Our Poets

Not as good a turnout as I would have hoped for but a few nice pieces nevertheless. In response to my request for your poems here are a few from Mark Head and Malcolm Davis with a little ‘top-up’ from myself to make up the numbers.


The Pike by Malcolm Davis


Malcolm Davis

“If you’d asked for sporting achievements I’d have nothing at all to offer.  I was a duffer but I did write poem while in the 1st year, age 11 (probably during a German lesson) and naturally it was about my preoccupation at that time – fishing. I sometimes still spell ‘decieved’ incorrectly”.


Mark Head


Well, I have a few Poems ‘what I have wrote’ from the past and near present. I had one published in The Rook in 1968 Entitled ‘Lone Survivor’.

You may remember the news tale of the day of the sinking of the fishing vessel ‘Ross Cleveland’ in Icelandic waters during a ferocious storm. Just one survived. It was a terrible story, worthy of any Icelandic Saga.


‘Lone Survivor’ by Mark Head


More recently, I have written poetry in times of trouble and of joyful times – here are four attached – the first was in the 90’s recession when I was working 60 hrs a week helping to keep the firm afloat. It was a horrible time. The first poem, written in 2000 and called ‘Drudgery’s Redress’  is very metaphysical – that’s me, I am afraid! I love the metaphysical poets of the 17th century, particularly Herbert and Herrick. The last line reflects on a spiritual theme, particularly.


Where should I find the course to drudgery’s redress?
Where lays its warm, clear current, that soothing stream?
If I came upon it would I know its softening gleam?
Would it pass me by, through my busied foolishness?
To lave some other, more discerning soul
Who keeps a vigil for his heartfelt dream?

What hope have I to find that my work’s addressed?
To dream without the nightmares of the toiling hour,
Remorselessly abundant in their nocturnal dower;
To awake from sleep without a tightening breast,
Released from those same dutiful cares
Taken all too heavily to my bower.

Yet within my hectic main do lay brief paradises there;
Unctuous moments hang from boughs too high for casual graze,
Too high for a wearied mind, too high for tired eyes to gaze;
Too sweet, too rich, too brief for a famished heart to bear;
A heart too dulled, without a respite from the turning wheel,
Too numbed and cynically inclined for glories to amaze.

Where is this enigmatic flow that warms the ultimate, distant land?
Where are the trade winds that drive this barque to the favoured shore?
Too often and too long the storms that heap up frantic rush afore,
Obscure the way ahead and sight of longed-for far-off strand;
How long, how much is yet to be endured of this unabating grind?
How deep and how sustaining are the rations left in store?

So where and how do I set my sextant against a lowering sky?
How do I set a course through troubled waters cold and deep?
What unhappy dealings shall I encounter, what fortunes shall I reap?
“Turn to the Chart, you foolish man”, I heard from an unrequested cry,
“Look to the Cartographer’s Marks and tell me what you see”;
Things that make my heart to laugh; more, things that make me weep.


The second, written in 2001 after my father’s death, is entitled ‘the Sweetest Cup’ and is overtly Christian in its character. I make no apology for that. It asks the question in each verse ‘is it relevant to me today or is it just a tale of the past’, and speaks of life and death.



Was it many forgotten centuries past
Or by brighter light of yesterday
That the Fruit of Heaven fell to earth
Clothed in humility resplendent?
Perhaps it was just a few short hours
Since that timeless celestial crimson
Upon the hard and bitter earth was spilt;
Or was it just by history attendant?

Was it just in Age’s wrinkles formed?
Or lately upon fresh moments laid
That a Greater Love than heart can tell
Was rent upon a beam impassioned?
Hangs it like a faded talisman
On the hearth of memory’s parlour?
Or an ever fresh, provoking ikon
Of merciful reproach importuned?

Was it far ago a broken reed was mended
And wounded feet impressed a gritty strand,
Or today an enigmatic voice is calling
To a faith that is broken in despair?
Was it then that festal bread was broken
To reveal a rapture once emboundened,
Or even yet that dark, embittered vision
Can be restored to sweet repair?

Shall it come in time’s untrodden march
That a clarion fanfare shall announce
The passing of our earthbound sleeping?
Or but a moment’s passing unveil the bower;
When at last that sallow, hushed cocoon
Shall loose its gossamer custodial wraith
With wings unfurled in metamorphic blaze
To reach th’ethernal nectar-burdened flower?

