‘Rolls’ of Coincidence

2011-01-12 00:00

THE article in the Weekend Witness caught the attention of my husband, who during his convalescence after a ‘close call’, had spent time with my widowed father of 83, and been regaled with tales of days gone by. The article concerned a restored Rolls Royce which would be on show at the forthcoming Cars in the Park and mentioned that the current­ owner, Penny Meakin, whose father had found the 1936 Rolls Royce in Zambia, had no idea how it had arrived there.

As Dad had mentioned the 1936 Rolls Royce he once owned, a call to a friend to obtain the contact number for the son of mutual­ friends who worked for the paper, produced the contact for the organiser of Cars in the Park, who in turn reverted with contact details for Penny. My father’s excitement at the possibility of the coincidence about solving the mystery was tangible. He delved into folders to unearth the original purchase invoice from Conway Motors, and the engine and chassis number of his Rolls, which he relayed to Penny; she confirmed that it was, indeed, the very same vehicle, only the engine had been taken out and placed in another Rolls Royce, which was currently in England. The chassis and other parts found with the Rolls had been used to create the convertible, with new body parts, lovingly hand-beaten and a reconstructed wooden frame. An invitation was extended to meet at Penny’s home for a drive; the brilliant day dawned, perfect for the treat to see the exquisitely restored Rolls.

A crumpled photograph of the beautiful black Rolls, uncovered among memorabilia, was shown to Penny, with a comment that “sadly the original Spirit of Ecstacy was stolen­ outside a pub soon after purchase”. Penny had been able to confirm the night before that the Rolls Royce had been found by her father in Ndola (Zambia) with a Major Buss and that Arnold Skinner, my father, had been the previous owner; this too was explained, as the Rolls had been sold in 1964 “after I acquired a heterogeneous piece of American tinware”.

And so the memories flashed and details flooded back, which was astounding given the decades that had passed. The 1936 Rolls Royce, with a Van der Plas body, had been bought on a visit to England in 1956, for the sum of £445, shipped back as a grease-encased co-passenger on the Bloemfontein Castle to Cape Town before being driven up to Kitwe.

In 1959, entered in a vintage rally from Johannesburg to Durban as a classic, the engine had failed; it had been railed back home to Zambia for repairs. Recollections included an incident during the dinner after the rally.

Two owners of other vintage cars, one with a Bentley, the other with a Phantom Rolls Royce, had swopped keys and taken their new cars; an anecdote which surfaced with the nostalgia.

In passing, mention of the Bentleys discovered by my father in a similar state to what Penny’s father had found the Rolls were passed on to a researcher of vintage­ cars, which led to the tracking down of family cine spools which my ex-sister-in-law miraculously found in her store.

We were given the name of Neil Adcock, a former Springbok cricketer, who, coincidentally, was known to my father during his umpiring days, and who converted the eight millimetre cines to DVDs in which there were scenes of the Durban beachfront amusement park in 1959, the rally in 1959 and the Bentleys.

Once again, coincidence was foremost in the saga as a story of assisting to start a single­-horizontal cylinder 1902 Oldsmobile at 2 am in Scottburgh (“which made a heck of a noise”) came back as part of holiday memories­ with the Rolls at the Cutty Sark.

A fortnight later at Cars in the Park, two cars down from the Rolls was a Phantom Rolls Royce, now belonging to the Crookes family (yet another coincidence as my father­ had been employed at Sezela Sugar Mills in his earlier years).

The current owner­ of the Phantom Rolls Royce confirmed that it was the very same car that had been swopped at the party following the 1959 Vintage Rally. The comment was: “Well I never. Who would have ever thought … 50 years on…’

The Rolls of Coincidence, started with a Saturday newspaper article, developing connections, stirring memories, firing nostalgia­, creating contacts and bringing us all to realise the value of keeping records, even those of just an old Rolls Royce.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.