The diary people



Some time back, on BBC TV, troubleshooter Sir John Harvey-Jones waded into the directors of long-established Charles Letts & Co, publishers of the well-known diaries, which are as old as the Company itself, but a company which has had to borrow £3 million from Hambro’s Bank to survive. Seeing this, I was instantly back at Brooklands, in the 1930s. With a more knowledgeable companion I was trying to discover from whence came the money that made possible all this motor racing by those mostly amateur competitors. Some were easy. Whitney Straight was an American millionaire. Dick Seaman had wealthy parents. Princes Chula and “Bira” called for no cogitation. Other drivers were often the sons of fathers owning prosperous businesses, some of which my friend defined. “And what of young D N Letts?”, I asked. He raced with considerable success an MG Montlhéry Midget and then the MG “Magic Magnette” and could afford to have them prepared by Bellevue Garages’ tuning establishment. “Have you a diary?” was the reply. “Yes” I said, “but what has that to do with it?” “Get it out and look at it”, I was told. And, of course, it was — a Letts’ diary.

The Letts family had other motoring connections, as Mr J Martin Letts told me after I had told him of the above, item. Donald Letts was his uncle, and after racing the MGs at Brooklands had been the proud owner of a Bentley Continental. At the age of 92, he was still driving a Maestro.

His father, Norman Letts, was a founder member of the AA, which he joined in 1898. Another member of the family, W M Letts was a distant cousin, and was well-known for his association with Crossley cars and Jarrott & Letts Ltd. W B