Sigh

The late Mr. Brian Verrall.How easy it is to forget people and events from your past – only to have them jump back into the forefront of one’s thoughts. This was brought home to me yesterday at the Stafford Classic Bike Show – the largest of its kind in the world. Despite my often griping at having to shift motorcycles around, and my father’s spurious lies to the contrary, I have and always have had an abiding interest in all things mechanical. My father ought to know this, as when I was a lot younger he used to take me away to do autojumbles up and down the country at weekends – this when I could still curl up inside the footwell of our Mercedes van and go to sleep!

So it was with great sadness that I discovered that an acquaintance of my father, Brian Verrall, passed away on February 2nd. My father, and consequently me, travelled alot to London during the last years of the Thatcher government – business was good as people still had plenty of money to burn back then, but after doing deals my father would retire to “Verralls of Tooting”, the first and perhaps the most well-known seller of vintage cars and motorcycles. Like myself, my father has a great desire to learn and share information, and quite frankly what he doesn’t know about British motorcycles isn’t worth knowing. Brian Verrall (always “Mr. Verrall” to little 5 year-old me) was much the same, except his expertise stretched to automobiles as well.

He had started collecting motorcycles in the 1940s (such a long time ago now), and then in the 1960s he bought some shops in Tooting Bec and turned them into the world’s first vintage vehicle showroom. He’d already been there for nearly quarter of a century when we went to see him regularly. It’s been nearly twenty years for me now (!) but I can still remember the absolute thrill of sitting in the driver’s seat of a ridiculously rare, immaculate car from the dawn of the car. Such an amazing and varied collection, all drawn together by Mr. Verrall, who even then struck me as being an utter gentleman in every single way (I don’t such things too often, not that a man like him could possibly need my praise).

He moved from his London premises in 1991 to the countryside of West Sussex – far too rural for my liking but he still maintained a beautiful showroom. A few years ago, while on yet another tour of this great country of ours, the family popped in to the new “Verralls” showroom. By then I actually knew a teeny bit more about motorcycles and it was such a pleasure looking at all the lovely stuff as we were given the Grand Tour. And Mr. Verrall was still as kindly as ever – he unfortunately remembered me! And for no good reason whatsoever he gave my brother and I a tenner each – sheer kindness.

I often rail at my father to keep in better touch with his motorcycling world contacts, and I feel guilty that he didn’t do so with Mr. Verrall. The world has lost yet another gentleman, and I am left with yet more kodachrome memories.

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