Come, my life, with fervour meld together,
In the cauldron of my heart’s outworking,
The deeds of far and near times wrought
By the One Eternal Mind endearing;
Truth of Ages in the cleansing fire
Will render down my meagre harvest
To make the wine of mercy’s vintage;
The sweetest cup of perpetual cheering.


The third and fourth are poems of Springtime. One written in 2002 whiles sat in Golden Park north of Leeds, contemplating the sunlight through early shoots. That is entitled ‘Evocation of Spring’. The last is called ‘Ode to a Daffodil’ and was written in 2011 whilst observing the spears of narcissi pushing their way through barren and frozen soil.

Evocation of Spring

Earth rich bequeathed and sweetly smelling,
The verdant eruption of ground-borne vigour;
An antiphon to lately awakened birdsong
Forms the substance of the promise of Summer.

Low rays of sun glinting through acid yellow,
Happy purple nodding gleefully in icy breezes,
Clear-barked frames adorned with last year’s fatness
Awaiting the vernal-chime of their leafy epiphany.

Glossy green medallions of winter-harboured wisdom
Overseeing the re-birth of mortality’s abundant wheel;
Melancholy russet is subsumed by nature’s bosom,
Easter’s mystery revealed in Winter’s bitter passing.



Colin Cadle



Not quite in the same class as the poems above but I wrote this in 1995 just before turning 50 in memory of my childhood days spent on holiday in Whitstable. My heaven was Jaques Arcade just off the seafront where I got my fascination for automata. One, in particular, was a gruesome tableau of a man being read the last rites before being hung. It was called ‘The Execution of Crippen’ but my Dad referred to it as ‘The Shaky Book’ because of the way the tiny priest raised and lowered his bible before the trap door opened and the little prisoner was executed.


A Child’s Execution

Do I wish I’d had a camera, back in fifty-three?
Do I wish I’d taken photographs, so now my friends could see?
Copper coins and ice cream cones and leaving brought on tears
The magic then of Jacque’s Arcade to a child of seven years.

“Please spare some pennies for me Dad
But you’ll have to lift me up”
And within the sound of crashing waves
I’d try the “Lucky Cup”

First penny in, a ball drops out, I spin it round and round
Will it win or will it lose, it makes a whooshing sound?
And then it misses “Lucky Cup”, “You’ve lost that one my son”.
A small face drops, Dad puts me down, and my first penny’s gone.

Another in, three wooden balls, I roll them up the track
I’m only small, not yet strong, they just keep rolling back.
Dad shows me how, and with one flick the ball shoots up the slope
There’s sixty on the scoreboard now, but my score? – not a hope.

One penny left, I reach tiptoe and suddenly it’s gone
Lights start to flash, a motor whirrs and father watches son.
An open door, a man is hanged, his final retribution
It’s stayed with me across the years, that fairground execution.

No, that camera wasn’t needed, way back in fifty three
And I didn’t need those photographs so others now could see
Where Jacque’s once stood, they still bowl balls, but of a different kind
The memory stays, I don’t need snaps, they’re safer in my mind.

But fun costs more than pennies now
There’s death and grown-up fears,
And magic’s now in Life’s Arcade
To this child of fifty years.

If you would like to kindly make your contribution for 2018 please click HERE.


David Vincent

David Vincent



It is with great sadness that we must announce the passing of our father, David Vincent (known to some as David Sinclair). 

Chris, Steve, and Ross Vincent

This sad news was brought to our attention by Adrian Appley who his reply to David’s family wrote:


“I am sure I need not tell you how saddened I was to read that we have lost David. I will let the ex Cray Valley Tech. lads know.  He was quite a character and not only during his time at school.  As a fan of pirate radio in the 1960s I was delighted to know he was part of this wonderful era.  My condolences to you all”  Adrian.


I am afraid we have no further information at this time.



Cray Valley (Paper Mills) Football Club

An email appeal from Stephen Dodds

Stephen has sent us this email on the off-chance that one of our readers may be able to help with information.

“I am a committee member of Cray Valley (PM) Football Club. In 2019 we are 100 years old and we are going do some special events. I have looked at our history and our first games were against Hamilton House, but have no information about players, managers, the strip they played in, why they were formed and the location of home games etc.

Any help would be appreciated”.

