David Parkin on a Stirling story, monkey business and social distancing Yorkshire style

MOTOR racing legend and all round colourful character Sir Stirling Moss died this week at the age of 90.

Often when a well known person passes on I’ll write something and find an often tenuous connection or memory I have of them.

In Sir Stirling’s case I don’t so I’m going to live vicariously through my friend Jonny Hick who recounted his story about the speedster:

Reading the extensive and expansive coverage of Sir Stirling Moss’s death in the main news and obituary and sports sections of several newspapers on Monday, I was reminded of the lifelong status, importance and fearlessness of the great man across almost every facet of motorsport (winning a remarkable 40% of all the races he ever entered), and I wondered who I could tell my Stirling Moss story to. Recalling that it involved Derby, you immediately drew the short straw.

So here goes.

In January 1995 (in my ad agency days) I had a brilliant (in my view) idea and wrote to 1,000 family owned companies celebrating 25, 50, 75 or 100 years in business that year, offering to mark their anniversaries in a variety of creatively innovative ways.

Only one replied – Don Marshall, Chairman and founder of Mertrux Derby, celebrating 25 years as a Mercedes-Benz truck dealer. I was invited to Mertrux’s impressive modern HQ on Pentagon Island and shook hands with its jolly, affable, totally charming but very down to earth founder, who resembled more of a ruddy farmer from Darling Buds of May than a multimillionaire representative of one of the world’s most prestigious automotive brands.

Don was infectiously likeable and totally passionate about his product and his people (both staff and customers) and over a couple of hours we hatched a plan and I was hired.

For the next few months I’d visit Derby every fortnight to spend an afternoon either in Don’s office or the kitchen at the 100-acre farm where he lived (I subsequently found out his non automotive passion was his herd of prized Charolais cattle).

We pored through 25 years of photographs and memories, which I subsequently wrote up and compiled into a lovely coffee table book, which we printed a thousand copies of. He was so proud to have a permanent record of his memories and achievements to share with his Mertrux flock. Having started off my career as an advertising copywriter, I was also very proud to have brought his story to life and I now reflect on that book as one of the most enjoyable creative works I have produced over the years. My contribution came from the heart as I very genuinely liked and respected this lovely man.

The next step was to have a book launch/25th anniversary party and we decided upon a black tie gala dinner for staff and customers at a prestigious local venue. The only missing ingredient was a guest of honour who would draw the crowds and reflect the gravitas of the occasion.

A subsequent loudspeaker call between the two of us and the Chief Executive of Mercedes-Benz UK (I only later discovered how revered Don was by M-B top brass in the UK and Germany – he was quite a legend), we quickly were led to the silver bullet solution – “Mister” Stirling Moss, a 45 year partner and ambassador of Team Mercedes (Stirling’s greatest achievement probably being his winning of the legendary thousand mile 1955 Mille Miglia in a Mercedes 300SLR, shattering every record in the history of the race and beating teammate Juan Manuel Fangio into second place by 32 minutes in what Motor Trend magazine described as “the most epic drive ever”).

Within 24 hours of the phone call, Stirling had graciously accepted the invitation (we never received a bill so I presume Mercedes covered his costs or pulled in a favour). Soon after, Don and I travelled to London for a wonderful lunch with him close to his home in Shepherd Market where he entertained us with story after story of first hand motor racing history in the most eloquent, knowledgeable and interesting way – without an inch of superiority, smugness or arrogance.

He was just the same on the big night, mixing easily with the guests and genuinely interested in their own connection with and passion for Mercedes-Benz. It was an honour to look after him before, during and after the event and to have a farewell drink in our hotel at midnight. I recall I had a port and he had an orange juice. I guess that’s why I abandoned my driving career many years ago. Who knows how many podiums I might have stood on had I been teetotal and not terrified of excess speed!

As I pored through Stirling’s photographs this week, I was reminded of the single biggest impression he made on me at the time – his dapperness. He was sartorially immaculate and in that, coupled to his size, build, looks and hairline, he reminded me uncannily of a good friend of mine – one David Parkin. I’ve yet to discover if James Michelsberg was Sir Stirling’s tailor, but I’d not be surprised.

The recollection of it all caused me to trip back down memory lane to check on the current status (if any) of Mertrux. I was delighted to discover that the Group is thriving – now the longest serving Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle dealer in the UK, approaching its half century and still very much in the control of the Marshall family – Don’s children and grandchildren working within it. Eldest son Ian, who I remember well, is Group Managing Director presiding over 6 branches – 4 Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the East Midlands and 2 DAF dealerships in Lancashire and Scotland. Sadly Don is no longer with us. He died in November 2011, but it was heartrending to read the reverential tributes to him in the commercial vehicle press. Ian commented at the time “if there is one thing my father taught me, it is that this is a ‘people’ business, always has been and always will be”. I can confirm that Stirling Moss was in the people business too – he was a man of the people who loved talking cars and racing with anyone who was interested. For all his greatness and achievements, there wasn’t one ounce of Prima Donna in the man I met in Derby a quarter of a century ago.

