|My Memories of Mike Hailwood
I don't quite know how to begin
- at the beginning, I suppose is the logical answer - but my story is one that
bends logic, as you will see.
Let me begin then before the beginning of
Mike and me. I was a very good student in school. My family lived in a village
on the edge of Toronto, Canada. My parents wanted me to go to a better school
than the local school, but it was beyond their means. My grandmother took me to
meet the Anglican archbishop of Toronto. He very graciously arranged a
scholarship for me on the conditions that I placed in the top 10% on the
entrance exams, kept that high standing and most important of all - used that
education for the benefit of humanity in some way.
Things went well for
several years. I discovered that I had a talent for math and science and
decided that I wanted to be an engineer. What happened next convinced me that I
had gotten off the path. I was in a terrible car accident - so terrible that I
died, went to heaven and came back. I saw many wonderful things there. I have
tried to live my life according to what I saw and learned that day. I saw my
future. I was shown things that I had promised to do before I came into this
life and emerged determined to fulfil that promise.
years to 1967. I was just beginning my career in public education and
fundraising for international development and relief agencies. I worked
full-time for one that could afford to pay me and volunteered nights and
weekends for several others.
Mike prior to the start of the
1961 Junior TT, the only solo race he did not win that year, a broken gudgeon
pin stopped the AJS when in the lead. Standing in front of the machine is Bill
Lacey, who prepared most of Mike's machinery in the early years.
I had a
friend from my engineering period who was very keen on racing. He had two
tickets to a reception for the factory teams that were in town for the first
ever Canadian motorcycle Grand Prix to be held that next weekend. I knew
nothing about the sport and wasn't that keen, but he convinced me to go. He
also brought me a stack of magazines to read. He told me as much as he could
about the riders, etc.. In the summer of 1967 there had been a number of
squabbles over starting money and other issues between the factory and
non-factory riders. Emotions ran high and a lot of them were directed at Mike.
When we arrived at the reception we saw that there were about 200
people there. We separated because he wanted to try to get some autographs. I
went over to the buffet table. The only one there was a rather forlorn looking
Japanese man. I said, "Hello" and started talking with him. He showed me
pictures of his family in Japan and asked about my family - that sort of thing.
Out of the corner of my eye I became aware that someone was watching me. You
know that feeling.
Soon a very nice looking man with a stylish
moustache walked over to me and said" I think that is just about the nicest
thing I have ever seen a woman do." What's that?' I asked as my Japanese friend
faded away. " I've been watching you and you have been spending about 10
minutes talking to Teddy - that's what we call him - and you gave him your full
attention- that was very nice. Unless you speak Japanese it must have been a
very limited conversation." I laughed and replied," 'Well he looked lonely". To
which he replied, "'Well, I 'm lonely, would you talk to me?"
for approximately 5 hours. We talked about music, history, travel - everything
but racing. I actually assumed that he was a journalist or a public relations
type for one of the teams. I was impressed by his gentleness and wide knowledge
of the world.
At one point during the evening flash bulbs went off
amidst a burst of laughter at the opposite end of the very large room. I was
startled and looked in the direction of the lights for a second. He asked if I
would rather be over there. I said, 'no, not at all.' Then it happened again
and he repeated the question a little more insistently. When I replied 'no' a
second time he asked ' are you sure?' .I replied with a laugh and giggling -
"Oh no, that's probably just Mike Hailwood and I wouldn't walk across the room
to meet him'.
I emphasize that I was laughing when I said that. He
looked stricken for a second and asked, 'Why ever not?' I explained about my
friend, the magazines and the briefing. I said that from everything I had heard
he was a jet setting playboy and womanizer, probably rather superficial and not
at all the kind of person I would enjoy talking to. He asked if I was enjoying
talking to him and I replied, "Oh yes, very much so"!
1961 Lightweight TT, Mike rounds
Quarter Bridge on the 250cc Honda-4
after midnight the reception was breaking up. We hadn't been interrupted the
whole time. He asked me to have breakfast with him, then he suggested lunch,
dinner, etc. With every suggestion I kept explaining that I had commitments at
work. He suggested every day until the weekend. Then, finally he asked me if I
was going to the practice on Friday. I said," No, I told you I am really not a
racing fan and besides I have to work." Then finally he asked if I was going to
go to the races on Saturday. I asked him if he was going to be there and he got
an odd look on his face and said, 'You REALLY don't know who I am, do you?" I
said, laughing again (I laugh and giggle a lot) "no, who ARE you?" He replied,
"I'm Mike Hailwood and I'm going to marry you".
Needless to say we saw
each other the next day and every day that week.
The following week was
© Elizabeth McCarthy
Now Read Part Two