The President's Page
Over a number of years there has been discussion about preserving the history of Armstrong Siddeley in Australia. Penn Bradly refers often to this background in his extensive writing on Armstrong Siddeley cars. Bruce Lindsay in his book (ARMSTRONG SIDDELEY - The Sphinx with the Heart of a Lion) devoted a chapter to record the history of Armstrong Siddeley stationary engines, another facet of the organisation. It has been argued by others that the marque has been undervalued in Aero, Automobile and Engineering development for too long.
We now have well over a century of history relating to J.D. Siddeley and Armstrong Siddeley. Our Club and the other members of the Armstrong Siddeley family around the world have developed a broader historical role. This broader role involves preserving our historical assets and information and telling interested people about the Australian Armstrong Siddeley story and its place in our national history.
The Australian history of Armstrong Siddeley is held in a multitude of places. Some of our Australian history is held in Members’ personal collections. Other material such as the pictures of early Armstrong Siddeley cars used in the development of Canberra is held as part of the Mildenhall collection in the National archives. Our Members hold a wealth of information in their minds about Armstrong Siddeley in Australia. Often discussion among members and car enthusiasts about Armstrong Siddeley goes into the broader social history of the founder and the firm. Thoughts come from unrecorded memories.
The ease with which our Armstrong Siddeley history, artefacts and information can be lost was brought home to me by a very personal experience.
I have a passing interest in trains. A great friend had worked with the NSW Railways from the age of fifteen. By the time of his retirement as an Inspector he had an encyclopaedic memory of the social and operational history of the railway system in NSW. He believed there were only some twenty or thirty kilometres of track he hadn’t worked starting as a young Fireman and moving through the ranks to management level. Time and again his colleagues and people within the railway historical movement approached him to put his knowledge in written form and his answer to me,” But I know it.”
Over a number of years we walked together, punctual as ever he would arrive at 7.30 am and we would set out discussing any manner of subjects. Over time he started to complain of his memory and would repeat the same question of me as we rambled over the countryside. Then he would sometimes arrive at 7.15 am or 7.45 am. One morning he didn’t arrive at all and we never walked together again. When we next met, I asked what had happened – his face was blank. Alzheimer’s disease had taken him. This wonderful man, who held this great wealth of knowledge, was mentally a shadow of his former self. His ability to pass on his knowledge was totally lost. We continued to meet until his death even though in the end he couldn’t remember the name of the town in which he lived. But he still knew me. It was all extremely sad and a great lesson.Our links to Australian Armstrong Siddeley history, the artefacts and information are often just as tenuous as my friend’s memory. It is so easy for our story to be lost even in written form, to the rubbish tip and destroyed in ignorance by those who don’t value it. Sandy Cameron in the February-March 2014 issue of the Southern Sphinx explained the issues in our position as a member of the Armstrong Siddeley family and the Board’s desire for broadening our constitution for the purpose of preserving our historical assets. Preserving the Australian Armstrong Siddeley story requires identifying and locating material and giving access to interested people if we are to tell our story to others
Until next time,