I turned over the double page Moss obituary in The Times to find the obituary of another legend from my childhood – Tim Brooke-Taylor, who it turns out, had a little known link to Sir Stirling, in that he was born in Derbyshire and was, for a time, a director of Derby County. I bet not a lot of people know of that Derby connection between the two of them…as I am the rather tenuous link.

But now you do.

Thanks Jonny.

Some people call him a name dropper but my God, he’s got some good names to drop.

And plenty of talent and personality to boot.


TIM Brooke-Taylor died this week, another high profile victim of Covid-19.

He made several generations of Britons laugh, starting his career performing in the Footlights at Cambridge University and going on to work on radio and television with John Cleese, David Frost and most memorably, with Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie as The Goodies.

He was also a panellist for over 40 years in the hilarious BBC Radio comedy panel show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue

What I didn’t know is that he was one of the writers and performers of The Four Yorkshiremen sketch alongside John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman on At Last The 1948 Show.

It was of course later revived by the Monty Python team and remains one of their best loved sketches.

What I also didn’t know about Buxton-born Derby County fan Tim Brooke-Taylor is that he had an uncredited role as a scientist at the end of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder.

And he played two characters in a film called One Man Band which was not completed and never released.

The director was Orson Welles.

In tribute to Tim Brooke-Taylor I include a clip of The Goodies performing their song The Funky Gibbon on Top of The Pops.

It reached number four in the charts in 1975.

Ok, after three:

“Come on everybody, it’s gibbon time…”



A NOTE arrives from property entrepreneur and very good footballer (he looks and plays like a young Scott Parker) Ian Elsworth after I included a video of a comedy sketch featuring Roy Castle a couple of weeks ago and mentioned lawyer and spoon player Ian Shuttleworth.

“Thanks for the blog as always, made me smile on two fronts.

“I was supposed to be meeting Mr Shuttleworth for a long overdue catch up, before this dastardly lock down set in and secondly, my great grandmother used to knit cardigans for Roy Castle when he started Record Breakers!”

As claims to fame go, it’s up there.


What I’m looking forward to this week.


I READ an article which celebrated 35 years ago this week Hagler v Hearns happened – widely acknowledged as one of the greatest fights in boxing history.

Sports website The Athletic had an interview with Bob Arum, the promoter of the Las Vegas clash, who is still a major player in boxing at the age of 88 and works with WBC Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury.

If you haven’t seen the fight before, even after three-and-a-half decades, the level of aggression, intensity and energy is still quite stunning.

Held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, the bout was given the promotional title ‘The War’ and, unlike some boxing clashes, didn’t just live up to the pre-fight hype, exceeded it.

It featured undisputed World Middleweight Champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler (Marvelous wasn’t a nickname, he had legally added it as his name), fearsome, muscular shaven-headed who was unbeaten in nine years and had made 10 defences of his title.

In the other corner, the World Light-Middleweight Champion, tall, rangy Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns, fighting out of the Kronk gym in Detroit, who, despite his lean frame, was a phenomenal puncher with a right hand which had knocked out most of his opponents including a two-round destruction of Roberto Duran.

Fight promoter Bob Arum said this week that he has put on 655 title fights in his 50-year career in boxing and Hagler v Hearns remains the greatest.

I’ve watched it many times and each time I do, I’m still not quite sure who’s going to win.

Now I’m looking forward to watching it again.


ANOTHER email arrives from a reader (haven’t people got anything better to do?).

Richard Doyle, who founded and successfully sold Yorkshire-based  IT business Esteem Systems, posed a question about last week’s blog.

“David, very entertaining as usual but I wonder if the ‘lockdown’ is taking its toll on you?”

“Great tits, legover and dogging – I thought I was reading a copy of the Sun at one point – at least that’s what I believe they write about.”


Reasons to be cheerful

THERE are an awful lot of video clips, photos and GIFs being sent round via email, text, Whatsapp and social media during the lockdown.

Given we are all at something of a loose end, it is not unexpected.

Some are funny, some aren’t and some are quite tasteless.

My thanks then to Andrew Batty, managing director and founder of Creative Marketing Services in Leeds for this contribution, which did make me smile.

It speaks for itself.

Oh, those wrinkled stockings.

I’m just going for a lie down.

Have a great weekend.


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