Warwick Healey Motor Company Archive Catalogue Launch day
I was privileged to attend the launch of the Healey Motor Company Archive launch event held at the Warwickshire County Record Office, Warwick, England, on Monday 22nd May 2017.
I was one of around thirty invited guests who comprised volunteers who had helped in some way toward assembling the catalogue, adding to the archive, raising funds and potential future users of the archive.
I arrived at about 12.45 pm, the event was scheduled to start at 1.00pm. The first person I met, in the car park, where most guests seemed to be standing chatting, was David Scothorn the historical vehicle researcher. David, together with David Matthews, publisher of the http://www.wwah.org/ website, was a volunteer adviser to the WCRO on the Healey Archive project. We chatted for a while and then I spotted Ulric Woodhams, curator and owner of the Jensen Museum located in Shropshire. This was Ulric’s first visit to the WCRO and I had arranged to meet him there in order to introduce him to some of the staff. Not long after the two of us started chatting Rob Eyre, the senior archivist, appeared.
I introduced Ulric to him and a fairly technical discussion, on the pleasures and difficulties of managing archives, ensued. The discussion became even more technical/legal and Rob went back into the building to collect a young lady who was introduced as Merima Hadzic, she is the WCRO’s Compliance officer (until the end of this week when she leaves). She is a delightful and knowledgeable young woman. Ulric learned a great deal from her and I think his trip was made worthwhile just for that encounter alone. People were quite happy to stand chatting in the sunshine, it was so pleasant.
Eventually we entered the building to partake of the snacks that had been laid on. Charming staff served us to food and non alcoholic drinks. Very soon afterwards, mid bite so to speak, Sam Collenette the WCRO’s Archive and Historic records manager, ushered us into the meeting room. We had to either abandon whatever we were eating or drinking or gulp it down. I did the latter. This was entirely our own fault because we had lingered too long in the sun! Quite rightly no food or drink was allowed into the presentation and archive rooms.
Once everyone was in the meeting room and seated Sam gave a ten minute introductory talk. She described how the WCRO had obtained the archive, she praised Cecillia’s and her sister Kate’s role in the record Office being able to purchase the archive. Cecillia and Kate are Geoff and Margot Healey’s daughters. Cecillia had worked at the WCRO for a short time a few years ago. Sam also thanked all the many volunteers who had assisted herself, Rob and Gary in anyway, whether it be adding to the archive itself, conducting ‘oral history’ interviews or raising funds. She then introduced Peter Healey, son of Donald Healey’s second son, Brian (known as Bic). Peter was given the honour of making the first cut in a wonderfully symbolic cake. It was topped by a model of a Mk. 1 Austin Healey Sprite made of icing and marzipan, I assume. One thing that I can say, with certainty, is that it tasted delicious.
Gary Collins, a qualified archivist contracted to the Archive project, then made a ‘power point’ presentation on the work he and his team had done in order to bring the catalogue to fruition. Gary has been involved with all the work associated with cataloguing the archive from the beginning. No one knows more about it than him but he would be too modest to say that himself. So I have.
Gary’s presentation focused on some of the many photographs, drawings (including cartoons) and sales brochures that are in the archive. He showed an example of how a skilled member of the team was able to repair an old technical drawing. The drawing could not be reconstructed, in other words the missing piece remained missing but at least the deterioration had been arrested. The audience appreciated the quiet, calm authority of Gary’s presentation. He had been able to provide a tasty flavour of what future researchers might find in the archive with the aid of the ‘online’ catalogue launched that day.
Gary then handed over to Rob Eyre, the WCRO’s Senior Archivist.
Rob’s presentation was based on the ‘oral history’ element of the project. The Heritage Lottery fund, who had provided much of the money with which the Record Office had been able to purchase the archive, were particularly keen that ‘oral history’ interviews should be conducted. Rob played excerpts from three interviews, two from people who worked at the Healey Motor Company, both at the’The Cape’, Warwick and the ‘old cinema’ on Emscote road, Coten End, Warwick.
I was particularly moved by hearing one of the former employees, Terry Westwood, talk of the tough conditions that the metal craftsmen had to endure, particularly in the winter when the metal was less malleable. No trips to Sebring for him (my words not his) but without his and his colleagues’ skill and hard work those Healey successes on the race track and in rallying could not have been achieved. The third excerpt was from Tony Marshall who, in the early 1970s, worked in Jensen Motor Company’s Kelvin Way, West Bromwich, sales office, selling Jensen-Healeys mainly to the USA.
We also heard a recorded piece from Bridget, one of the ‘oral history’ interviewers. She described how interesting the process was and how enthusiastic all the people she had interviewed had been. It was sometimes difficult to stop the tape these, Healey enthusiasts and former employees had so much to impart. As a fellow interviewer I can concur with Bridget’s view. I have had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing John Moore, streamline Austin Healey Sprite (ex works Sebring car) driver; Bill Price, BMC Competitions Department, Abingdon, Manager and the charming John Harris, works driver for Healey in the mid 1960s and close friend of Geoff and Margot Healey. As I say, what a privilege.
At the end of his presentation Rob directed the guests to another room where photographs, drawings and documents from the archive were on display. But most importantly several computers had been loaded with the ‘online’ Healey Motor Company Archive Catalogue. Guests were encouraged to navigate the catalogue themselves, there were members of Record Office staff on hand to give assistance if required.
One of the highlights of the day for me was seeing a drawing of one the early post war Healey chassis designed by Barrie Bilbie in 1948. Barrie, together with Gerry Coker, stylist of both the Healey 100 and Austin Healey Sprite, were key members of Donald Healey’s design team. Barrie also had an input into the Jensen- Healey chassis design.
So ladies and gentlemen, the Warwickshire County Records Office Healey Motor Company Archive ‘online’ Catalogue is launched. It is up to you to make good use of it. A link is give at the end of this piece.
Here are a few photos from the day –
Here is a link to the ‘online’ catalogue –
To get started type Healey in the search box in the upper right corner.
This post is entirely the work of Nick Maltby who has no contractual relationship with the Warwickshire County Records Office other than when representing that organisation in conducting ‘oral history’ interviews as an unpaid volunteer. Any opinions expressed or observations made are entirely those of the author and may not be shared by any other individual or organisation referred to in this article.