Review of past Events

 

2012 Olympic Torch Procession.


 

Olympic torch

Olympic torch

Left is a photograph of the Olympic torch handover, which took place in 2012 outside Rochdale townhall. It was part of the nationwide Olympic torch procession which took place in that year. Rochdale town was ably supported in this event by members of the Rochdale Owners Club, displaying a number of there cars.

 

The story


 

Olympics by Torchlight

"You'd think, with the big event in London, it would be a good time for the Rochdale people to make a bit of a display of the cars this year". When you are trying to get some facts together on the Rochdale marque, it is inevitable that you end up, sooner or later, at the door of Keith Hamer. Keith must have the distinction of having worked on more of the surviving Olympics than any other person: but I really wasn,t ready for this - in fact, I hadn't given the coming Olympic 2012 a thought, apart from joking about the odd logo. But a couple of months down the line, towards the end of a committee meeting, Tony Stanton did his bit to reinforce the message- "Did you know that the Olympic torch will be coming through Rochdale on June 24th?" Well, no, Tony, I didn't, but I do now... The opportunity was just too good to miss, and, without too much optimism, I decided to approach the "Rochdale people" and see what they thought of the idea at this relatively late stage in the day. But then, I don't tend to do forward planning myself - see what comes up, and make it up as you go along tends to be my approach. But this time I struck gold straight away: I ended up with the Link4Life organisation, speaking to Barbara Lloyd with a few ideas on what might be possible. While Barbara had indeed heard of the cars (amazing how many people in Rochdale haven't) possible connection with the coming event had not been made, but she certainly became very enthusiastic as I described the car and its original connections with the 1960 Olympics: as we talked, ideas sparked between us, and it was clear that there was the potential of something really good happening on the day.



Barbara had never actually seen an Olympic, but her enthusiasm grew with the conversation, and we ended up discussing just how the cars might be incorporated in the day's proceedings. From an early stage, she agreed to site the cars in the town's prime position, straight in front of the Town Hall. For those unfamiliar with this, the proudest of Lancashire's mill towns, the central area had been created when the Roch had been bridged for a Guiness-record 200+ yards in 1871 and millstone grit from the Blackstone Edge area outside town had been brought down to create a Gothic masterpiece of a Town Hall you may love or hate. Personally, I love it, but the entire area was never one you could ignore and this was to be the allocated venue for the June event. There was soon lots of enthusiasm from all quarters, and all sorts of people have been kind enough to congratulate me for my part in setting the event up. In truth, once the ball was started rolling by the aforementioned conversation, the event took on a life of its own and, a little like the Olympics themselves, there was such a "feelgood" factor to the procedings you just had to be grateful for having been there, in the right place at the right time.



If Barbara could get the press involved for a shoot before the event, could we get a few cars along to generate some interest? Certainly could, although the mid-week timing didn't help those with jobs to go to, and a last-minute BBC shuffle to Wednesday 25th April, meant that Dave Mayers couldn't make it in his (sunroof) Olympic. This was a shame, I was still harbouring thoughts of the torch being carried by an athlete standing in the passenger area of an Olympic (just think what a few sparks might have done to THAT idea!) but the events were too far advanced for this to be a realistic option. Jason Hoffman stepped in at the last minute with his (official) end-of the line 1972 Phase IIR Olympic PAX 44, and joined Roger Coupe and myself on the day. My own car was a bit of a gate-crasher, in truth as it wasn't an Olympic at all, just an earlier GT, but everyone was much too polite to mention this to me! I justified its inclusion by virtue of its major part in the Rochdale history, and undoubted contribution to the Olympic's development, but can you think of a single component that the two cars had in common? Well, that's an easy one, of course, but there really aren't many once you have got past the ______? Naomi Cornwell proved a charming BBC TV interviewer, though it was a surprise to see her working the camera, asking the questions and editing the clips herself - "It's the cutbacks" she explained. The finished piece "Poetry in Motion" went out on BBC NW Tonight, 26th April, and although only on air for a couple of minutes, did provide an accurate and enticing view of the cars "Gorgeous little things, aren't they?" quipped the presenter on the night. Although the cars looked great on the film, as mentioned earlier, two out of the three misbehaved big time after the interview, with Roger's brakes seizing on later in the day, and the first of my MiniSport engine blow-ups occuring on the way home. (I’m not going to even MENTION what's happened with the engine since then - just when you thought things couldn't get any worse...) Things were really shaping up for the big day, and further details were ironed out as the time approached.