Beckenham Technical School – 1950s

David Shepherd, now living in Australia kindly sent us this picture for the blog. Both headmaster John Kingsland and Deputy Head Reg Mayo came from the Beckenham school and some of our older boys may have an interest in this. You can contact David by email below.


Beckenham Technical School – Head Master Gilchrist & Prefects 1955/6

I thought that you might be interested in the attached. I am in the back row standing 4th from the left.
I have been trying, without any success, to connect with Beckenham Technical School Old Boys and thought perhaps some of your readers might have a connection with the school, and an interest group could be started.
The Building is now, of course, ‘Venue 28’ but the web does not give carry any references at all to the use of the building by the Beckenham Technical School.
This Wikipedia item states that the Beckenham and Penge ‘County’ School (my recollection is that it was called the Beckenham and Penge Grammar School) occupied the building at some stage. There is, however, no mention of its use by the Technical School.
David Shepherd (Email)

Response from Peter Hider


Hi David
I was a pupil at Cray Valley Tech from 1956 to 1961 and saw the post and photo that Colin Cadle put up for you on our old boys site regarding Beckenham Grammar School.
It is a very tenuous connection that I have to the photo of your class in that my brother Dave’s best man was Derek Wickens who is first on the left in the front row. He went on to become a brilliant computer programmer as is now living in happy retirement in Somerset. He attended my brother’s Golden Wedding Anniversary party last year and hasn’t really changed a lot since that photo was taken.
I’ve known him since he was about 17 and I was 12, when he had an enormous passion for old cars including an XK140. He took me down the Sidcup Bypass in it on one occasion and reached the terrifying speed of 140mph. (No restrictions then). It was made more exciting by not having a passenger seat, only a cushion. He was an accomplished pianist and I can vividly remember him playing the William Tell Overture at enormous speed. It could, of course, have been the only piece he played.
Many happy memories of our childhood. I’ve sent him the photo and your email address and he may or may not respond.
I’ve spent some time in NSW where my daughter lived for about seven years but now she’s back in the UK for good I doubt whether I’ll make it back to Oz again.
Good luck with your search
Best regards
Peter Hider

2018 Contributions – Gentle Reminder

It has been a full 6 weeks now since I last mentioned it but may I again gently remind you if you haven’t already done so, to kindly make your 2018 contribution towards the maintenance of our website and blog? I know from your private emails how much our work is appreciated and that is very satisfying to know, thank you. However, we still very much need your support throughout the year and you can give this simply by clicking HERE. Thank you all as always.



Peter George Woodward – A Service of Thanksgiving

Peter George Woodward
A Service of Thanksgiving 21st February 2018


Along with other old Cray Vallians, I was privileged to attend the Service of Thanksgiving on Wednesday, 21st February 2018 for our Music Master Peter Woodward which was held at St Botolph’s Church, Chevening, Kent, where Peter is buried.

The Order of Service, arranged by Peter himself, was informative and at times very humorous. It was attended by over 130 people including Peter’s family, friends, carers, neighbours; and staff and pupils from the Sevenoaks School where after leaving Cray Valley he was Director of Music from 1974 until his retirement from teaching in 1993.
A number of fitting musical tributes were performed during the Service including some by Peter’s old Sevenoaks School students (shown in the Order of Service as ‘O.S’ – ‘Old Senockian’) and by his teaching colleagues.

Very appropriate tributes were paid with Peter being described as “fun, great company and at the same time a very private person”. His great modesty was emphasised. It was clear that what Peter had undertaken musically at Cray Valley continued into his time at Sevenoaks School where he developed the musical talents of many pupils including successes such as Emma Johnson, BBC Young Musician of the Year in 1984, and Matthew Best founder of the Corydon Singers, and others. At the time of his retirement, 39 instrumental teachers were coming to the Sevenoaks School.

In telling everyone of Peter’s time at Cray Valley Mike Bolton, sometime Acting Head, Sevenoaks School said:-
“Cray Valley School ceased to exist in 1975 but there is an amazing Website recording the life of the School. It has been devised by a former pupil and has a section called ‘Woodward Archive’. It gives a wonderful insight into Peter’s work at the School. There are pictures of music programmes, newspaper cuttings about concerts and letters of appreciation to Peter. There is a lovely picture of a youthful Peter conducting the School Band….. There must have been thirty boys in the Band all neatly turned out in their school blazers, ties and white shirts. Quite remarkably for the times, it wasn’t obvious from the photo whether any of them had long hair. If they did it must have been Brylcreem’d down. But why am I not surprised? After all, Peter always had very high standards and expected a lot from his pupils and I am sure from any staff who worked with him.

