This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.

Robert Aplin pays tribute to Norman Hutchinson, founder of Coleraine-based CP Hire Ltd, who ran his business “like a good prop forward – put your head down and keep going forward.”

I don’t exactly remember the first time I was introduced to Norman Hutchinson, although it was almost certainly on the Pel-Job or GenSet stands at SED in the early 1990s. Norman had an obvious presence about him. He was also warm, friendly, charming and, since those days, very supportive.

My first major interview with Norman was in spring 1997, when I was invited to tour his depots in Northern Ireland. At that point, he already operated out of Coleraine, Belfast and Ballymena and had just opened in Dungannon to serve Mid Ulster. It was a superb facility, ‘finished to the highest standards. One of the nicest features – in all the depots not just at Mid Ulster – is that you are greeted by a large company name and logo embossed into the floor tiles. Everywhere is tiled – floors and walls – and not just the showroom and offices.’

Throughout that trip, he was open and honest about his business and himself. ‘What I have achieved is through common sense because I did not have a great education. I have made the company strong, built up the four depots and it is in good shape to hand over later.’

By the time of my next visit in 2001, Norman had increasingly handed over the reins to his three sons Jonathan, Andrew and David. Tragically, Jonathan died suddenly three years later in May 2004 at the age of 29.

Norman Hutchinson set up Coleraine Plant Hire in 1971 with the simple intention to become ‘foremost in plant hire’. He certainly achieved that in his lifetime, and, with Andrew and David now heading the family business, his legacy is alive and well. Winner of the Large Hire ‘Super Centre’ Award at our 2012 Passionate Hirer Awards, CP Hire has since added UK mainland outlets in Cardiff, Bristol and Swansea.

Tribute by David Munns of Volvo Construction Equipment Norman Hutchinson (right), at the opening of CP Hire’s Mid Ulster depot in 1997.

I first met Norman in 1987 when I was looking to appoint a Pel-Job mini excavator distributor in Northern Ireland. Minis had not taken off in the Province, indeed, the mini revolution in the UK was only just beginning. An appointment was made with a large plant distributor, but, to no great surprise, the company I was visiting was not too hopeful of the product selling in Northern Ireland.

It was a disappointing meeting but, during our conversation, Norman Hutchinson was mentioned as a potential ‘pioneer’. Rather than take my flight back to England, I decided to stay on and try to get an appointment with Mr Hutchinson of Coleraine Plant Hire. I remember our first meeting, and it wasn’t long before I sensed the enthusiasm and interest from Mr Hutchinson.

Mr Hutchinson soon became Norman and a friendship developed that was to last a lifetime. Over many years I have shared many wonderful times in the company of ‘The Big Man’ and a great customer became a great friend. I also shared their grief in the terrible tragedies that befell the family.


That first trip to Northern Ireland in 1997 still ranks as the most enjoyable visit to a hire company that I have undertaken. The warmth of Norman’s welcome and his family’s hospitality is something that is indelibly etched on my memory. It is an honour and a privilege to have known Norman Hutchinson and we offer our deepest sympathies to his wife Eleanor, Andrew, David, daughter Katie and everyone at CP Hire on the loss of a hire industry legend.

I have been in this industry for over 40 years, and have had the good fortune to have met and dealt with some outstanding characters. This was the ‘best of times’ for plant hire where a number of real hard-working entrepreneurs, with outstanding vision changed the industry. No one stands out for me more than Norman Hutchinson.

Norman loved the hire business, the people and ‘the craic’. He was a larger-than-life character and I am struggling to understand that I will never share a glass of the black stuff with him again. His legacy to the industry lives on with his sons Andrew and David and the CP Hire team. Without doubt, they have always lived up to their vision of being ‘foremost in plant hire’.

Some sales guru in the past said, ‘All things being equal, most people would rather buy from somebody they like … and that’s true even when all things aren’t equal.’ Norman could have written this, and I am grateful for the many years of business we conducted together. More importantly, I am grateful for the friendship and time I spent with a real legend of the industry.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64