Obituary - Rodney L. de Burgh Walkerley

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Another link with motoring journalism has been lost, so soon after the death of Christopher Jennings, with the passing away of Rodney Walkerley, at the age of 77, last December. Rodney worked for Motor Sport from 1927 to 1928, starting with those tests of motorcycles to which we referred recently. He graduated to more important reporting before joining the staff of The Light Car in 1930, as that brisk weekly’s Sports Editor, under the nom-de-plume of “The Blower”. Walkerley liked to tell a story of how he and his co-editor of Motor Sport used to hide in the lavatory when I, as a schoolboy, called at the Victoria Street offices in London to tell them of their mistakes! This was a kind reference to me, but although I had my first article published in Motor Sport in 1930 (about Brooklands, of course), by the time I started contributing to it regularly, around 1935 onwards, Walkerley had moved on to greater things.

He managed his work as “The Blower” so successfully that Temple Press moved him on to become Sports Editor of The Motor by 1934, an exacting task, as he had to follow in the footsteps and wheel-tracks of the great Humphrey Symons. But he brought a great flair to this work, writing as “Grand Vitesse”. With the emergence of the German Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union teams more and more interest was being devoted to Grand Prix racing and Rodney went to all the events, as a sort of travelling reporter, in cars like his MG Magnette and RM Riley, etc. He brought a journalistic approach into his race reports and stories, which captured the spirit of those times, and was elected to the BRDC in 1947, a great honour for a non-racing driver. I remember hearing him give a lecture on such motor racing, at the RAE at Farnborough during the war, his infectious enthusiasm for the daring of the great GP aces corning over even to a lay audience. He was known to the great racing drivers of his time, as D.S.J. was to be, and is, in a later period.

The war saw Walkerley serving in the RASC, ending as a Staff-Captain, from 1940 to 1945. Afterwards he took up again from where he had been interrupted by Hitler. He loved Continental travel and wrote books about it. He enjoyed the more amusing as well as the dramatic aspects of the racing game he followed, and he served on the RAC Competitions Committee from 1948 to 1959, when he retired from The Motor. It is sad, very sad, that he had an unhappy closing to a life in which the tall, stooping figure, smoking continually, had been such an amusing and popular person in the realms of motoring journalism. — W.B.