Peter’s Cray Valley Band gained quite a reputation. It entered lots of competitions and played in venues all around southeast London including the Fairfield Hall and the Central Hall at Westminster. They even played at Twickenham before the start of an English schoolboy rugby match and they were so good that they appeared on Blue Peter. Being a member of Peter’s Band was clearly very special and I know that Olive has received many letters from former pupils saying how joining the Band had a profound effect on their lives and in many cases shaped their future careers.”

Very comfortable with his own company we were told of Peter’s many retirement interests included trips with Olive to museums, concerts and theatre in London, or just listening quietly to music or reading. He had a great love of cooking, good food and wine and taught himself to cook rather well. A passion shared by his son Guy who also recounted their many happy trips to enjoy dining and to support West Ham United Football Club.
In retirement, his interest in Hungarian music lead Peter to study that country’s history, architecture and culture. Despite it being an extraordinarily difficult language to learn Peter successfully mastered it, became fluent and passed the Institute of Linguistics examinations going on to work for a publisher translating twenty pamphlets on the lives of Hungarian musicians. He and Olive regularly visited Hungary to stay with the many friends they had made there.

Mention was made of the dignified way in which Peter dealt with the advance of Parkinson’s which cruelly robbed him of his mobility and his hearing. Never once was he heard to complain. We were told how he loved talking about music, politics and people. He was a great observer of people and of life. He hated pomposity, was a shrewd judge of character and had rather a wicked sense of humour. He had a fund of ‘one-liners’ which would reduce anyone to tears of laughter.

As you will see from the Order of Service I was asked to represent Cray Valley and played at the end of the Service and whilst tea and cake were being served. For the latter, many of the numbers were those which Peter would have played when he performed in various dance bands of Saturday night in the 1960s and 70s. Richard Furlong supported and assisted Olive throughout the lead-up to the day and produced the Order of Service. The folders of memorabilia which were presented to Peter when he left Cray Valley, also to be seen in the Woodward Archive, together with the Band’s music stand banner were displayed at the church.

At the end of the afternoon Caroline, Peter and Olive’s daughter, and Guy commented on how easy and nice the old Cray Vallians were to talk to. Olive has asked for all those who attended to be thanked. The Service lasted for around an hour and twenty minutes. It was a very fitting tribute to an exceptional man and teacher.

Graham Mitchell (1962-1969)


The Order of Service

(Click to enlarge pages)



Calling All Poets


‘To An Astronaut’ – Ian Chalmers 3R – 1962


Last month we called for the ‘visual’ artists amongst you to make yourselves known and let us show off some of your work. This time we are looking for poets. The Rook always had its fair share of poetry published over its 21 years but I am sure that many a line has been written since 1975 and we would love to publish them here.

New Web Section – The Arts

Length and subject are immaterial, simply email your copy and (subject to decency) it will be published both in a future blog post and in a new section on our website which is currently under construction.  The Arts will contain galleries of work from all our recently published artists and any future ones we hear about and a section on poetry. To this, we will be adding essays and short stories along with musical compositions.

‘Shops Then and Now’ – D Berwick 4A – 1963


If you have material you have written since leaving Cray Valley please let us have it or why not put pen to paper right now the world is certainly not short of material?


Please email us your poetry to poems@cvths.com





“Old School Values for Today.”

I shudder sometimes when I look at some of the youth of today with their lack of manners and their ‘snowflake’ attitude to life. I thank my lucky stars that I had good parenting and was so lucky to be educated at Cray Valley. I know most who attended will agree. Here is something I saw today which maybe every young person should read:


A young man went to seek an important position at a large printing company. He passed the initial interview and was going to meet the director for the final interview. The director saw his resume, it was excellent. And asked,’

“Have you received a scholarship for school?” The boy replied, “No”.
‘It was your father who paid for your studies? ” Yes.’ He replied.
‘Where does your father work? ‘ ‘My father is a Blacksmith’

The Director asked the young man to show him his hands.
The young man showed a pair of hands soft and perfect.
‘Have you ever helped your parents at their job? ‘
‘Never, my parents always wanted me to study and read more books. Besides, he can do the job better than me.

