The Twists and Turns of Research
Part of the fun of writing and publishing is the research, and the occasional surprise.
Chas Parker is currently working on our next Exceptional Cars book, this one featuring the famous SS Jaguar 100, Old No. 8.
I recently sent him a few photographs from my archives, including one of a Miss Barbara Skinner competing in the car at Shelsley Walsh in 1937. It was more generally driven there by S.H. ‘Sammy’ Newsome.
Above: ‘Sammy’ Newsome, driving the SS100 at Shelsley in September 1937.
This interesting gentleman combined ownership of the Coventry motor agents which represented, among others, Standard, Triumph and SS, with being Managing Director of The New Hippodrome, a wonderful art deco 2000-seater theatre built in Coventry in 1936. Digressing a moment, in the days before television, such theatres had two performances per night, one at 5.30pm and a second at 8.30.
Chas wrote to me, ‘Is Miss Barbara Skinner the same as Mrs Barbara Bolster? She drove the car on 11 September 1937 at Shelsley.’
Above: Miss Barbara Skinner, preparing to attack the famous hillclimb course in 1937.
I responded, ‘Interesting question? John Bolster's wife was Rosemary, but he had a brother, Richard who was killed in the war. Could this lady, who maybe got married between sending in her entry form and the event, be Richard's wife? Of course, there could be no connection with the famous Bolster family but it seems likely. 'Bloody Mary', the Bolster brothers' famous special, regularly competed at Shelsley so they had a strong connection with the venue during that period.’
I then did some digging on the internet and concluded my email with the following.
‘Forget all of the above. She was John's wife but was killed in 1942. Also discovered her family owned SU Carburettors – Skinners Union.’
So there we have it; another little mystery solved. John Bolster, whom, as a boy, I had the pleasure of meeting at Shelsley in the early ‘60s, later married Rosemary. I also met and interviewed Sammy’s brother, Alan Newsome, who was the Jaguar company’s lawyer for many years, a rather stern gentleman as I recall.
Chas is also working, together with Terry Larson, on our Ultimate Jaguar C-type books and I am presently digging out all my interviews with a number of those involved in that era, such as the designers and race mechanics and the great ‘Lofty’ England whom I knew well. He even stayed with us here in Worcestershire and I stayed with him in Austria, the country to which he retired. He would have seen Old No. 8 racing at Brooklands when driven by another terrific character, Tommy Wisdom. The car was modified in that period by another great, one Wally Hassan, the very first person I ever interviewed!
At our E-type 60th anniversary event at Shelsley, the owner of Old No. 8 very kindly let me drive it up the hill in spirited fashion, some 94 years after Newsome and Miss Skinner. It was a very special experience. In spite of its vast age, the car felt so ‘alive’.
Other articles by Philip Porter