A Midland AC Occasion

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June 4th. After tea got the Alfetta out and drove along that very pleasant road between Knighton and Bridgnorth to the Midland Motor Museum, where Kay Petre, talented lady racing-driver in the pre-war Austin and Riley works teams, etc., was to unveil a frieze. (After disposing of her well known Mini-Cooper, Kay had a Fiat 126 in London for a time, but his now changed this for a modern Mini.) Mention of a frieze in the invitation caused me to stow a warm coat in the car but it turned out that this was a decorative device done many years ago by Sammy Davis, to enhance the room used in those days as the Midland AC’s headquarters in Birmingham’s Grand Hotel. Kay, as holder of the Ladies’ record at the celebrated Shelsley Walsh hill climb organised by the MAC, had unveiled the frieze there in 1936, in company with two other famous competitors, Raymond Mays and E.J. Moor.

Last month Kay, as charming and modest as ever, did this again for the Museum, where the historic frieze is now displayed. It depicts very humorously a day at Shelsley and represents the late Sammy Davis’ cartoon-work at its very best. Some of us had a great time trying to identify, not very successfully, the many Shelsley personalities depicted. The introductory speech, prior to the unveiling, was by the MAC’s President, Mr. Griffiths, and other celebrities I knew were cheerful Michael Barker, the Curator, Walter Gibbs busy trying to piece it all together, Mark Joseland the MAC Secretary, and their wives. I was introduced to P.M.S. Newsome whose father drove the Becke-Powerplus at Shelsley before the war, and saw many members of the VSCC Midland Section but only two vintage cars, a Chummy Austin and a Riley. Stanmore Hall and its grounds containing the Bird-Garden (feathered birds, alas) were looking as immaculate as ever but no food was available there; in 1936 a substantial supper at the Grand had cost 3s. 6d. (17 1/2p). Noted some fresh exhibits in the likewise immaculate Museum, such as an all-aluminium OE 30/98 Vauxhall which its owner, Mr. Batt, has somehow managed to resist using on the road.

Left afterwards for Wales, it now being too late to get down to London for a luncheon appointment next day, even in an Alfa Romeo. This was for veteran journalists of the Guild of Motoring Writers, generously provided by Duckhams – they make that very good motor-oil (actually, I am a Castrol-person). I had heard of veteran cars, but veteran journalists! Was somewhat startled to find I qualify. Was sorry not to attend, as now I suppose I shall never be asked to contribute to Quest .. . – W.B., with apologies to Queen’s “Jennifer’s Diary”.