The director said:
‘I have got a request: When you go home today, go and wash the hands of your father and then come see me tomorrow morning.’

The young man felt his chance to get the job was high.

When he returned to his house he asked his father if he would allow him to wash his hands.

His father felt strange, happy, but with mixed feelings and showed his hands to his son. The young man washed his hands, little by little. It was the first time that he noticed his father’s hands were wrinkled and they had so many scars. Some bruises were so painful that his skin shuddered when he touched them.

This was the first time that the young man recognized what it meant for this pair of hands to work every day to be able to pay for his studies. The bruises on the hands were the price that his father paid for his education, his school activities and his future.

After cleaning his father’s hands the young man stood in silence and began to tidy and clean up the workshop. That night, father and son talked for a long time.

The next morning, the young man went to the office of the director.
The Director noticed the tears in the eyes of the young man when He asked him,

‘Can you tell me what you did and what you learned yesterday at your house?’
The boy replied: ‘I washed my father’s hands and when I finished I stayed and cleaned his workshop.’

‘Now I know what it is to appreciate and recognize that without my parents, I would not be who I am today. By helping my father I now realize how difficult and hard it is to do something on my own. I have come to appreciate the importance and the value of helping my family.

The director said, “This is what I look for in my people. I want to hire someone who can appreciate the help of others, a person who knows the hardship others go through to accomplish things, and a person who realizes that money is not his only goal in life”.

‘You are hired’.

A child that has been coddled, protected and given everything he or she wants, develops a mentality of “I have the right” and will always put himself or herself first, ignoring the efforts of parents, family and friends. If we are this type of protective parent are we really showing love or are we helping to destroy our children?

You can give your child their own room in a big house, good food, a computer, tablet, cell phone, and a big screen TV, but when you’re washing the floor or painting a wall, children need to experience that too.

After eating, have them wash the dishes with their brothers and sisters, let them fold laundry or cook with you, pull weeds or mow the lawn. You are not doing this because you are poor and can’t afford help. You are doing this because you love them and want them to understand certain things about life.

Children need to learn to appreciate the amount of effort it takes to do a job right. They need to experience the difficulties in life that people must overcome to be successful and they must learn about failure to be able to succeed.

Children must also learn how to work and play with others and that they will not always win, but they can always work harder to reach their goals. If they’ve done their best, then they can take pride in all the effort they put forth.

Life is about giving and serving and these qualities should be taught in our homes and in our schools.


Artist No. 6 – Colin Cadle

My first ‘model’ shoot – 1976 – See comments below for the how and why!


In 1976 a chance introduction to Julie Andrews’ husband film producer Blake Edwards really kicked off my interest in photography after he invited me onto the set of the Peter Sellers’ now classic film ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again’ at Shepperton Studios. Stills photographer David Farrell further fired my enthusiasm when, during a break in filming, I was offered a short photo shoot with leading fashion model and ‘Bond girl’ actress Maud Adams. From that moment on art and photography have always played a major part in my life.

‘Touched by God’ – 2017 (click to enlarge)

In the following 42 years, my photography has not always taken centre stage and even now my preference is often more towards assemblage art and collage but that unexplainable urge to capture the moment has never left me. In the past few years, however, it has taken a slightly different turn.

‘The Tiny Tea Lover’ – 2012 (click to enlarge)


Like most people who catch the photography bug I have passed through the portaiture, landscape and even macro stage and have now left those genres behind. There are just so many sunsets and pretty scenes (and people) you can shoot and at the end of the day, there are millions of these images everywhere you look.


‘My Ship of Devon Dreams’ – 2017 (click to enlarge)

In an effort to be a little different I started creating scenes using my ‘Tiny People’, placing these miniature figures in small sets and creating stories about them. These series have been quite successful but now even this type of approach can be found all over the internet without much difficulty. I still found them immensely pleasing to create.


‘Sisters’ – 2015 (click to enlarge)

Thank goodness for Adobe Photoshop. Combining high-resolution photographs with other images scanned from various vintage source material this weapon of choice has taken me away from the reality of ordinary photography and into the realms of recreating my own imagination through the computer and onto the wall as art.



‘The Last Exhibit’ – 2012 (click to enlarge)


‘Cornish Seahorse’ – 2015 (click to enlarge)


The other genre that always excites me is street photography and I will always have a love of capturing the ‘decisive moment’. It is the unwritten rule of the purist street photographer not to tamper in any way with the original, other than a slight crop or adjustment to exposure but nowadays, of course, you never can tell…..

