A Different Kind of Race

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Occasionally one gets a glimpse of motoring from the past on the TV screen, in plays or documentaries, but best of all, as brief shots from the true past.

I recall a glimpse of a solid-tyred Trojan flitting across the Welsh coalfields, I think during a news-item about the 1926 General Strike. Similar street scenes can catch cars, and recently, while waiting for ITV F1 coverage which had been postponed, we were shown some footage of Derby Days, with a skeletal T-Ford and what looked like a very early Lanchester mingling with the horse-drawn traffic. Which reminded me of the 1920s, when my mother and I had our only ‘flutter’ on the horses, sticking a pin into a list of Derby runners and giving a modest coin to the bet-collecting milkman.

After listening to the race on the radio I would run like mad to Balham Hill or Clapham Common, to see the motorcyclists rush the Derby films to their respective evening newspapers. Regular dispatch-riders were not then a London feature, so I suppose these motorcycles were ridden by staffmen, or even by hired racing personalities. Anyway, race one another they did, the name of the paper perhaps on the precious box of films on the pillion, reaching maybe 60mph across Clapham Common, in spite of the mid-road trams. There was then a 20mph speed-limit but! think the police turned a blind eye, as this was newspaper work…

Years later I had a taste of the `Power of the Press’ when I used to drive from Hampshire to the News Chronicle offices in London to get the GP results from Jenks, wherever he was on the Continent. On my first evening I reported in, saying I would then move my A7, as it was on a double-yellow. “No need”, the commissionaire told me, “if you are working for us, the police won’t touch it”. After I had done the job and was ready to drive home, there, amongst a line of cars most of which had tickets on them, were a few, my A7 included, not so affiliated. You have guessed – they were those of the newspaper men…