CHEQS CHARACTERS – PHIL NORTHAM, MILKMAN

Delivering milk – and much more – for delivery company Milk & More, is the six-day-a-week job for Phillip Northam, who lives near Poulton. He started work as a milkman back in 1975, when he realised that a milk round would pay him more than his job of delivering bread for a Cirencester bakery.

He fondly remembers Audrey Cowley in Fairford (who died recently), one of his first milk round colleagues, who was still delivering milk by horse and cart!

CHEQS CHARACTERS – PHIL NORTHAM, MILKMAN

Phil has always worked locally, delivering to the CHEQS villages, as well as Lechlade, Poulton, Meysey Hampton etc. He has about 500 customers, but whereas they all used to be 11 within a small area, they are now much more spread out, and take longer to get to.

He works a long day – or rather, night – and certainly does not get eight hours of sleep, going to bed at about 6.30pm, and getting up for work at 11pm. The aim is to get the milk delivered by breakfast time for as many people as possible.

Milk and More is owned by the German dairy company, Müller, who expanded into the British milk delivery business when they bought out Dairy Crest in 2015. This is just one in a chain of take-overs by different dairies Phil has worked for over the years, including Elm Farm Dairy, Clifford’s Dairy, and Unigate.

CHEQS CHARACTERS – PHIL NORTHAM, MILKMAN

The milk delivery business suffered due to the growth of milk sales by supermarkets, but there has been a slight resurgence recently – the old-fashioned re-usable milk bottle is once more being valued and appreciated.

Phil has seen other changes over the years, most recently with the reduction in the cash carried on the float – payments will soon be only by cheque or bank transfer, and much of the business side of deliveries is now being done online. This will be a challenge for some of Phil’s original customers – and there are a few from the early days – some of whom do not have a bank account, never mind a computer!

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Apart from lack of sleep, snow and ice are the most difficult parts of the job to contend with, but even so there are very few days when the valiant milkman does not get through! It is very physical work, with lots of walking (about 10 miles a day) and lifting – although Phil no longer has 10-gallon churns to deliver, as he used to when taking milk to Hatherop Castle School in days gone by.

So, what are the benefits of being a milkman?

Phil and his wife, Linda, remember various customers with fondness: one used to bake delicious cakes for the family – lardy cakes, as well as birthday and Christmas cakes. “Mind you,” said Phil, “you sometimes had to pick out the cat hairs!” Well, it does not seem to have done him much harm, as he has not had a day off sick since he had mumps over 40 years ago, and he has no plans to stop
working just yet. As Linda commented, “If I’m still going to work, so can he!” And all his customers will be very pleased to hear it.

Margaret Stranks – Editor

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steve clarke
Author: steve clarke