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Family’s tribute to ‘champion of the underdog’, founder of self-named Aberdeen lorry firm, Sandy Bruce Trucking

The 67-year-old from also worked for haulage companies ARR Craib and for Colin Lawson.

Former owner of Sandy Bruce Trucking, dad-of-three, Sandy Bruce.
Former owner of Sandy Bruce Trucking, dad-of-three, Sandy Bruce.

When it came to trucking, there wasn’t much Sandy Bruce didn’t know.

Once the owner of a 100-strong fleet bearing his name, he also worked for ARR Craib and latterly Colin Lawson, leaving his mark on the north-east’s haulage industry.

Sadly missed after his sudden death last month, his family has paid tribute to the hard-working and much-loved father-of-three.

No stranger to hard work

Alexander Robert Bruce, known as Sandy, was born on November 22 1956 at Summerfield Hospital, Woodend.

Son of Alexander Bruce, a mechanic at Milly’s Garage Bucksburn, and his wife Genoveva Mogilski, known as Jenny, Sandy was the third of four children.

The Bucksburn family initially lived in Keppelshills Drive before moving to Sclattie Circle.

Sandy attended Cloverfield Primary and Bankhead Academy where, by his own admission, he “wasn’t all that studious”.

Sandy Bruce as he will be remembered.

While he didn’t have much time for academic endeavor Sandy was no stranger to hard work.

As a youngster he delivered newspapers, worked as a butcher’s message boy, and occasionally did shifts on a baker’s van.

Also called in to help his dad from time to time at Milly’s Garage, this early-onset work ethic remained with him throughout his life.

Falling in love

Grafting, even during school holidays, brought more than just wages into Sandy’s life.

It was while working part-time for packaging company Donbox that he first laid eyes on Bertha Mathieson.

Known as Beth to her friends he was too shy to talk her himself, so asked his brother-in-law Alex to approach her instead.

Alex asked Beth, who grew up in Islay, if she would go to the pictures with Sandy. She agreed and the two 16-year-olds were soon courting.

When school was over Sandy was keen to find steady work and was soon employed by Stoneywood Paper Mill, then later at Middleton Printers.

Newlyweds building a life together

With a proper job the young couple could plan a future together and by October 1977 they were Mr and Mrs, having married in St Mark’s Church, Aberdeen.

They held their wedding reception at the Three Poceros on John Street before spending  a night at the Cammachmore Hotel.

A short break in Edinburgh was followed uop with a visit to family in Cumbernauld, before returning home to Aberdeen.

Sandy and Beth Bruce on their wedding day.

A flat in Victoria Road, Torry, became their first home, though they later moved to Bucksburn.

Together the couple had three children: Lisa, born in 1982, Nicola who came along in 1984, and Ryan born in 1987.

Sandy Bruce Trucking – ‘We can handle it’

Ryan spoke of a turning point in Sandy’s life.

“In 1982 dad purchased his first truck and established what became Sandy Bruce Trucking.

On of the Sandy Bruce Trucking fleet at their base, at Black Dog Industrial Estate.

“Other trucks soon followed and with sheer determination and hard work, my dad grew his business.

“He eventually operated more than 100 trucks and employed 200-250 people between four depots in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Sussex and Hull.”

The well known company, with the slogan “we can handle it”, was an “untameable beast” at times.

When eventually the business folded after 24 years, it deeply impacted Sandy.

Sandy’s north-east trucking legacy

“He was never one to stay down for long though. My dad picked himself back up and went back to work,” added Ryan.

Initially working for the people who bought over his business, it was a call from a former business rival that offered Sandy a more exciting opportunity, and in turn, a new lease of life.

Sandy Bruce, pictured in the cab of one of his lorries.

George Craib, MD of ARR Craib Haulage, asked Sandy to join his company.

Jumping at the chance,  from 2006-2021 Sandy served as sales director, managing the long-distance wing of the enterprise.

Following the challenges of the pandemic, Sandy found himself out of work again at 64.

‘He liked the craic too much to stop working’

“Too young to retire” he approached one of his former drivers, Colin Lawson, who was operating his own successful business. Offering to help Colin grow his company further, Sandy spent a year with Lawsons full-time before taking semi-retirement, working two days a week.

“Whenever we asked him to wind it down he said he’d miss the craic too much, and kept going,” said Sandy’s daughter Lisa.

Family homes and holidays

Over the years Sandy developed a reputation for loving “a flitting.”

The family moved house several times, from Bucksburn to Newhills, then to Blackburn and latterly Kemnay, where Sandy and Beth were most settled.

Working hard brought with it the opportunity to play hard.

Sandy took great pride and derived a lot of pleasure from well-earned family holidays.

“Some of our most memorable times were in Florida, along with dad’s friends,” said Ryan.

“However, he really found his favourite place when someone recommended a wee town in Turkey called Kalkan.

Sandy Bruce with his family and friends, and Turkish pal Reggae.

“Little did dad know it would eventually become like a second home to him and mum.”

Meeting and making friends with numerous people there, including the staff at their hotel, Sandy found a great bond with a barman called Reggae.

Sharing similar tastes in music the pair would often be found together at the bar with Led Zeppelin blaring.

“They even stayed in touch between visits,” added Ryan.

“He meant so much to us”

Back at home, other family traditions were formed.

Sandy loved to cook Christmas dinner and developed a reputation for his New Year’s Day stovies.

Not so great with DIY he earned the nickname “demolition dad” but his proudest title of all came in 2015 when he became granda to Lisa’s daughter Holly.

Both doted on the other, sharing a special bond.

Granda Sandy with his beloved granddaughter Holly.

Sandy was in relatively good health until 2012 when he needed a heart valve replacement operation.

Afterwards he was back fighting fit, enjoying life with his family and friends, until his sudden death at home on June 15, age 67.

“Dad’s passing wasn’t at all expected. It’s been really hard to come to terms with.

He meant so much to us all,” said Lisa.

Farewell for a true gentleman

A celebration of Sandy’s life took place on June 27 at Hazlehead Crematorium where his favourite Fleetwood Mac, Elbow, Steve Earle and Joe Bonamassa songs were played.

A tribute from his funeral described him as a champion of the underdog, a true gentleman and a provider to those he loved the most.

He is survived by his wife Bertha (Beth), his children, and his granddaughter Holly.

You can read the family announcement here.