Cars in Books

I have ceased to be surprised at the unusual places in which one finds references to cars. A book my wife had been reading, "Laura Knight" by Janet Dunbar (Collins, 1975) contained a mention of an early motor car, she informed me. So I looked, and soon came upon the inevitable references to motoring. The great artist had married Harold Knight and in 1912/13 they were living at Oakhill in Cornwall, where the low rent asked enabled them to do "something they had often talked about: they bought a car, a small Belsize". They enjoyed driving this along the coast and inland but it was sold in 1915 when the war changed almost everyone's way of life.

They do not seem to have bought another car. But later in the book there is an interesting reference to Dame Laura Knight, R.A., hiring "an old, but meticulously-groomed Rolls-Royce car" to take her to her painting assignments. She had been told about it by Ally Bert, one of her circus friends. It was run normally as a wedding and funeral car by a Mr. Sully, who had a garage in Brixton. He agreed to drive Dame Laura to Epsom and Ascot for the racing and generally look after her. She painted from inside the Rolls-Royce and from its roof and when she was invited to paint at the gipsy camp on the Common at Iver in Buckinghamshire, Mr. Sully took her there as well, leaving after breakfast each morning and returning at a late hour. She was frequently photographed by the Press, working from the Rolls. This seems to have been in 1931/32, certainly not later than 1935, so the car was no doubt a Silver Ghost. A picture of it in the book shows it to have been an enclosed-drive Iandaulette with disc wheels, the spares side' mounted.

Later in this interesting book there is a description of an accident involving the Duke of St. Albans' Rolls-Royce when it was conveying Dame Laura to Upper Grosvenor Galleries for a TV interview in the summer of 1969, when she was 92. She was thrown off the seat onto the floor. But she insisted that the interview go on, although the collision affected her hands and legs for a while. One wonders whether these two Rolls-Royces survive? Over, perhaps, to the RREC or to Mr. John Oldham. — W.B.