Saying goodbye to a hero

Keith Adams

The cream of the UK’s design community, along with family and friends, gathered in the beautiful Gloucestershire village of Chipping Campden to say goodbye to Roy Axe. It was a suitably sombre occasion but, following the church service, where both Richard Woolley and David Saddington led the tributes (with brilliant speeches), the gathering retired to a local hostelry, where tales of the life and times of the Design Office at Austin Rover soon began to flow out…

Some nice moments: Harold Musgrove attended the service, which few of us expected. It was great to see the former AR boss – Roy certainly respected and liked the often-abrasive bigwig – and also interesting to see just how much presence he had even after all these years.

Richard Hamblin, Geoff Upex and Gordon Sked were all there, too – and it was particularly pleasurable for me to hear, from more than one person there on the day, that AROnline is seen as an invaluable resource within their community. One Designer said: ‘It’s fantastic and I keep referring back to it to remind me of what I’ve done…’

However, what was especially satisfying was that Roy’s family were pleased that I had managed to publish his memoirs. Roy was so keen to get his story in print and, although the process was laboured – mostly at my end, we got there in the end. It soon became apparent that there were many people at the service who had yet to see the book and who really should have – but I have collected the names and details of those who need complimentary copies.

The gathering also served to remind me that there are still so many tales that have yet to surface and that need to be told.  Here’s a vignette: in 1981 all management level staff at Austin Rover were required to take psychometric tests on Michael Edwardes’ behest. The results of these tests – alone – were enough to see people moved from department to department, after years of sterling service. Most would say that they were a disaster – and, as for the one person who didn’t take a test and who received his P45 as a consequence… it was more than that.

Back to Roy: one thing was clear, my belief that he was a genunely nice guy, but one who strove for perfection, was backed up by the people who worked for and with him. He’ll be missed…

Keith Adams


  1. I really hope some of the key players in the former Austin Rover Group and, latterly, the Rover Group will take inspiration from Mr. Axe’s memoirs and also write their stories for both enthusiasts and academics (such as myself) to enjoy.

    Richard Hamblin, Geoff Upex and Gordon Sked as former Design Engineers and Harold Musgrove as the former CEO for Austin Rover probably all have some very interesting insights into their time working for what was Britain’s largest volume car manufacturer.

    Five years on after the collapse of MG Rover Group, interest in the company and its predecessors still remains as strong as ever.

  2. I complained to the BBC that they had not covered his death – still no reply after ringing again to remind them.

    I’m just finishing the ‘colour’ copy of the memoirs, very interesting. I wish that my late father had written about his time at Nuffield/BMC.

    Keep up the good work on the site.

  3. @David 3500

    Sadly, its the British tradition of not knowing what you had till its gone.

    Harry Musgrove was a cracking bloke, sadly sacrificed by the PM on the road to privatisation!

  4. Mike Humble :@David 3500
    Sadly, its the British tradition of not knowing what you had till its gone.
    Harry Musgrove was a cracking bloke, sadly sacrificed by the PM on the road to privatisation!

    Tell me about it! I would loved to have seen something written by David Bache, not mention had the chance to have met him, as I still hold its talents as a stylist in the highest regard. But as we all know, he passed away almost sixteen years ago. Mr. Musgrove has had an interesting careeer from cars to the NHS and I really hope he will consider putting pen to paper. I will even give up some of my free time to assist him (I’m a freelance features journalist), if that is what is required.

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