The picture top left probably looks a little unusual: Market Square Marlow, in front of the Crown Hotel, with an assembly of local dignitaries under a canopy and with a large crowd keeping the roadway clear, obviously eagerly awaiting the arrival of someone or something.  

First to show up, in his impressive chauffeur-driven car was the town's most famous resident, 95-year-old General Sir George Higginson, 'Father' of the Grenadier Guards, and hero of the Crimean War. His snow-white hair can just be seen in the centre of the picture, lower left. However he was not the main personality of the day, and the lady in question would probably have been a contender for the title of the most famous Marlovian at that time: she lived at Spinfield House on the hillside opposite Sir George's Henley Road family mansion Gyldernscroft.  

This was Lady Vera Terrington, Liberal Member of Parliament for Wycombe and Marlow. (Her husband Lord Harold Terrington later ended up in Parkhurst Prison. but that is another story!)  She had been asked by the Town Council to perform a christening ceremony on the new motorised fire tender purchased from the Dennis Company: this to replace the horse-drawn one that was featured on this page two weeks ago.

It was a huge improvement and was promised to offer a faster and more efficient fire-fighting service for the town. Sidney Chalk, father of Cyril, became Brigade Captain. The Sawyer family of undertakers were still stalwarts of the Brigade: Harry is standing far right in the last picture alongside the new vehicle. The very knowledgeable local ancestry researchers Kathryn and Charlotte were able to add to my previous piece that Harry had in fact been injured in the Duchess Place fire that I gave details of. 

There is a very similar picture a few years later of the new tender outside the Crown and by the iron gates on the archway that was the Brigade's headquarters, and in that one a teenaged Cyril, then at Borlase school, is watching the photograph being taken.

In one of his 1960s newspaper articles, Cyril remembered a story told to him by his father that originally it had been assumed that Lady T would just perform a simple ceremony in the Market Square and perhaps splash some champagne over the new tender's bonnet. But no, she insisted on driving it from Henley Road herself, along West Street and into the Market Square, and this was a lady that you did not argue with -  she had a very strong personality, in an era when a female Member of Parliament was a rarity. The centre picture is Vera at the wheel of 'Vera'. The nameplate in her honour was affixed a bit later. I wonder if, in 1920, she would have needed special insurance to drive a fire tender. 

That reminds me of one of the best lines in 'Only Fools & Horses'.  Uncle Albert is instructed to drive the Trotters' three-wheel van a very short distance (about 25 yards) to pick up Del and Rodney. 'But I'm not insured' protests Albert. 'Well, don't have a crash then' says Rodney. 

Contact Michael at or 01628 486571.