Barbara and Link4Life were very keen to see as many cars as possible on the day, and there were plenty of club members keen to attend, but being Rochdale owners, of course, doesn't necessarily imply that the cars would be in attendance as well. Owning an Olympic is categorically NOT the same thing as having one on the road! But the signs were all good, and we were hoping that the day would bring perhaps the biggest-ever gathering of Rochdale cars - there had been fourteen present for the 2002 sculpture opening, and it really did look at one stage that this figure could well be beaten. In view of the distances some owners would have to travel, Link4Life very generously agreed to pay for B&B accomodation for all Olympic drivers (and passengers!) present, as well as hosting a meal at Madison's restaurant for Rochdale (car) folks on the Friday night.



That was the plan. Unfortunately, as the big day approached, it became clear that the North of England was due for some of the worst weather it had seen for years in the days leading up to the event, and several who had intended to come along were struck with mechanical problems as well. So, in the event, we ended up with eight cars on the day: in addition to the three earlier members, we were now joined by Keith Hamer (orange Olympic) Dave Mayers (red Olympic) Howard Evans (blue Olympic) Andrew Roan (red GT) and, on the Saturday, Calvin Rae (silver Olympic). Others members attending were Keith Pratt, Ron Scarfe and newly-joined Simon Hamer - top marks to all those who made it, "torrential rain" is an over-used expression, but definitely applied in this case. My daughter's home in nearby Hebden Bridge was flooded for the first time in living memory, and the area was so badly affected that Prince Charles paid a visit to see how they were getting on, only for it to receive a second dose of floods as he left. I did, therefore, have cause to regret my earlier offer of a guided tour of the (car-related) sights of Rochdale: my GT is one of those having a large scoop cut in the bonnet to provide cooling air around the hard-pressed engine - unfortunately, it also allowed rather more than its fair share of the flooding, as well. Having visited the sculptures, Littledale Street, and Falinge Park, I led the way towards Syke Common, where "Motor" testers had thrashed the GT-engined Phase II around, only to find our way blocked by yet more floods. After pulling in and taking a vote on whether to brave the flooded road or not, the concensus was to press on: the bow-wave kicked up by my wheels found its way into the engine compartment, and that poor, long-suffering Midget engine gave up the ghost - at precisely the spot where Richard Parker had been filmed driving VDK 147 at speed fifty years earlier. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddOu4uUVYrQ) Lots of ribald comments ensued, but it turned out that the lead from the coil was sparking across the outside of the distributor, and after several doses of WD-40, we were all on our way again, the care taken in avoiding the floods taking us past All Saint's church, where the "Racing Vicar", Rupert Jones, had married myself and my wife some 44 years before.



Rupert was one of those who was to have been involved in Harry Radcliffe's Olympic attack on the 1961 British Championships, but don't get me going again... Things looked up as we made our way back to the Broadfield Hotel. This was an old nursing-home which had been tastefully modernised, with very pleasing facilities. My wife immediately swooped on the plethora of very large leather armchairs in the foyet, and demonstrated to club members the forgotten art of finding lost coins down the "nick" of the chair arm. These are particularly prevalent in low-slung armchairs of this type, when a gentleman sits down with loose-fitting yet bulging pockets, prefearably after he has had a few. Before long, most of the hotel were at it, but Roger's second place £1.50 paled into insignificance alongside Pat's £4.35 retrieved from down there!



Better still was the evening meal at Madison’s. John Dunwell was in attendance with his son-in-law, and Frank Butterworth's sons, Phil and Paul also attended with members of their family. It was especially good to see Hilary Parker again, along with daughter Jane, they had travelled all the way up from Bristol in the terrible conditions: other members of the Parker family even travelled from the Continent to attend on the Saturday - very, very impressive. Another ex-Motor Panels man there in spirit was Ron Batley: he was the very first employee signed up in 1948, and later went on to manage the British Skiing team - putting his success down to skills learned in the Rochdale firm, and was particularly grateful to Frank's example for his subsequent successes. Ron's interest had been sparked by the previous BBC report, but despite strenuous efforts around a Geneva trip another prior engagement prevented him making it on the day. But apparently him and John Dunwell had taken great delight at Hudson Street in hanging a young Paul Butterworth by his duffle coat from a particularly high coat hook, events which Paul was well able to confirm on the night. All in all, a most excellent meal with plenty to talk about afterwards, and everyone in agreement to "do it again" before too long.



Come the next day, and we made an early start for our position at the front of the Town Hall. The entire event generated such a feeling of local affection from people who had known the cars, the factory and its people at the time, and even those who were finding out about them for the first time. My favourite story came from Rene Broxup, who Pat had not seen since she left school in 1961. Apparently her father was a woolen merchant, operating at the back of the Hudson Street premises in the days prior to the fire: after the fire, as the GT, Riviera, Mk VI, and (in theory) F-Type and C-Type models were dropped the factory was left with a large quantity of window-glasses from those models: her husband is still using 50-odd of them as garden cloches! I hope to follow up the exact nature of these cloches in the near future.... As the time drew nearer, I was getting increasingly hoarse from about five hours continuous talk about Rochdales. Pat had taken the bit between her teeth and set about selling fourteen of the Olympic/GT club mugs we had made earlier that year - she has a reputation of being able to sell anything to anyone, so best keep your hands firmly in your pockets at any future events. I had my grandson lined up for a ride in the Torch procession, but it was just impossible not to get sucked in by the building euphoria as the torch approached the centre and my 40 year-old son (who had feigned indifference for weeks) couldn't resist climbing in alongside when the time came. Also present was Frank Butterworth's grandson - when I realised how much he wanted to be there, he just had to be squeezed into the back as well - ordinarily, no problem at all, apart from the huge box of mugs and club stuff there already. It is surprising just how significant some of these things can be in people's lives: I once gave a ride round the block on the back of my Francis Barnett to my girl friend's young cousin. He rose to the very, very top of Tesco's UK organisation, and, when we met again some thirty years on, he described this to me as one of the most memorable moments of his early life!



Just in time we were all installed in the GT, ready, and eager to get through the throngs and into the procession. Barbara was very anxious that the crowds might feel "the show's over" as the cars drove off, and the back four, led by myself, were supposed to double back into place to prevent this. However, such was the density of the crowd, I had to give this up as impossible - watch the clip, you can see my hesitation! - and we ended up following the other Rochdales as the torch made its way towards Heywood, three miles up the road. After another quick circuit of the town, the Olympics were back in more or less their original places and the discussions started up again... Luckily, the earlier drizzle on the day had broken for long enough for the event to be truly enjoyed, and the afternoon saw brighter patches doing their best to break through.



Into the Town Hall for the closing stages (I had fully intended a closer inspection of its Gothic magnifience but never got near it in the event) but I did present Barbara with a specially mounted version of Roger Coupe's Olympic paperweights, and she responded, rather wonderfully, with a set of eight displays she had made up for the Rochdale marque, which are very portable and should be very useful in future club events. And I hadn't even seen them until this one was over!



A truly memorable day. Despite the weather, the town produced an extremely lively event with lots of other things going on as well as the cars - hula hoops, martial arts, tug of war, acrobatics displays to name a few. Not that I saw any, of course - much too busy! Over 15,000 were said to have turned out to watch the event through the streets of Rochdale, and of the various celebrations seen around the country - Yorkshire TV reported every move through the county in great detail - this was much the best celebration I saw in the weeks leading up to the Olympics, and if I'm a bit biased in making that statement can you blame me? Even those with little enthusiasm at the start had to concede that, yes, this had certainly been quite a day. Sincere thanks are due to Barbara Lloyd and the Link4Life organisation for making it all possible. The idea of getting one of each of the Rochdale models - Mk II, MkVI, F-Type, C-Type, ST, GT, Riviera, Olympics Phase I and Phase II in the centre was mooted for a future celebration. Throw in the odd Rochdale caravan and a Richard Parker Ski-Jet and we would have quite a celebration!



If you missed the day there are a number of clips on U-Tube relating to the day - everyone was so involved it was difficult to spend time on pictures or movies, but a potted review of the cars plus the earlier TV report - BBC were inexplicably missing on the day - and amateur footage of the event are available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHwQspSGU6Q Link4Life are the Rochdale Boroughwide Cultural Trust and a non-profit organisation.



Craig McAteer, Managing Director L4L



torchbearer Luci Teal



Councillor James Gartside, Mayor of Rochdale



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Olympic torchOlympic torchOlympic torch

Left are photographs of the Olympic torch, torch bearers and some of the Rochdale Owners Club members and there cars.

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Rochdale cars in convoy

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History of Rochdale Motor Panels etc.

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If you would like any information or would like to inform us of any forthcoming events, please contact us.

 

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