The Gleaner

Tannahill Transport says goodbye

After 104 years of serving the Valley, Tannahill Transport closed its doors on November 17. What started out as mainly transportation for milk and milk products had, in recent years, branched out to apples and apple products as well. The business served folks in the Valley, the greater Montreal area, and six provinces across the country. At the time of its closing, Leahy’s and Trimec were its biggest clients.

Tannahill Transport started in 1919; however, when it began, it was the Tannahill Milk Factory at Allan’s Corners. William Tannahill had been hauling milk, cheese, and butter since the early 1900s with horses and wagons. The company purchased its first truck in 1919.

The family credits the founding of Tannahill Transport as the Valley knows it today to Archie Tannahill, William’s son, who lost one of his arms at the age of 16 by getting it caught in a pulley at a butter factory. He went on to take over the business and lean more into the transportation side of things.

In 1930, the Tannahill Milk Factory burned down. This was around the time that the business was expanding with more trucks and more transport jobs, whicj it continued after the fire. In 1944, Merrill and Nelson Tannahill (Archie’s sons) joined the company, renaming it A.A. Transport & Sons. Merrill eventually bought out Nelson, and the name was changed to Tannahill Transport in 1956. In 1963, Merrill and his wife Ruth officially took over Tannahill Transport from Archie and continued pushing the company to grow bigger.


Ruth and her three sons Keith Brian and Glenn after the company closed in mid November PHOTO courtesy of Tannahill Transport


Kayleigh Tannahill, the great-granddaughter of Archie, shares that things changed a lot from the time of horsepower to the time of the company’s closure. “The technology evolved, the trucks got bigger and fancier and got all the gadgets,” she says, but adds that the company still stayed traditional in some ways: “Up until closing, Tannahill Transport was still using a fax machine and typewriter to write their cheques. They kept things a little old-school, but it worked for them.”

The company was always 100 per cent family-run. Once they reached the right age, all three of Archie and Ruth’s sons (Keith, Brian, and Glenn) joined the family business, and Ruth herself worked with the company almost until the very end – only stopping because of the pandemic. “Grandma Ruth worked there until COVID. Until she was 93, six days of work per week. Her expression is, ‘You just gotta keep moving’,” Kayleigh shares. At this point, all three brothers are past retirement age, which led to the decision to close the company. “They’ve done their time,” she says.

A highlight for all was definitely the 100th anniversary. “We were in the parade for the Ormstown Fair; we had a whole booth set up at the Industrial Building for the fair to show off our history and show pictures. That was a huge milestone for us,” Kayleigh explains. She says she hopes the company is remembered as being “there for the community and always ready to help out whenever we could,” and for always having extremely clean and safe trucks.

The closure is a huge change for the family, and Kayleigh confesses that it still hasn’t sunk in yet. Cleaning trucks on the weekend or going for a truck trip over a long weekend was a huge part of family life; however, the family celebrated by getting together to take pictures with the trucks and give them one last really thorough cleaning now that they are to be sold.

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