|Liverpool Tramways' Lambeth Road Depot - Unky worked here and at|
Edge Lane Works in the 1920s and 1930s
Unky came from Preston, in Lancashire. He and his father (and thus the whole family, including my maternal grandmother) moved to Liverpool in the 1920s. His father (my mum's Grandpa Hindle) had worked with the railways for most of his life, and the family had moved between "railway" towns with his job over the years. My grandmother, for example, was born in Nuneaton. Anyway, Unky and his dad came to Liverpool in order to get jobs with the Liverpool City Tramways, and in fact Unky worked for them (and their successors) until he retired. Because of the move to Liverpool, some years later my grandmother (Unky's kid sister) met my grandfather, without which fortunate circumstance this blog wouldn't exist, for one thing.
|Velocette like Unky's|
Well, actually, he bought a van. After working out what was the cheapest vehicle available, taking into account second-hand price, fuel economy, insurance and taxation, he bought himself a Reliant 3-wheeler van - a grey one. I remember that it always stank of petrol, so presumably something leaked, and my mother wouldn't let me travel in it in case it exploded. The back of the van was always full of bits of motorcycles and old rags.
|Reliant van - obviously this is not Unky's actual van, but it's|
about the right year, and I think his looked like this
Unky used to go everywhere in an enormous, smelly old raincoat - apart from the smell of petrol and engine-oil, I think it must have been rather like the coats worn by cavalry in the ECW - capable of standing up on its own - maybe even of walking away on its own. He had worn this coat throughout his biking days, and now he drove his van in it.
One day, in about 1958, he was driving his van along the East Lancashire Road, which is a sort of expressway which connects Liverpool and Manchester, and he was lighting a cigarette (Capstan Full-Strength - always) when he dropped his lighter, and it rolled under the passenger seat. Unky reached down with his left hand, behind the seat, to retrieve it, and his arm, in the thick coat, became stuck behind the passenger seat - he couldn't get it back, so he was now driving one-handed along the East Lancs, with his left arm jammed down behind the passenger seat.
We know exactly what happened next, since he dined out on the story for some years afterwards. He took his feet off the pedals, placed them flat on the floor and lifted himself so that his backside came clear of the driver's seat, and he levered himself up on the back of that seat (no seat belts in those days).
He never found out whether this would free his left arm, because at this point the back of the driver's seat (which was a very crude fibreglass moulding, underneath the upholstery) snapped off with a noise like a rifle going off, and Unky shot backwards into the rear of the van. The vehicle, out of control, tipped over onto one of its front corners and one rear wheel, and described a graceful circular path until it came to rest in the middle of a flower bed on the grass verge, just outside the town of St Helens, fortunately without hitting anything.
A passing motor-cycle cop saw the whole incident, and rushed over, but was temporarily nonplussed to find that there was no-one driving the van, since Unky was lying in the back in some disorder, under a pile of junk. The van was recovered, but was written off. He was subsequently charged with driving without due care and attention (or whatever the offence was called in those days), though he was never fined or convicted, and he was charged four pounds seven shillings for repairs to the municipal flower bed.
|Capstan - Unky chain-smoked Full Strength; he survived the motorbikes|
and the Wehrmacht, and even getting bombed at Dunkirk, but the Capstan
got him in the end