A quarter of a century down the road, a man and his truck song emerge from the shadows.
The rumours started in the late 1980s. Somewhere in the UK, someone had written and recorded a song about the Scania R143, the undisputed ‘King of the Road’ at the time. But the person who wrote the song was a mystery.
Over the years, the subject occasionally cropped up in conversation in Scania’s UK offices and at truck shows around the country. Legend decided to solve the mystery, and its investigations eventually led to Northern Ireland, where Harry McQuillan, a sales executive for local Scania dealer Road Trucks Limited, thought he might just be able to help. McQuillan, a lifelong transport enthusiast, has collected a wealth of memorabilia over the years. In addition to his 150-strong fleet of model trucks, McQuillan has collected some trucking music as well. Obligingly, he clambered into his attic and dusted off an old cassette tape he remembered storing there years earlier.
The recording it contained was by a trio calling themselves Triaxle, and the cover showed the band members in front of a 470 hp Scania R143. Triaxle had long since disbanded, but McQuillan was on to something.
‘No V, no me!’
Loughgall in County Armagh is a small rural community, and it was here that McQuillan took us to meet a local truck driver, Micky Prunty, who is also a banjo player in the village.
Unlike left-handed contemporaries such as Jimi Hendrix , Prunty didn’t turn his instruments around to play them.“I just started off as if I was right-handed. I don’t know why, but that was never a problem for me.”
Before long, Prunty was a proficient banjo player and entertaining at his local pub. “I was playing with my mates Micky McGorman, another banjo player from around this way, and guitarist Dermot Maguire,” he says. “We did it just for the craic [pronounced “crack” – it’s Gaelic for fun or enjoyment]. Eventually, we entered a talent contest and won. The prize was to record an album, and that’s how the cassette and Triaxle came about.”
But what about the song that would become known as “The Mighty 143”?
“I’ve been a driver since I was 21, and back in those days I was on long-haul international work, away from home for up to 10 days at a time,” he recalls. “I always had Scania V8s; they were the vehicle as far as I was concerned. In fact, plenty of drivers in Northern Ireland felt the same. We even had a saying for our bosses: ‘No V, no me!’ Originally I had an R142, which I also wrote a song about, and when the 143 came along, I got one of those too.