We were sad to hear of the death of John Gallon. He joined our displays at several car shows with his lovely little Swallow.
Memories – by Alan Mobbs
I was privileged to have known John for over 20 years, from when I first met him, together with one of his previous Austin Swallows, at one of the JDC (Kent Area) shows in the early to mid 1990s. Throughout the time that I knew him, he was always the most polite and amiable of people as well as being rarely without one of his Austin Swallows. A testament to his character is the fact that, during the last ten years or so when he was being treated for a form of blood cancer, he would always smile and consider himself lucky that the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, Surrey was “keeping him alive”. Even when, more recently, he would tell me that the latest treatment hadn’t worked, he would still smile, even though one could tell that he was not without a degree of pain.
My first meeting with John was, I believe, during one of the JDC Southern days which were organised for many years by the Kent Area. John’s Swallow, in those days, was a black and red hard-top saloon and he was often in the company of a close friend, Mike Cassidy, who also owned a Swallow. Mike’s Swallow was the maroon and cream (plums & custard!) open top car, for which John was well known. John bought this car after Mike’s most untimely death a few years later. This increased John’s Swallow stable to two, which he increased to three a few years later when he purchased a green and cream hard-top saloon. It was probably about seven or eight years ago that he reduced his collection to just one, selling the green and cream one to Geoff Waterman but I do not know to whom the other one was sold.
John did own other cars over the years including a Morris Traveller and a 1960s Austin Cambridge estate. An amusing incident concerning John and the Morris Traveller occurred about ten years ago when I drove my late wife, Judith, to our local Worcester Park station, only to find John struggling to change a punctured rear wheel on the approach to the station. One might be able to picture the scene with the car on slightly sloping ground, no jack, a load of tools etc. on the front bumper to weigh down the front of the car, an ordinary spanner instead of a wheel wrench and, to cap it all, a spare wheel that was flat! Having seen Judith off on her train, I was able to provide a multi-socket wheel wench and the scissor jack from my Series 3 XJ12 to change the wheel along with my small tyre compressor giving him enough air to drive to his home in nearby Sutton.
One annual foreign trip, in which John often participated, was the Entente Cordiale to France, organised by Kelsey Publishing from 1995 to 2014. Another Swallow owner who attended numerous Ententes Cordiale was Curly Goodwin who, with his wife Hazel, travelled all the way down from the Isle of Man. Very often, either before or after each tour, John and Curly would participate in another European tour before returning home. Latterly Curly would be on his own and I was saddened to learn that Curly has recently passed away. Needless to say, the Swallows, with a maximum speed of some 45 mph (downhill with a following wind!!), would never be the first to arrive at each day’s destinations although, having left fairly early each morning would certainly not be the last to arrive. Clearly a case of the hare and the tortoise! Whenever Judith and I overtook him (fairly quickly!) I would always check my mirror to ensure that the wind created by our Mark Nine had not swept him off the road! John’s tours were not always without incident but our two breakdown crews lead by Jack Armsworth and Ken Jenkins would usually be able to sort him out although once he did end up on a low loader when the Swallow’s engine protested in a massive way. We found John stranded on another occasion in France when the chassis member holding his radiator had broken. Two or three of us had stopped and after much peering into the engine bay, accompanied by the usual scratching of heads, one of our number disappeared over a farmer’s fence; reappearing with a length of fence post. Somehow, we managed to wedge this into the front of John’s engine, followed by numerous cable ties and cloth tape which did the job of holding up the radiator. It was at this stage that Ken Jenkins arrived, having received the call for help earlier, to find the rest of us grinning from ear to ear, believing our efforts were a “job well done”. Ken did scratch his head somewhat seriously before deciding that we had all better disappear fast before the farmer realised he had lost part of his fence! It was on the 2013 tour that, rather than the Swallow breaking down; it was John himself who was under the weather. Ken’s large van, used for carrying spare parts, was emptied of its contents, following which the Swallow was lifted up and manhandled into the van enabling John to ride in the van’s cab.
One very brave undertaking was when John participated in the 2002 tour of the USA “Deep South” which was organised by some gallant couples from the JEC Surrey/Hants border region. Some 60+ Jaguars of varying ages were shipped into Houston in advance with the rest of us flying out a few weeks later to collect our cars and drive the very well-managed 2,000 mile tour of Galveston, Houston, Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, to name but a few. John, whose profession had been a Practice Nurse in a doctor’s surgery, was accompanied by a Sri Lankan doctor, and with the pair of them wedged into the Swallow, very little room was left for luggage! John and his little car did complete virtually the whole tour although their map reading wasn’t up to scratch on the first driving day which meant that they stayed that night in a different hotel to the rest of the tour, catching up with the rest of us the following day. There have been various reports of how John was helped out on a freeway one night (minute car, 6 volt electrics with very dim lights!) but my understanding was that an American motorist stayed with him, protecting his rear right the way up to that night’s hotel. The only part of the route that he skipped was one day when our route to the next hotel formed two sides of a triangle and John took the direct route, but on every other day, he did the same mileage as the rest of us. One evening the whole tour was invited to have a guided tour of a very smart plantation house and, whilst most of the tour was transported there in a classic bus, about ten of us took our cars to form a display on the oval drive in front of the house. Those of us with our cars there were given a guided tour of the house first, during which we heard the sounds of a very expensive fine period grand piano which, on investigation, was being played by none other than our own John. Not only was he playing some appropriate tunes for the period but was also singing in a marvellous baritone voice! There was an amazing stroke of luck here for one of our organisers, Simon Cronin, whose MK II’s half shaft had broken earlier that day when he recounted his misfortune to one of our American hosts who told him that he had two MK II rear axles in his garage and “which bit did he want” – Simon was back on the road within 24 hours!
John will, as I am sure everyone will agree, be very much missed. I shall always remember his standard answer when asked the age of his Swallow which was “both the car and I were manufactured in the same month of the same year – May 1929”.