Well, I thought, if Keith can do some, then why the hell not. So relax in mayoral pomp and ceremony…
The place is Darlington in August 1979 and the newly-elected Mayor, Councillor Alan Gill’s, timing is spot on. Not only has he been elected leader of the local Labour Council and recently become the town’s Mayor, it’s coincided with the 1 August registration change. Here he is seen with his wife, his chauffeur (yes, they really did have them back then) and the sales manager of the supplying dealer outside the huge monstrosity that is the Town Hall located on Feethams.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that, thanks to its mayoral duties, this Princess would be the silky-smooth 2200 version, but it wasn’t. Thrift was the buzzword in the fourth floor Purchasing Department and this resplendent ebony beauty is, in fact, a 1700 – albeit in top line HLS trim level. No doubt Mr Gill would have appreciated the sumptuous velour trim along with the other rear seat frivolities like the reading lamps, cigar lighter and arm-rest. Mr Benson would have barely pushed the choke home on handover as the massive dealership was 300 yards to the right of this picture.
Yet this one has a few tenuous links for me. Councillor Gill was a good friend of my late Grandfather and the boss of the man handing they keys over – Sales Director of Darlington Motor Delivery Co., David Beer, had our next door neighbour at number 31, Rhoda North as his Personal Assistant. Indeed, it doesn’t end there either. The town ran its own bus company until 1994 and the works Foreman, Colin Pearson, was our neighbour the other side at number 35.
For the icing on the cake, the General Manager of the bus company – Darlington Corporation Transport – was Stuart Hyslop and he lived a few doors up on the other side of the same road, I went to school with his twin daughters. As you may guess cars and buses were drummed into me at a very early age. Sadly, Mr Gill, who, until his rise to the top of local Borough Council hierarchy, had been a train driver, passed away in 2017 at the ripe old age of 95. Meanwhile, the Princess went to its maker in 1990. The dealership closed in 1984.
It just goes to show that you never know just who reads this stuff. Former Darlington mayor (1988-89) and retired Councillor Barrie Lamb got in touch with me via Facebook with a nice piece of added value for your delectation. Mr Lamb said: ‘Scalextric used to hold big national competitions back in the day and one of the regional heats to publicise the Mini was held at the Darlington Motor Delivery BL showroom around 1976 if I recall rightly.’ He added: ‘Our family once ran a large toy store in the town and I was asked to set up the massive track layout in the showroom, the national winners received a brand new Mini.’
Image by courtesy of the Northern Echo