The company was founded by 22-year-old Walter Peter Donnison. Before launching the company, Walter worked as a pit man for Humber Fishing and Fish Manure Company, latterly Humber Fertilisers. After serving in the Great War and three years with the RAF, he bought an ex-War Department vehicle to start his own business hauling fertilisers to local farms for Humber Fertilisers. He decided to name the company after the most popular brand of fertiliser at the time, which was Eclipse.
Walter bought his second truck – a Ford Model T Runabout with a tipper body. This was followed by several Leyland Albion Tippers (shown left) as the business continued to grow and deliver fertilisers further afield.
By now the company owned five vehicles and hauled other goods such as cabides and oils after it was granted an ‘A’ licence under the 1933 Transport Act.
The business had grown to seven vehicles when Walter was again called up for service in the Second World War. Co-director Leslie Thomas and Walter’s wife Harriet continued to run the business in his absence. Walter eventually returned in 1944 after being discharged on medical grounds.
Walter’s only son Peter decided to join the family business as a trainee driver to work alongside his father and help push the business forward. Previously, Peter had served in the Second World War and also spent several years in the RAF.
The business acquired its own site when it bought a rhubarb field in Clay Street from Hull Corporation. Denationalisation had helped the business grow and it needed its own premises.
The company’s first warehouse was built by local builder Hall Bros, who are still located in Clay Street. This was followed by a second warehouse, garage and office block in 1960.
A period of sustained growth and widening customer base prompted the purchase of more vehicles, including three Ford Thames Traders for £9,000!
The business recognised need for more specialised equipment. Articulated trailers became essential for the specialised transport of putties, oils, and carbides as well as food stuffs.
Sadly, Walter died aged 67, leaving his wife Harriet and four children, Betty, Mary, Sheila and Peter, who now became the Managing Director. Walter’s colleagues Joseph Milner and Tony Faulkner became General Manager and Traffic Manager respectively.
By now one of Hull’s oldest independent haulage companies, Eclipse celebrated its 50th anniversary. Its fleet had expanded to 20 trucks and nine trailers in a range of models including BMC, Commer, Foden, Leyland and ERF.
Peter, now chairman of the local Road Haulage Association, formed the Commercial Drivers Sickness and Accident gratuity scheme (CDSA), the first of its kind in the area, which offered payments to staff in times of hardship and retirement.
Employee Harry Clifford received £500 after 40 years’ service. (His truck pictured left during the Hull Lord Mayor's Parade) He re-joined the business two years after retirement, which is testament to the excellent employee relationships at the company.
The company continued to expand and increase its workforce and mixed fleet of trucks, including ERF, Foden, Renault, Volvo and Mercedes. At the age of 61, Peter decided to retire and spend more time with his wife Patricia and their three daughters after giving 38 years to the company.
The business diversified into freight-forwarding and import-export services in response to customer demand. By now, many of the dedicated and loyal staff had been with the business for decades.
The company invests more than £325,000 in new vehicles, including Mercedes, MAN and Renault trucks. The investment will help ensure that the company maintains its momentum as it powers towards its centenary in 2020. By then the company will have come a long way from the business first started all those years ago by Walter. It will reach this major milestone well established as one of the most respected and reliable haulage companies in the region.