Our cars

After the Great War, the Dog had a substantial salvage award. He had earned it. He was a brave and ingenious engineer and got TB through exhaustion, no doubt, and exposure to all weathers in the Mersey. So he and Aunt Dums, one of my mother's many sisters and his cousins, were told that his best chance of survival was to live above the 1000 foot level. They built a modern house outside Orton in Westmorland, with a splendid workshop for himself, and before doing this had bought a car. It was an Argyll, the only Scottish make, a real engineer's car.

They also bought, at the extortionate prices before the manufacture of new cars got under way, cars for Dums' sisters.

Aunt Ruth had a little Hillman, Aunt Annie, I think, a GWK with its ingenious disc drive, Aunt Mamie(?) another make, and I think her sister-in-law "Mug" had one too. We had Swifts.

She was a 1914 Swift (two cylinders, I suppose, though she may have had four), electric lighting and an electric starter - rare in those days - a lovely ? radiator, whose shell I loved to polish, a "dickey" seat with leather upholstery, rather shabby dark green paint, and ?flexing? artillery wheels (one of which broke when my father was travelling down to Devon in 1924 to tell us of our mother's death). She was a really comfortable car with a comfortable cruising speed of 30 mph and had very little power!

Even after Uncle Bertie had done his best with it, and greatly improved the performance by cleaning out the silencer which had been full of grease, her maximum speed was 42 mph on the long down hill stretch past Calgarth to Troutbeck Bridge.

Daddy might have got it up to 43 mph by removing the thick matting carpet in the front. He would drive it, as he did his later cars, with great concentration (you needed that, then as now) and with the stub of a cigar between his lips. It was not his first car, but he has written himself about FM19, the Century tandem which he shared with his brother before they were married. I never saw the tandem, but as we went along the old road through Ormskirk and Preston up to the Lakes, there were frequent references to the minor breakdowns they suffered on that road. "Here the low-gear chain fell off, and we had to push it at the run" or "Here the high-gear chain fell off and we had to grind along at walking pace until it could be replaced".

Most of these disaster spots occurred before Ormskirk; but there was one splendid occasion, which he has recorded, when FM19 competing with Uncle David on his Rudge motor cycle, actually got up to Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland.

The Swift did not seem to suffer from breakdowns, and I remember several long journeys in it, though we almost always had an incident when we narrowly avoided a collision. Usually we travelled as a family, with Joanna and I, and perhaps Ham, in that broad dickey; but there was one occasion when I sat there in solitary state (and very cold) while Daddy and Mummy took me down to Gerrards Cross to have my hernia stitched by cousin Max Page.

Mummy also drove us on little local drives and to take us over to Aunt Lois at Bushey. It was fortunate that Swifts had a self-starter, as though we children did not know it, she was already weak with the cancer that killed her. Once at least when the starter did not get us started, our one-armed postman came across and set us on our way.