My Memories of Mike Hailwood By Elizabeth McCarthy

Part One

I don't quite know how to begin - at the beginning, I suppose is the logical answer - but my story is one that bends logic, as you will see.

Let me begin then before the beginning of Mike and me. I was a very good student in school. My family lived in a village on the edge of Toronto, Canada. My parents wanted me to go to a better school than the local school, but it was beyond their means. My grandmother took me to meet the Anglican archbishop of Toronto. He very graciously arranged a scholarship for me on the conditions that I placed in the top 10% on the entrance exams, kept that high standing and most important of all - used that education for the benefit of humanity in some way.

Things went well for several years. I discovered that I had a talent for math and science and decided that I wanted to be an engineer. What happened next convinced me that I had gotten off the path. I was in a terrible car accident - so terrible that I died, went to heaven and came back. I saw many wonderful things there. I have tried to live my life according to what I saw and learned that day. I saw my future. I was shown things that I had promised to do before I came into this life and emerged determined to fulfil that promise.

Fast-forward 2 years to 1967. I was just beginning my career in public education and fundraising for international development and relief agencies. I worked full-time for one that could afford to pay me and volunteered nights and weekends for several others.

Mike prior to the start of the 1961 Junior TT, the only solo race he did not win that year, a broken gudgeon pin stopped the AJS when in the lead. Standing in front of the machine is Bill Lacey, who prepared most of Mike's machinery in the early years.

I had a friend from my engineering period who was very keen on racing. He had two tickets to a reception for the factory teams that were in town for the first ever Canadian motorcycle Grand Prix to be held that next weekend. I knew nothing about the sport and wasn't that keen, but he convinced me to go. He also brought me a stack of magazines to read. He told me as much as he could about the riders, etc.. In the summer of 1967 there had been a number of squabbles over starting money and other issues between the factory and non-factory riders. Emotions ran high and a lot of them were directed at Mike.

When we arrived at the reception we saw that there were about 200 people there. We separated because he wanted to try to get some autographs. I went over to the buffet table. The only one there was a rather forlorn looking Japanese man. I said, "Hello" and started talking with him. He showed me pictures of his family in Japan and asked about my family - that sort of thing. Out of the corner of my eye I became aware that someone was watching me. You know that feeling.

Soon a very nice looking man with a stylish moustache walked over to me and said" I think that is just about the nicest thing I have ever seen a woman do." What's that?' I asked as my Japanese friend faded away. " I've been watching you and you have been spending about 10 minutes talking to Teddy - that's what we call him - and you gave him your full attention- that was very nice. Unless you speak Japanese it must have been a very limited conversation." I laughed and replied," 'Well he looked lonely". To which he replied, "'Well, I 'm lonely, would you talk to me?"

We talked for approximately 5 hours. We talked about music, history, travel - everything but racing. I actually assumed that he was a journalist or a public relations type for one of the teams. I was impressed by his gentleness and wide knowledge of the world.

At one point during the evening flash bulbs went off amidst a burst of laughter at the opposite end of the very large room. I was startled and looked in the direction of the lights for a second. He asked if I would rather be over there. I said, 'no, not at all.' Then it happened again and he repeated the question a little more insistently. When I replied 'no' a second time he asked ' are you sure?' .I replied with a laugh and giggling - "Oh no, that's probably just Mike Hailwood and I wouldn't walk across the room to meet him'.

I emphasize that I was laughing when I said that. He looked stricken for a second and asked, 'Why ever not?' I explained about my friend, the magazines and the briefing. I said that from everything I had heard he was a jet setting playboy and womanizer, probably rather superficial and not at all the kind of person I would enjoy talking to. He asked if I was enjoying talking to him and I replied, "Oh yes, very much so"!

1961 Lightweight TT, Mike rounds Quarter Bridge on the 250cc Honda-4

A little after midnight the reception was breaking up. We hadn't been interrupted the whole time. He asked me to have breakfast with him, then he suggested lunch, dinner, etc. With every suggestion I kept explaining that I had commitments at work. He suggested every day until the weekend. Then, finally he asked me if I was going to the practice on Friday. I said," No, I told you I am really not a racing fan and besides I have to work." Then finally he asked if I was going to go to the races on Saturday. I asked him if he was going to be there and he got an odd look on his face and said, 'You REALLY don't know who I am, do you?" I said, laughing again (I laugh and giggle a lot) "no, who ARE you?" He replied, "I'm Mike Hailwood and I'm going to marry you".

Needless to say we saw each other the next day and every day that week.

The following week was magical.

© Elizabeth McCarthy
Now Read Part Two

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