It’s August 1972, and we’re in the pretty Cumberland (now Cumbria) tourist hot spot of Keswick. The skies are blue, and the tourists are wandering up and down Main Street, walking in and out of the shops, cafes and restaurants. On the right is the Skiddaw Hotel, where you can have afternoon tea, on the left is Boots, where you’re able to some after-sun lotion to ease the pain on sun-parched skin. However, for most people, this beautiful market town is a base for exploring the nearby lakes and fells (hills to everyone outside of Cumberland).
We’re not sure how many of the tourists who are spending time here will have travelled up from the West Midlands. Maybe fewer than normal, as pay packets will have been squeezed in the previous few weeks. We’ve just come off the back off a number of torrid, strike-torn weeks across British Leyland’s plants. Jaguar’s Brown’s Lane factory was at a standstill just at the moment the new XJ12 went on sale. Shop Stewards were pushing for a £6 per week piecework-related pay rise, but management weren’t forthcoming.
The dispute has cost Jaguar more than £5 million in lost production at the rate of £450,000 a day. It has also caused a nationwide bottleneck in Jaguar repairs because nothing is moving in or out of the factory. Says a company spokesperson: ‘This is a quite disastrous strike for us particularly since between 50-60% of our production goes for export.’ Jaguar wasn’t the only part of BLMC to be strike-torn, Cowley and Longbridge have also been affected.
Right now, in the height of the summer, a mass strike is being called be the unions to stop all BL factories from working at all. The unions don’t want piecework – whereas the management does. It wouldn’t be until September that the issue was sorted, costing more than a 200,000 loss of production for BL for the year, just as the economy was booming, and car sales correspondingly exploded. It would prove disastrous for the company – and it would never recover from this setback.
So, tell us about the cars
Although it’s a timeless photograph, you couldn’t repeat it today, as Keswick Main Street is now pedestrianised. The Skiddaw Hotel is still there, but the Boots is now on other side of the road. Where the cars are in our photo, market stalls reside today. And it’s a whole lot more crowded at the height of the season. You can thank improvements to the A66 for this, as getting to Keswick back then was tougher than it is now – especially if you’re in a Ford Cortina Mk1 packed with all the family and towing a caravan.
The cars are certainly a mixed bunch. To the left and heading uphill is a Ford Corsair, while parked in the central reservation (from nearest) is a Vauxhall Viva HC, a Hillman Superminx, a Ford Escort Mk1, an Austin Cambridge and a bright orange NSU Ro80. This latter car looks like it dropped in from outer space in the context of this image! Further back are a Mini Van, Mini Clubman, Morris Marina estate and an Austin 1300 and BMC Landcrab of indeterminate variety.
On the right, in front of the Skiddaw Hotel, is a Triumph Herald, a Hillman Hunter estate, a Morris Marina, a Hillman Minx, another Vauxhall Viva HC, a Hillman Hunter saloon and a white Ford Transit, which we’ll bet transported a bunch of walkers up to the Lakes. Other notables are the Bedford HA van and the Mini Countryman. It’s a very typically British line-up of cars at a typically British holiday resort, with just one imported car on show!
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