Bert’s cone - but not forgotten

Photo Neil Cross
Robinson's ice cream man Bert French has retired after 36 years
Photo Neil Cross Robinson's ice cream man Bert French has retired after 36 years

The years have just melted away for Leyland’s Bert French.

For ice cream man Bert has scooped his last scoop and cone in from the cold to settle into retirement after 36 years in the job.

Bert’s days of flake plonking and raspberry squeezing might be over, but the happy memories will linger forever.

Bert, 64, of Leyland Lane, Leyland, drove an ice cream van for local producer Robinson’s, which now manufactures on the Moss Side Industrial Estate.

He started in the job after working for Leyland Motors and then in insurance.

“I started work for Robinson’s which was run then by Ken and Bill Clegg,” explained Bert.

“It was just at weekends, I just wanted to get a bit of extra cash because the insurance thing wasn’t very good, I wasn’t putting my heart and soul in it.”

Bert was asked to go full-time and then took on a franchise, operating some ten vans on his “bottom end of Leyland” patch.

He said: “It was completely different from anything I’ve done before. But I like meeting people and got on with folk well.”

He has seen people come - children grow up and families expand - and go - sadly customers pass away - during the years.

“I’ve seen Leyland grow a lot and estates grow, they’ve gone up over the years,” he said.

Though he enjoyed the vast majority of his time in the job, there was one occasion that sticks out in his mind he’d rather forget. I got robbed outside the Shell garage on Leyland Lane once,” he revealed.

“I was parked on the forecourt. I’d gone in to pay for my fuel and left the window open, they went through the hatch and jumped out again with the takings.”

His van also suffered a few break-ins, but the good times far outweigh the bad.

Bert is married to Lynn. They have four children and five grandchildren - all boys.

And not surprisingly, they’ve all grown up with a taste for ice cream.

“They’ve done very well,” smiled Bert. “Better than I did when I was a kid.

“They think it’s an Aladdin’s Cave when they get in that van.”

Bert’s customers were said to see him go.

He said: “I’ve had cards and presents and good wishes from everybody. A lot said don’t go, one or two have been upset about it.”

But the job is behind him now and he can look froward to a bit of rest and relaxation.

“It’s going to be a bit strange. I’m going to be a bit of a loner, on my own, said Bert, who plans to do some fishing, bowling and walking - and possibly buy a motorhome and get away a bit more.