‘The Inflatables’ – 2017 (click to enlarge)

….unlike in 1976

‘Graffiti Boys’ – 1976


At least two of our previous artists have images of Albert Einstein and I am no exception…


‘Relatively Speaking’ – 2016   –   “The greatest scientists are artists as well” – Einstein


To see more images from my portfolio please visit this page

or for assemblages and collage you will find these HERE

Malcolm Davis –  Colin – your techno-art is refreshingly original and intriguing, I had already viewed your website including these and many other of your images some months ago. Very clever stuff to me. So how did you ‘just happen to find yourself’ in Shepperton Studios at the same time as Blake Edwards and Maud Adams were there? Do tell.

In answer to Malcolm Davis

‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again’

I have been ‘self-employed’ most of my working life, however, since leaving the RAF in 1971 I worked for just one company for a little over a year. BMW Concessionaires in Park Lane took on myself and one other as an experiment to see if they could recruit and nurture potential export ‘sales executives’ from outside of the motor trade. My colleague, Jules Wildman, earned a position after working a few years with Rank Xerox and myself having had no previous sales experience managed to persuade the selection board by having established and sold a special effects lighting company in Beckenham and a successful bistro restaurant in Norbury, South London.

BMW in Park Lane, next door to the Dorchester Hotel, had its fair share of celebrity visitors due to its premier location and I was always delighted to meet many such figures amongst them David Niven, Bob Marley, and George Harrison. Our showroom was at street level but the offices where the salesmen and managers lived was in the basement where we were kept like mushrooms with no natural daylight, so it was always a pleasure to be called up to the sales floor to attend a potential customer and once more see the light of day. As an ‘export’ salesman it was my job to sell tax-free cars to those who qualified i.e. people who were domiciled abroad and who were each allowed one tax-free vehicle per year. This tax saving advantage applied to almost all foreigners, with the exception of those from the USA, who famously could buy a BMW quite a bit cheaper in the US than they could in the UK Tax Free. Therefore, it always a complete waste of time when it was my turn to surface above ground only to be greeted by an American accent, whereupon I announce to myself “No sale here then” before politely going through the motions.

‘Never judge a book by its cover’ was a lesson I was soon to learn in early Spring 1976 after I had been with BMW for almost a year. It was my turn to respond to the next call to the showroom and after climbing the big spiral staircase from the basement I was greeted in the reception area by a chirpy young man with a strong American accent and wearing a plain white tee-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. This set the usual alarm bells ringing – with knobs on! (In 1976 most of my customers at least wore a shirt and tie). Offering the usual BMW hospitality I invited the guy to sit down with a cup of coffee in a comfy chair to discuss his requirements. He introduced himself as Tony Adams and was looking for an American specification BMW 2002 Tii automatic, in silver blue. He didn’t ask me for the price but just wanted to know if we had one in stock which he could get quickly. In the days before computers, we had a large manual Cardex system which kept a printed record for each export car we had in stock and held in our bonded compound in Calais. Knowing full well that the price would be too high I dutifully went downstairs to ‘check our stock’. already knowing there were six models in Calais which exactly met his specification. I returned to him with the loaded sales line “I cannot believe this Mr Adams but we have the exact car actually in stock” to which he then enquired after the price. The man didn’t even blink, but just stared at me. After a long pause, he said “OK, I am also looking for a (top of the range) American specification BMW 3.3Lia as well – in dark blue metallic with leather seats” to which I replied, “I am afraid our customs rules only allow for one vehicle per person per year Sir”. He quickly brushed this information aside and immediately arousing my suspicions. I thought ‘Here we go, another joker like the guy last week claiming his name was Jesus Christ’. I then repeated the earlier exercise, this time returning from the depths with the revelation that we did indeed have the exact dark metallic blue model he was looking for, in stock, in Calais and for $9,000 he could have it delivered in just four days!

The non-blinking stare and long pause were again repeated. This time Mr Adams eventually said “Well Colin, what are you waiting for? Are you gonna write the order for the two automobiles?”. To say I was dumbstruck was an understatement but of course I had to repeat the one car, one person, per year rule to which he replied: “Oh, by the way, neither car is for me”.  Then, following his instructions, I wrote the order. The BMW 2002 was for Julie Andrews and the BMW 3.3 Lia was for her husband the film director and producer Blake Edwards, the man largely responsible for all the Pink Panther films.

