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Who Was the First Owner?

Although I've owned my 2 litre SS Jaguar saloon since 1993 it is only recently that I was able to trace any living relatives of the first owner. I have the vehicle information sheet from Jaguar Cars Ltd which tells me that the car was dispatched in January 1939 and that the first owner was a Mr J. F. Hardie who bought it from Henlys in Manchester.

The car was scrapped in 1964 but was rescued shortly after by a couple of local lads from the scrap yard in Shepton Mallet. I believe it was scrapped because of a cracked engine block but was otherwise in pretty reasonable condition. Unfortunately it lost its registration number in the scrap yard and I've been unable to determine what it was.

I had hoped that by tracing any living relatives of Mr Hardie that I might be able to establish what the registration number was and possibly see family photos showing the car in its first ownership.

My starting point was the lists of births, marriages and deaths. I assumed that Mr Hardie would be in middle age when he bought the car in 1939 and so I scanned through the death lists for the 1950s 60s, 70s and 80s. Fortunately the name Hardie spelt with "ie" is not very common in England and I only found two J. F. Hardies who had died in what I thought to be the correct period. One of these spent his childhood in Bristol, which I found interesting because although the car had been bought in Manchester it had found its way to Somerset to be scrapped.

Pursuing this Mr Hardie I found that he had died in Weston Super Mare in 1959 and that he had been a fruit importer. A combination of old telephone directories and the birth marriage and death indexes allowed me to determine that this gentleman had married a local girl in Bristol and they had moved to London and then to Liverpool. Unfortunately I could find no children from their marriage. I then looked for children of his sister and his older brother. His sister was married but again produced no offspring. However, his older brother did have a son and last year I managed to trace his widow who lives in Swanage. She remembers visiting the Hardies in Liverpool but had no memory of the car. Even more unfortunately she told me that her late husband's side of the Hardie family didn't get on with my Mr Hardie and had little contact. She was able to tell me that he was a manager with Elders & Fyffes in Lancashire.

This was all very disappointing but prodded by another SS register member, Ken Page, I then decided to try to trace my Mr Hardie's wife's family. At first I had some difficulty in finding a death record for Hylda Nelsie Hardie but then the penny dropped. She must have re-married! Back to BMD indexs and I discovered that she had re-married and that she outlived her second husband too. I then obtained a copy of her death certificate and to my delight found that her death had been reported by a nephew. Great! I thought. The reporter was next generation so there was a chance he was still alive. Once again I was fortunate in that his name was not especially common and it didn't take long for me to discover him in the current Bristol phone book.

With trepidation I dialled the number. There was no reply but I left a message on his answering machine and to my delight he called back shortly after and not only confirmed some of the other addresses that I had traced Mr Hardie to but remembered being driven in the car and correctly confirmed its colour without prompting. This was just before Christmas 2009 but in January this year I went to visit Mr Hardie's nephew and found out something of the nature of my first owner.

I was intriqued to know whether Mr Hardie (Fred as he was known) fitted the slightly caddish character that SS car owners had back then. It turned out that he was fairly status conscious and liked to dress well, a picture confirmed by his spats and top hat in his wedding photo, but he suffered badly from migraine and he was very careful with himself. His nephew described how for such a car he drove very slowly and said how "he didn't care who overtook him, he would continue to drive slowly." I suspect his wife who was twelve years his junior and quite vivacious might have contributed to his choice of car. She is described as a bird released from a cage after his death and this is borne out by the later photos of her.

There were lots of family photos of Fred, including one of him sitting in a Bullnose Morris Cowley and another standing beside what could be a high chassis Invicta. Alas, there were no shots showing the Jaguar. I suspect that I've now reached the end of the line in tracing this period of my car's history. Fred and Hylda continued to live in Liverpool until the mid 1950s at which time I suspect he retired and they moved back to the Bristol area where both had been brought up. This explains why the car was purchased in Manchester but scrapped in Shepton Mallet. I don't know what happened to it during the war but I suspect it was laid-up and from the description of his nephew it doesn't sound as if it had a very hard life up until Fred died in 1959. I know it didn't cover a vast mileage after being scrapped although the period from '59 until '64 still remains a mystery to me.

The factory records show that the car was Suede Green but the owner previous to me changed it to its present black and yellow colour scheme. This change from green to yellow and black now seems very appropriate given that its first owner was a banana salesman!

Fred in his Bullnose Morris:

Fred with a grander vehicle and a nephew:

Fred & Hylda on their Marriage:

Hylda pictured after Fred's death: