77 years of MG machinery gathered at Radley College for the 18th Old Speckled Hen Tour in the annual celebration of Abingdon’s two world-famous brands. Spanning the years 1932 to 2009, it was again a full house of 100 cars arriving, in sunshine, from as far afield as Derbyshire, Essex, Glamorgan and Somerset as well as all corners of the Centre. We also welcomed Rob Cevat who’d driven his 1967 MGB GT from Holland and two members from Spain who travelled with Car Club General Manager Julian White in “Little Gem”, the Club’s 1953 YB. We were also delighted to see our old friend from Australia, George Morgan, who’d only arrived in the country the previous day! Another welcome entrant was this year’s Star Car, the blaze 1973 Midget, which was being given a run out by Chris Seaward who may have been taking part (as opposed to working) in his first Car Club event. If so, we hope it proved a good introduction to what Club events are all about.
After registration and refreshments, the cars were flagged away by President, Bill Wallis, who we were delighted was again able to join us for the day. This year’s Tour was to the West of the Centre taking in the Cotswolds with their mellow stone cottages and, with a clear day, the wonderful views over the countryside could be fully enjoyed. The lunchtime halt was Sezincote, just over our borders in Gloucestershire, a few miles outside Moreton-in-Marsh. A private family home which has very limited public opening times, it had been opened just for us and whilst the house itself was not open, the extensive, impressive grounds and gardens were available to us to explore and enjoy our picnics.
The Indian-style house is thought to be the only Moghul building surviving in Western Europe and the inspiration for the Brighton Pavilion. The venue proved a hit with the following quote not un-typical, “Sezincote was a delightful & fascinating place for lunch and one I had never previously explored or was particularly aware of, because the signs tend to lure one to Bourton-on-the-Hill or Batsford Aboretum! I have made a note to return there one day, and to choose a day when one can explore the house too. The Orangery exuded the most glorious perfume of orange blossom and jasmine and truly reminded one of days gone by and a lifestyle no longer affordable!”
The shorter afternoon run went through parts of North Oxfordshire before cutting across to the West and returning to Radley for a cream tea and the presentations of Old Speckled Hen glasses and commemorative pin badges. Cans of Old Speckled Hen were also awarded to our Dutch travellers for the furthest travelled in an MG to get to the event and the winner of the quiz was Peter Venables. As Peter wasn’t there to collect his prize of a bottle of wine, it was taken by brother John who did promise to pass it on; we may well have to check! As John had used a total of three MGs to complete this year’s Tour, perhaps he deserved an award anyway!
Organisers, Mike & Caroline Parker have become synonymous with the Old Speckled Hen Tour, but this was their last as they feel it is time to hand it on. Undoubtedly, a hard act to follow, we’re very grateful for their considerable efforts over the past 9 years and we look forward to welcoming them as entrants in 2011!
We’re also grateful to Greene King for their continued support which is very much appreciated.
Text: Richard Martin. Photos: Malcolm Bailey.