Four colleagues and friends of a popular dealer sales manager who passed away suddenly last year undertook a challenge in his memory, travelling from Suffolk to Monaco and back in an ageing taxi. David Williams saw them off.
Patrick Wells joined Claas main dealer Manns in 1971 as an apprentice. Aged 16 he started his career in sales but progressed through various roles at Claas UK and the dealer until he became Manns sales manager in 2011, the post he held at the time of his death last year. With 47 years’ service he was one of the longest standing members of the Claas UK and Mann’s teams and shared great friendships with many customers.
“Patrick was honest and rather than sell us something he wanted to get rid of he made sure we got what we needed at the best price available, and dealing with him was a pleasure,” commented arable farmer Robert Lacey who trades as GC Lacey & Son, based at Fulbourn, Cambs. “He didn’t just sell the products either. If we had a problem and there was any delay getting an engineer to us, Patrick would pull on his overalls, grab his tools and start looking for the fault. If it was something electronic he would get on the phone to one of the engineers to ask their advice to try and get us going again. My father dealt with him for 30 years or so before I took over and he was just a really good bloke. As long as we were happy he was happy.”
Patrick died from a major heart attack on 31st August 2017, leaving his wife Karen, daughters Liona and Chloe, and son Toby, and their families including his grandchildren. His colleagues at Claas and Manns were keen to achieve something positive in his memory and decided to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation. Patrick was a keen motorsport enthusiast and four company directors set an ambitious target to raise £10,000 in sponsorship, by attempting to drive a taxi from Claas’ and Manns’ Saxham headquarters to Monaco and back, in under 48 hours, the challenge inspired by the 1969 film Monte Carlo or Bust which features a car rally across Europe.
A Justgiving page was set up and, as well as individual sponsors, corporate sponsorship was invited from customers and the companies’ suppliers and dealers and included the opportunity to have the sponsor’s name displayed on the vehicle.
Taking part were Claas UK CEO Trevor Tyrrell, Claas UK retail director Richard Vaughan, property director Paul Butcher and chief financial officer Thomas Schering who is based at Claas Germany and was due to join the challenge on the way.
“Patrick was a much loved and respected colleague, and he had a great sense of humour,” said Trevor. “I am sure he would have approved of our fundraising challenge and, in fact, I’m certain he would have wanted to attempt it with us.”
The route included 6 capital cities and 8 countries on the 2,000 mile drive and, rather than select a modern, comfortable vehicle, the four drivers opted for a 16-year old black cab with more than 350,000 miles already on the clock, and no air conditioning.
“I think the biggest challenge facing all of us will be staying awake while driving through the night,” pointed out Richard. “We will all have worked normal hours until leaving in the taxi, and it’s not the most comfortable vehicle and opportunities for rest will be limited.”
The taxi and three drivers left Saxham at 7.05pm on Thursday 30th August, seen off by representatives of Claas UK and Manns along with members of Patrick’s family and a large number of customers (see picture, top). The team arrived in France 4.5 hours later via the Eurotunnel and drove down through central France to Monaco, arriving tired but elated after 19 hours driving time and having travelled almost 1,000 miles.
After a night’s rest in Monaco, the team left early on Saturday morning to start the longer journey home, and took turns driving through France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and back into France, emerging on the UK side of the Eurotunnel at 5.15 on Sunday morning, and disembarking from the taxi at 7.10am back at the Claas UK headquarters.
Total driving time was 45 hours, 3 ahead of the target and the taxi had covered 2,021 miles.
Sponsorship through the Justgiving page and money donated direct to team members during the journey exceeded £30,000 at the time of Farmers Guide going to press; but the Justgiving page (see below) remains open for further donations in memory of Patrick, and for this worthy cause.
For those keen to acquire an ageing taxi which didn’t miss a beat during its European journey, Little Nellie will be auctioned later this year with proceeds added to the sponsorship total.
To contribute to this fundraising challenge and the British Heart Foundation, go to: