Whilst rooting around in one of the seat squabs which came with the remains of the Hillman, I found a lady’s handkerchief. This had a name tag sewn into one corner, ‘Joan Baldry’. I had already done a bit of research and found out that the first owners of the Hillman, a family in Penrith, still lived at the address where the car was originally registered in 1927. I washed the handkerchief and sent it off with a cheery note describing how I’d found their old car and what I was about to do with it. A few weeks later a letter arrived – an equally cheery note – along with a cutting from ‘Old Motor’ which showed the car in its agricultural role.
This is a really important piece of the car’s history and I’m delighted the Baldry’s were interested enough to keep the record.
The now defunct magazine ‘Old Motor’ was edited by the late Prince Marshall and Nick Baldwin whose collection of motoring photographs and literature resides at the British Motor Heritage Trust at Gaydon – at least I think it does; their website hasn’t been updated since 2006. Whoever wrote the article accompanying the picture apparently first tripped over the Hillman in the 50’s and went back in the 70’s to find it still in the barn, though now with the broken chassis. The story behind this is that an inquisitive cow had contrived to release the handbrake whereupon the Hillman had rolled off and whacked into a dry-stone wall. The car must have been going some because the axle is bent to nearly 15 degrees on the offside. Luckily, I have a straight one in store.
Talking of Gaydon, the one time I became ‘uncertain of my position’ (flying-speak for completely lost) was when I mistook Gaydon for somewhere else and was happily flying into some military manoeuvres over at Upper Heyford. The military weren’t too taken with this turn of events and kindly ushered me away from the games. They then invited me to resume my own navigation – the very thing that had got me into the fix in the first place. I called the Distress & Divergence cell at Drayton and, I don’t know if you recall the popular television programme ‘Treasure Hunt’ but, that’s what it was like – ‘Can you see a bridge with a little road and a wood……..?’ They soon got me back on track. I laugh about it now but if you ever find yourself lost in the air, don’t hesitate, call the boys and girls at D & D; they’re the tops.
It was always nice to be back home.