My paternal grandmother Edith was widowed in 1924, when her husband Frank finally succumbed to the gassing he’d received in the Great War. Somehow, during the post-war years she had managed to build a quite substantial business as a small wholesaler, mostly of tobacco, and had seven shops. She was quite a determined lady and certainly a character. If illustration is needed I shall recount the circumstances of my father’s learning to drive. He had been sent to sea because of the supposed benefits to his chronic and expected to be life-shortening asthma. By the middle nineteen thirties he would have been working through his various officer’s qualifications or ‘tickets’. Arriving home for another extended leave his mother announced her intention to go caravanning. Now my father was an enthusiastic motor cycle rider but did not drive. A fact that rather limited their chances of having the said caravanning holiday, notwithstanding the absence of them owning either a car or caravan. Father, or Sonny, as he was called by his mother was dispatched to their cottage in Wales for a bit to play with his bikes. Upon his return his mother repeated her intentions about the holiday. “Mother, we have no car, no caravan and neither of us can drive.” “Ah, Sonny, look out in the back alley.” He did and there was a brand new Rover car and an equally brand new caravan. “The man’s coming round to teach you to drive this afternoon.”
The man duly arrived and took father and car to the ring road round the great Sefton Park. He then taught my father how to drive by the simple expedient of putting him in the driver’s seat and directing him to drive round the park for an hour or two; the road round the park conveniently being circular and with right of way around the whole circuit. Arriving back at the shop after this intensive driving course he found his mother impatiently waiting with her bags packed. “Right, Sonny; Cornwall please.” It seems that by the time they reached Cornwall my father could drive because they certainly got there and back without undue incident.
Robert Winston McNaughton