The Panhard

Newsletter #2

The Panhard

(December 2021)

Merry Christmas!

You never know what’s going to crop up in these Newsletters. This particular Christmas bauble shares a bit of research that went in to one of the Stories in “The Descent of Chloe Jackson”.

Sarah Quicke’s Story is about one of Chloe’s great great grandmothers. The plot turns around the arrival of a motor car in the village of Harnham way back in 1896 when horseless carriages and the internal combustion engine were at the cutting edge of new technology.

The inspiration was a handwritten note from my great grandfather, Ernest Mercer. He was about ninety when his son asked him to record some of his childhood memories, and this is what he wrote…

Ernie’s handwritten account, written in the mid-1970s

It’s hard to decipher, but the last paragraph reads as follows…

“Another memorable event somewhere about 1895, when one afternoon the Schoolmaster, Mr Richards, was told that there was a Motor Car in the Village outside the Chequers Inn. He closed the School for the afternoon so that we could all see our first car. I remember it so well. It was a French Panhard.

After some painstaking research, I am fairly sure that the car he saw, and the car I write about in Sarah’s Story, was this one…

Sir Evelyn Ellis, in his Panhard

It now stands in the Science Museum in London, where I went to visit it. Standing there, knowing that I was looking at the very vehicle that made such an impression upon Ernie 125 years ago, was quite emotional. I really enjoyed finding a way to get it into the one of the Stories in my Book.

The same car, in the Science Museum, London

The Panhard was probably the first vehicle with a combustion engine in the UK. It was imported from France by Sir Evelyn Ellis, and I have put the noble Baronet into Sarah’s Story – he is one of the very few real people who make it into this piece of fiction. I invented a nephew for him, but the man and his car were real, and back in 1895 they got my great grandfather a day off school that he never forgot.

Ernie Mercer, looking dapper even in his eighties

As always, drop me a line if you’ve any thoughts about Ernie and his encounter with a Panhard, or if you’ve got an idea for a future Newsletter.

All the best