The 2nd Lord Strathcarron died 15 years ago aged 82. He was probably the only member of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords to enjoy a parallel career as a motoring (and especially motorcycling) journalist.
Urbane and charming, and cultivating a slightly eccentric air, Strathcarron was an engaging amalgam of Mr Punch, Bertie Wooster and Mr Toad, according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph. Clad in full leathers, he rode almost everywhere on two wheels: a scooter in town and a high-powered motorcycle for motorways. His array of machinery over the years included a BMW 750cc twin, a well-tuned 350cc single cylinder Velocette and a 1000cc K Series BMW capable of speeds of up to 130mph.
Strathcarron inherited the Barony on his father’s death in 1937 and used his seat in the Lords to support and promote motorcycling, and to defend it against anyone — including government bodies — who tried to impose unnecessary laws on the biking fraternity.
As chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Motorcycle Group, he worked closely with the Motor Cycle Industry Association to create the modern basic training system for learner motorcyclists, introduced in December 1990. The system is credited with dramatically reducing the number of accidents involving young motorcyclists.
Strathcarron also strove to correct the general perception of bikers as uncouth greasers careless of other road users. Once, in pouring rain, he turned up astride his machine with helmet and goggles at the London headquarters of BP Oil and announced himself as Lord Strathcarron, only for the sceptical parking attendant to retort that he was the Queen of Sheba.
When he returned a short time later, with Strathcarron dressed in his customary chalk-stripe suit, the same attendant asked again who he was. “I’m Lord Strathcarron,” he replied, “and you’re the f***ing Queen of Sheba.”
With his third wife riding pillion, Strathcarron would holiday in Europe on a solo motorcycle, followed by his butler in a three-wheeler also containing an elderly, scrawny parrot in its cage.
Afflicted by a problem with a tendon that gave him a “claw hand”, making it difficult to grip the handlebars, Strathcarron had minor corrective surgery so that he could continue to ride a solo motorbike in comparative comfort; the change, he noted however, had made it “a bit of a bugger getting out of the bath”.
David William Anthony Blythe Macpherson was born on January 23rd 1924. He became Lord Strathcarron of Banchor when his father, Ian, a minister in Lloyd George’s cabinet, died in 1936.
His years of school at Eton were spent drawing cars and aeroplanes rather than learning anything. He went up to Jesus College, Cambridge, but volunteered for the RAF as soon as he was old enough. In 1941 he had the first of what would be several motorcycle accidents, this one serious enough to delay his flying training until 1942, when he was sent to learn in the clearer and safer skies of Arizona.
He eventually flew Wellingtons for Coastal Command on reconnaissance and search-and-rescue missions over the Atlantic Ocean, during the Battle of the Atlantic. He then flew long-range transport missions, and was demobbed in 1947. He continued to fly as a private pilot after the war, until the 1980s.
He raced motor vehicles after the war, competing against Stirling Moss in 500cc in his Marwyn at Silverstone. He was the motoring correspondent of The Field for 48 years, from 1954 to 2002. In 1963, he wrote an account of his experiences in motor racing, entitled Motoring for Pleasure. He won the Lords versus Commons motor race at Brands Hatch in 2000, aged 76. After he retired as motoring correspondent of The Field in 2002, he wrote a column for the website Hoot! entitled “View from a Peer”.
Strathcarron was a popular and accomplished after-dinner speaker with a treasury of anecdotes and witticisms, one of which was that he was unable to believe in re-incarnation because it would be unfair to expect to come back again as a peer of the realm.
In recognition of his contribution to the motorcycle industry, Strathcarron was invited to join the Club, the industry’s 60-strong motorcycle club for senior figures, and remained an active member for many years, taking part in the twice-yearly weekends involving many hundreds of miles of riding.
His last attendance was in May of 2006, when the Club marked a weekend in Norfolk with an official visit to the Lotus car factory. Strathcarron attended aboard a three-wheeled 1,100cc Grinnall Scorpion kit car.
Lord Strathcarron died on August 31, 2006 of a heart attack. He had suffered his last motorcycling accident seven weeks earlier when he was in collision with a garbage truck. He was survived by his fourth wife Diana and two sons by his second wife.
(My thanks for much of the information above to The Daily Telegraph in the UK)