I am often guilty of visiting a place only rather briefly and that means only scratching the surface and I don’t really get to some of the more important stories.
Bridlington as it turns out has been home to some famous people. First up TE Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia fame. This is him in the Arabian dessert, not on Bridlington beach. What a great story that would have been.
After the First World War and his heroics in the Middle East and a spell in the Foreign Office Lawrence joined the RAF in 1922 and went east again, this time to the east of England and he was posted to the RAF Bridlington Marine Detachment Unit in 1932 where he worked on a project to develop high speed sea rescue boats. He returned to the seaside town between November 1934 and February 1935 to see out his service pending his retirement.
While Lawrence wrote prosaically about his time in Arabia he had rather mixed feelings about Bridlington. His 1932 visit was during the busy summer season, but a letter written on 28th November 1934 described the town as ‘a silent place, where cats and landladies’ husbands walk gently down the middles of the street. I prefer the bustle of summer …’
Perhaps the quiet atmosphere prompted Lawrence to get away from Bridlington and ride around Yorkshire. He visited York, Skipsea, Hull, Beverley, Goole and it is likely he also paid visits to nearby Whitby and Scarborough.
Lawrence used to amuse himself by driving his motorcycle, a Brough Superior SS 100 along the Bridlington esplanade at high speed.
The Brough Superior SS 100 was a motorcycle designed and built by George Brough in Nottingham in 1924. Every bike was designed to meet specific customer requirements and even the handlebars were individually shaped. They were a luxury item which cost almost twice as much as a family car at about the same time and they were advertised by Brough as the “Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles”. The term was used by a magazine road tester in his review of the bike and Brough eventually obtained explicit permission to use it after a Rolls-Royce executive toured the Brough Superior factory to satisfy himself that it was appropriate.
These bikes were really powerful, at a time when the average car would struggle to reach sixty miles per hour, the Brough with its 1000cc engine was guaranteed to reach one hundred and it was the combination of bike and speed that did for Lawrence.
The crash that would end Lawrence’s life came while riding on a narrow road near his cottage near Wareham in 1935. The accident occurred because a dip in the road obstructed his view of two boys on bicycles. Swerving to avoid them, Lawrence lost control and was thrown over the handlebars. He was not wearing a helmet and suffered serious head injuries that left him in a coma and he died after six days in hospital.
the original Brough factory went out of business in 1941 but the brand has been recently revived and is available again now, this model is named after Lawrence himself…
My favourite story about Lawrence has nothing to do with Bridlington but here it is anyway…
Lawrence kept extensive notes throughout the course of his involvement in the First-World-War and he began work in 1919 on the manuscript of his book ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’. By December it was almost complete but he lost it when he misplaced his briefcase while changing trains at Reading railway station sometime in the following year. It was never recovered and he had to start all over again which was obviously a bit of a bugger.
Another famous loss is the story of Thomas Carlyle and his book ‘The French Revolution: A History’. In 1835 he finished volume one and gave it to his friend John Stuart Mill to read for his comments.
Unfortunately it was the only copy of the work and Mill’s servant allegedly mistook the book for household rubbish and used it as a convenient source of material to get the kitchen fire going one morning!
Unlike Lawrence, Carlyle apparently kept no notes at all and had to completely rewrite the first volume entirely from memory.
Little wonder he looked so glum…
In 1922 Ernest Hemingway lost his entire early work including the only copies when his wife had a suitcase stolen from a train in Paris as she was transporting it to her husband in Switzerland. I can’t imagine Hemingway being terribly understanding about that.
A sundial commemorates Lawrence’s connection with Bridlington situated in the South Cliff Gardens, a fitting tribute perhaps, given ‘El Aurens’ spent many months of his life under a blazing hot sun.
The inscription reads – “Only count your sunny hours, let others tell of storms and showers”
This is my Lawrence of Arabia impression, also not on Bridlington beach. What a great story that would have been.