The Jim Clark Museum

The trip to Duns has become an annual pilgrimage.  Last year in April, to commemorate fifty years since Jim Clark’s death at Hockenheim in 1968 and, this year, for the opening of the extended and much enhanced museum. Last year in the Elise, this year, 167 miles on the F850 GS on a perfect day for riding.

The displays include a new commemorative film, his trophies, a walk-around time-line of memorabilia and two of his iconic vehicles:  the Lotus 25 R6 on loan from the Tinguely Museum Switzerland and a Lotus Cortina on loan from Dario Franchitti – perfect choices.  Clark was stunning in any Lotus but for real entertainment, there was no better sight than Jim flying the Ford at ten tenths through the apex on three wheels.

The Power of One

The Lotus 25 R6

The Lotus Cortina “in flight”

The interior

Lotus Cortina – close up

Looking at the Cortina more closely, I was reminded that they were originally badged under the Consul brand. My parents belonged to the ‘Ford family’ owning three consecutive Consuls throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. They have appeared at various times in this blog, including the original MK1. Just at the time they might have gone down the Cortina road, they chose the Corsair – a big mistake, the first being so unreliable, it was quickly replaced by another. I can only assume at a significant discount.

The primary difference between the two Corsairs was that the first’s crunchy column-change was finally replaced with a standard floor-change in the second. Mother had learned with a column-change and in her usual determined fashion, she was sticking to it, long after it was a good idea. When they returned from working abroad in the mid 1970s they remained loyal to Ford, finally acquiring a Mk III Cortina. After that it was a Volvo 343 followed by a series of pedestrian Vauxhalls. As with many other aspects of their later years, automotively they had lost their way.

It’s good to remember …

old friends.

Last Sunday evening Miss Janet Clinksale was sitting in her cottage in the Berwickshire village of Chirnside, listening to Songs of Praise on television.

Janet’s home is close to Chirnside kirk, and it was in the churchyard there that Jim Clark was laid to rest two weeks ago.  From her window, Janet could see scores of visitors passing her cottage to visit Jim’s grave, and pay tribute to him.

As you may know, Songs of Praise came from Lenzie last week, and it was led by Kenneth McKellar.  When Kenneth began to sing, as a solo, the old Easter hymn, “When I survey the Wondrous Cross,” it was so beautiful that Janet turned up the sound on her TV, and threw open her front door so the visitors could hear it, too.

As Kenneth’s voice soared out into the still, sunny evening, echoing over the fields, the strangers on the road stopped and gathered round Janet’s door to listen.  Then one of them began to sing the hymn quietly, until all of them were singing it with Kenneth McKellar.  Even the village bobby was there, standing with them.

It was one of those magic moments when time seems to stand still – and when the last notes died away and the visitors turned to go, they took with them a memory that will always be green.

A local Borders paper, May 1968.

Jim Clark’s memory still burns bright.  On Saturday (7th April 2018) we drove the Elise up to Duns and Chirnside, fifty years to the day since that tragic accident at Hockenheim on the saddest of Sundays. Newtown Street in Duns was closed off – a variety of Lotus cars lined the road, Classic Team Lotus displayed a collection of his single seaters, there was an anniversary exhibition at Chirnside Hall and a Commemoration Service at Chirnside Church.

Lotus 43

Lotus 43 + the BRM H-16

Duns, 7th April 2018

A small selection the Evoras and Elises at Duns

Lotus 11 Westfield replica,

This is one of my favourite stories from that sad time which occurred many miles from the small town of Chirnside.  I first came across it in Eric Dymock’s 1997 book – Jim Clark – Tribute to a Champion, Prologue and Epilogue, page 26 – it is unattributed.  The Motor Sport archive is more specific: Shortly after Ed and Sally (Swart) moved to California in 1980 they attended a beach party where one of the guests told them that the day after Clark’s death he had been driving along the 405 freeway.  The announcer on the radio suggested that all those listening who were mourning the death of “the great racing driver Jim Clark” should turn on their headlights. He said the whole of the 405 lit up.

Jim Clark – first and last

Jim Clark has been mentioned in a couple of my recent posts – for those that remember him fondly, this is a brief reminder of his remarkable, diverse talent.  For my non-UK based/non-motor racing aware followers, something by way of explanation:

Clark was my first and last real hero and to this day his reputation and memory remain intact and untarnished.  For a generation of enthusiasts he represents a time, a place and the type of self-effacing reserved genius who is no longer allowed to exist in the age of the ever-present microphone seeking a sound bite, however inane, however inarticulate.

I saw him race just a few times and he did not disappoint.  In a Lotus Cortina he danced like a clown on the high wire making the rest look ordinary.  The fuzzy picture from the 1966 Gold Cup at Oulton Park is straight from Boy’s Own.  Clark in a Lotus Cortina had been in pursuit of a hugely more powerful Galaxie for most of the race, losing touch on the straight, climbing into its boot through the corners.  With just a couple of laps remaining, the American hardware ran out of brakes coming into Old Hall, slammed into the sleepers and flopped into the middle of the circuit. I caught the moment on my dad’s 35mm Werra – Clark can just be seen squeezing by the wreckage before taking the chequered flag in front of an adoring crowd.  Fifteen years old and your hero performs according to the script, all my planets were in alignment.

His untimely death at Hockenheim, a second-rate race at a miserable place, on April 7th 1968 rocked a racing world almost immune to such frequent tragic events.  As an introspective teenager with a consuming passion for motor sport, I was devastated.  Angry at the injustice, disbelieving and deeply saddened – it was like ‘your team’ was no more; imagine if Man United had simply withdrawn from the game after Munich.

Watching cars race by was never quite the same again.

Ouch!

Brian Muir, the pilot of the low-flying Ford Galaxie escaped unharmed – shaken but not stirred:

Muir escapes unharmed - shaken but not stirred

‘Semper Augustus’ was an expression generally associated with a modest man who was one of the great Roman Emporers. Clark was equally modest and it is the word ‘incomparable’ that always springs to mind when speaking, thinking or writing of him. That is just what he was and has remained – Barrie Gill.