Magnate behind Eddie Stobart hauliers dies, aged 56

Edward Stobart, the trucking legend who brought the phenomenon of "Stobart spotting" to Britain's motorways, has died from heart problems at the age of 56.

Mr Stobart turned his father Eddie's agricultural seeds business into a multimillion-pound haulage empire and quirk of British culture.

"Edward built Eddie Stobart into the iconic brand and business we know today," his brother William Stobart, who now runs the business, told staff yesterday with "great sadness and regret".

Edward Stobart took over the business in the late 1960s and within a decade spotting the green-and-red livery of Eddie Stobart lorries had become a favourite way to while away long journeys.

As a sign of the company's cult appeal, Twitter was flooded with condolences and messages of appreciation within minutes of the announcement of Mr Stobart's death in hospital in Coventry.

Mr Stobart famously bucked what he called the "shifty image" of lorry drivers by introducing a uniform of collar, tie and a green jacket. But his masterstroke was to give each of his lorry cabs a female name. The first was named Twiggy, after the model, and later there was a Tammy and a Dolly, after singers Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton. Today, the 2,250-strong fleet includes a Joyce Amy, an Angela Rachel and a Mandy Jane.

Mr Stobart ran the company for more than 30 years before selling it to his brother William in 2003. But he had long since handed over the privilege of naming new lorries to members of the official Stobart fan club, set up in the early 1990s and now boasting 15,000 members.

The company says the only way to participate in the christening of Stobart trucks is to join the club, but the waiting list of suggested names is running at between 18 months and two years. Occasionally, naming rights are auctioned for charity, the most lucrative netting a cool £20,000 in 2008. The fan club also produces "Steady Eddie" merchandise, selling everything from T-shirts to the Eddie Teddy and bringing in an estimated £1.5m a year.

Rather than collecting the individual fleet numbers, less committed spotters may simply shout "Stobart" on seeing one of the lorries, or keep a running total of the number seen on their journey. But fans are now so prevalent, Stobart-spotting has become a quirk of British culture.

The company has a biography The Eddie Stobart Story, by journalist Hunter Davies. It has been celebrated in song. The Wurzels' "I wanna be an Eddie Stobart driver", released to celebrate the company's 25th birthday in 1995, made it into the Top 100. There is even a spoof version: "I wanna join the Eddie Stobart fan club." And for younger fans, there are three series of Steady Eddie cartoons, featuring Steady Eddie himself and friends Loretta Lorry and Rick van Rental.

Edward Stobart hit the headlines last May when he was banned from driving for 20 months for drunk-driving his Mercedes. His barrister said Mr Stobart recognised it as "one of the stupidest acts he has ever undertaken". Mr Stobart is survived by his wife, Mandy, and six children. His father, Eddie, now in his 80s, is still going strong.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines