The Kaye Don manslaughter case
In your obituary of Kaye Don you say that after the 1934 Mannin Beg accident “which resulted in the death of his riding-mechanic K. Taylor from the MG factory, he was imprisoned on a manslaughter charge, which many regarded as unfair.”
I assure you it was not considered unfair by the MG contingent, according to the account given we by those who were actually present in Douglas, loM, on that occasion. I was told that in the evening of the first practice day — there were just two practice sessions, both held at dawn — Don’s K3 Magnette was brought to him by his mechanic, Frankie Tayler (spelt with an ‘e’), who had been working on it all day at Don’s request. Although it was so late in the evening, and Kaye Don was (to use the customary euphemism) rather “tired”, he insisted on trying the car there and then, on unclosed roads and completely unofficially, accompanied by Tayler. The fatal crash followed.
To quote John Thornley’s words in the splendid Maintaining the Breed: “Frankie was one of the few original employees who had formed the nucleus of the Company in its earliest days and who had been in the Competitions Department from its very beginning, working for the fun of the thing, regardless of time, risk or reward. . . At this distance in time, one is perhaps better able to see his true worth and certainly better able to assess the reaction of his fellows when the sad news came through. Time invariably softens the recollection of personal grief, but one does not easily forget the sight of grown men in tears.”
The courts decided at the time, from the evidence then available, that Kaye Don was responsible for the death of Frankie Tayler, and if we are going to indulge in speculation almost half-a-century later, I suggest that we should be less one-sided about it than your obituary appears to be. De mortius nil nisi bonun by all means, but poor Frankie Tayler died first, and Kaye Don had the luck to enjoy 47 more years of life than his unfortunate mechanic.
Chichester, Sussex F. WILSON McCOMB