Riley Kindness


An unusual experience I had in about 1960 might be worth relating. On a wet winter’s night I dined the girlfriend of the day in a South Kensington restaurant. Over the road, outside a pub, I left my 1932 Riley Gamecock, complete with leaky hood and puddly seats.

Naturally, it wouldn’t start after dinner, so we made for the pub. At that point an old man, clearly down on his luck, pottered along the pavement and offered to help. Over a noggin, he told me that he was Michael Wilcocks and knew about Rileys, having worked with Dixon’s cars. He was also the sole survivor, as riding mechanic, of Sir Henry Segrave’s fatal accident at Windermere in 1930. (This is verified by Cyril Posthumous’ biography of Segrave.)

Mr Wilcocks was a man whom I instinctively trusted, and I left the car with him. He lived at Battersea, I in Hampstead. Within two days he drove the Riley to my house, having tuned the engine and fitted a fresh magneto. He was then 84, with no driving licence. He would only accept 30/- for his trouble, the cost of the magneto.

Michael Wilcocks did me a memorable kindness; I wonder if we know anything about him?

Nicolas Johnson, Hampstead, London.