassuring grin at me whilst reminding me that it was kind of Ernie to offer me a lift. The look on my mother’s face was priceless as she surveyed the rusty bodywork of the rundown vehicle and the seed & feather encrusted upholstery. Secretly, I was rather worried that I would remain a pigeon magnet once I alighted from the vehicle.

After a teary farewell and armed with a packed lunch which could feed an entire squadron, we drove onto the A38 Bristol bound. I soon discovered that the mechanics of the van were as ropey as the bodywork and doubted whether this van had ever seen a service. As the exhaust rattled and roared like a Sherman Tank, I could barely hear his country and western CDs and the smoke billowing from the rear of the van ensured that no other motorist was tail gating. For someone who’d spent most of his life driving at no more than 20mph, life on the open road without a cargo of gold top and yoghurt had rendered Ernie into a demon behind the wheel.

Stopping only to nip to the loo quickly and to break open the sandwiches, the two-hour trip passed surprisingly speedily even without ear defenders. Ernie delivered me on time to my destination just as he had with all his other deliveries across the years.

So as a tribute to our esteemed former milkman here’s the ballad of Ernie, who drove the fastest milk cart in the west by the late beloved comedian Benny Hill. Now surely you didn’t expect me to leave you without a good laugh!

The lyrics:
ERNIE (THE FASTEST MILKMAN IN THE WEST)
Benny Hill – 1971

You could hear the hoof beats pound as they raced across the ground,
And the clatter of the wheels as they spun ’round and ’round.
And he galloped into market street, his badge upon his chest,
His name was Ernie, and he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Now Ernie loved a widow, a lady known as Sue,
She lived all alone in Liddley Lane at number 22.
They said she was too good for him, she was haughty, proud and chic,
But Ernie got his cocoa there three times every week.

They called him Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

She said she’d like to bathe in milk, he said, “All right, sweetheart,”
And when he’d finished work one night he loaded up his cart.
He said, “D’you want it pasturize? ‘Cause pasturize is best,”
She says, “Ernie, I’ll be happy if it comes up to my chest.”

That tickled old Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Now Ernie had a rival, an evil-looking man,
Called Two-Ton Ted from Teddington and he drove the baker’s van.
He tempted her with his treacle tarts and his tasty wholemeal bread,
And when she seen the size of his hot meat pies it very near turned her head.

She nearly swooned at his macaroon and he said, “If you treat me right,
You’ll have hot rolls every morning and crumpets every night.”
He knew once she sampled his layer cake he’d have his wicked way,
And all Ernie had to offer was a pint of milk a day.

Poor Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

One lunch time Ted saw Ernie’s horse and cart outside her door,
It drove him mad to find it was still there at half past four.
And as he lept down from his van hot blood through his veins did course,
And he went across to Ernie’s cart and didn’t half kick his ‘orse.

Whose name was Trigger, (Triggerrrrrrrr)
And he pulled the fastest milk cart in the west.

Now Ernie rushed out into the street, his gold top in his hand,
He said, “If you wanna marry Susie you’ll fight for her like a man.”
“Oh why don’t we play cards for her?” he sneeringly replied,
“And just to make it interesting we’ll have a shilling on the side.”

Now Ernie dragged him from his van and beneath the blazing sun,
They stood there face to face, and Ted went for his bun.
But Ernie was too quick, things didn’t go the way Ted planned,
And a strawberry-flavoured yogurt sent it spinning from his hand.

Now Susie ran between them and tried to keep them apart,
And Ernie, he pushed her aside and a rock cake caught him underneath his heart.
And he looked up in pained surprise and the concrete hardened crust,
Of a stale pork pie caught him in the eye and Ernie bit the dust.

Poor Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Ernie was only 52, he didn’t wanna die,
And now he’s gone to make deliveries in that milk round in the sky.
Where the customers are angels and ferocious dogs are banned,
And the milkman’s life is full of fun in that fairy, dairy land.

But a woman’s needs are many fold and soon she married Ted,
But strange things happened on their wedding night as they lay in their bed.
Was that the trees a-rustling? Or the hinges of the gate?
Or Ernie’s ghostly gold tops a-rattling in their crate?

They won’t forget Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

55 thoughts on “And He Drove The Fastest Milkcart In The West

  1. Bummer! I tried the video (love Benny Hill), but it said “the uploader has not made this video available in your country.”
    My mum always used to say that I was the result of the milkman (my dad was the milkman).
    Glad you made it to the airport on time in that crazy van 🙂

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  2. Great story… just back from staying in a little village in Devon, and off to Bristol airport soon this made me chuckle! Love good old Benny!

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  3. I had to re-read part of the post as I thought you had written that Ernie had quickly loaded your rear into the van. And I’m wondering what you will answer on the forms when asked if you packed your own bags. Who knows what your mum could have tucked in there.

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  4. You are a gem of a writer. I hope your time in a more remote part of Turkey finds you creatively having the time of your life. I’ll be in Istanbul for the month of May so if you happen to get out that way please message me on Facebook. All the best for the next leg of your adventure. 🙂 Deb

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  5. So glad to hear that you are heading back out to Turkey. That’s great news!

    Loved hearing about Ernie – and being reminded of Benny Hill’s song – loved it!

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  6. Loved that blast from the past, Dallas. You really did ride in style, didn’t you, “seed & feather encrusted upholstery” notwithstanding. 😀 I would have loved to see you alighting at the airport, amongst all the taxis. Safe travels, and I’m sure you’ll keep us posted when you are able. xx

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  7. What a wonderful … start of your trip in style. And you don’t waste any time between flights neither. Not a fan of Benny Hill, but that song was good … please, stay in touch. *smile

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  8. Reading your narrative, I was sure that the pigeons would turn out to be harnessed to the three wheel van, and part of the propulsion of the vehicle. As always, you had us hanging off the edge of our seats, and Benny Hill almost did us in completely. Thank you for another round of fireworks on the way to the airport.

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  9. What a hilarious way to depart for Turkey! Is that picture of the car remotely resemble the delivery truck you traveled in? And the fact you shared transportation with some animals… I feel like you did this at least once in Turkey? Or maybe not.

    Have a safe trip!

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  10. For a very short time in 1959 I delivered milk but my fastest milk trolley was an electric operated cart that I walked along beside and I loved that Benny Hill song. Your post brought back that memory that I had almost forgotten. I’ll be thinking of you winging off to the future

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  11. I’ve just been reading a few of your posts and having a great laugh – you write so well! Thanks for checking my post on our holiday in Turkey. I’m looking forward to reading more of your stories, have fun.

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    • Funnily enough I was strangely drawn to your post!!!! I’m here now in Kahramanmaraş a little off the beaten tourist track but it’s good to have a warm Turkish welcome and thank you for all the nice things you said

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