Once the orders were written he announced that they were all staying on Cheyne Walk in Chelsea and that he would have a dollar cheque in full payment delivered by hand later that day. Now feeling very pleased with my double sale and not a little star-struck by proxy, I further learned that Tony Adams was, in fact, the Associate Producer of ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again’ which they had just started filming at Shepperton Studios. I was then very quick to mention that I’d always wanted to visit a live film set and what would be the chances? He said he’d have to have a word with his ‘boss’ but couldn’t see a problem. Less than two hours later I had a personal hand-written invitation from Blake Edwards to visit the studios the very next day which was delivered along with a cheque for $14,000.

On asking my own manager if I could have the following day off to visit the studios he said it would be absolutely OK, provided he could come too. One phone call later to Tony Adams and the invitation was extended to my manager Stan Beesley and we both travelled down the next morning to Shepperton in an open top 633 Csia. We were met by the film’s publicist Quinn Donaghue and after a cup of coffee, we were walked over to the soundstage and quietly ushered onto the set where dozens of technicians were adjusting the lighting for the next scene. I was in heaven, surrounded by all the scenery and equipment and buzz of a full-on production. I was most intrigued by the job of the stills photographer David Farrell who seemed to be clicking away at anything or anybody. Following a lengthy chat with him during which I expressed my great interest in photography, David invited us both to lunch. This was taken in the rather rough and ready restaurant cum canteen where we were eating alongside many of the cast and crew which included Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom and, of course, the director Blake Edwards. David and I got on very well and he generously took me under his wing and taught me how it all worked. I was soon learning more about photography in a few hours under his tuition than I had gained in all my years of interest to date. To my absolute delight, this visit was not to be my last – I returned to the studios three times during the following weeks.

We had already gathered from the script that a few scenes called for the character Jarvis to ride a powerful motorbike which he was to ride to the nightclub where he performed as a drag artiste. On our return to Park Lane, we hatched a PR plan to present the film’s production team with a specially commissioned ‘pink’ BMW motorbike. It was prepared by the technical department at Brentford in just a few days and we delivered it to Shepperton less than a week from our first visit. The team absolutely loved the bike but ultimately thought the colour maybe a bit too ‘obvious’, however, they did accept a replacement, standard-liveried bike in its place which was ultimately used in the film and can, of course, be seen to this day by watching the film.  One of the admirers of the ‘pink’ BMW was the actress and top model Maud Adams (who was later sacked from the film and replaced by Lesley-Anne Down). Maud fell in love with the shiny new machine and was given a pillion ride around the studio grounds by our then Head of Motorcycles, Jeremy Fraser. On their return, David asked Maud if she would give up the last few minutes of her lunch break to pose for me on the bike. What a delightful lady as she immediately agreed and I (rather nervously), did the shoot right there outside the production office with its larger than life Pink Panther display next to the door. What a pro? She just did not need any direction at all for the two rolls I shot of her. When she heard the click of the camera she just morphed into the next pose and all I needed to do was release the shutter and change position for the next shot – I was smitten!

In those days I was also very impetuous (still am) and I decided then and there that I would quickly hand in my notice with BMW and become a photographer. The next day I went to a camera shop beneath Capital Radio on the Euston Road and using my overdraft facility bought a brand new Nikon F2S Photomic and a Hasselblad 500c. Armed with that level of equipment I reasoned that if the photographs I would now be taking were of poor quality it would at least be down to the operator and not the gear!  Within a few weeks of all this and having left the employ of BMW I was drinking wine with the supermodel Cathee Dahman and her husband, actor Leonard Whiting. But that, of course, is another story.

And so Malcolm, that is how my love affair with photography began and that is how it had ultimately been Blake Edwards who was instrumental in kickstarting my professional interest. Well, you did ask!


Malcolm Davis – Wow! Only a Cray boy could take a part in that story. Top that!


Neil Gent – What a great story? I do remember you from school, mainly as a result of your ham radio activities, but you are just that couple of years older than me and we don’t actually know each other. Having read that story I feel that I have somehow got to know you!

Malcolm Davis –  So Colin, could we now have chapter 2 – drinkies with supermodel Cathee Dahman? I read she was half native American, Chippewa, and died in 1997.

Iconic 1974 image of super model Cathee Dahman by Barry Lategan.