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News > Archives & History > Brian Arton - Engineer extraordinaire

Brian Arton - Engineer extraordinaire

Brian Arton (OD) from young displayed a passion for engineering. He is seen in the photo on the chassis at his farm Glen Bawm, before he assembled what was to become the Rolls (see the article).

Top: Brian Arton & Peter Bowles with the Rolls that they assembled.
Top: Brian Arton & Peter Bowles with the Rolls that they assembled.
Ken Gibbs's account of the Rolls Ryce re-assembled by Brian Arton, with some new details and pics.



Brian Arton on the chassis of his Rolls - see the article. 

The following account reached us in the Archives, from Kenneth Gibbs who was at Bishops from 1954 to 1958.  Kenneth knew Brian Arton at school.  Brian was at Bishops from 1948 - 1956.  Brian is said to have been best known for his purchase of a motorised cart that sold fish in Fish Hoek, which one day on a school outing he saw and subsequently arranged to purchase.

Kenneth writes as follows:

"The fish cart was completely open, and the driver sat on a fish box, so nobody thought anything of the purchase.  Who needs an old, smelly motorised ex-fish cart anyway ?  Well, it transpires that the fish cart had, in its younger days, been a Rolls Royce so Brian got a Rolls Royce engine on a chassis.  This was while he was still at Bishops.  He decided to resurrect the Rolls and I saw it as a work in progress when he had started building the walnut fascia and he was in the market for original dials and instruments.  He overhauled the engine and showed that it was so good that you could start it simply by rotating the magneto so that it fired once, and it would purr from then on.  I know of no other engine that can do that.  I must have been 14 or 15 when I saw Brian’s work, and for a schoolboy, it was astonishing". 

The Archives then contacted Brian's son Charles Arton who was at Bishops from 1969 - 1978.  Charles kindly gave us some information about the Rolls Royce Story saying that: "It was originally, before the fish cart, an Ambulance built on a R-R Phantom 1 chassis".  Charles says that he has some pictures of the Phantom 1 somewhere but that he would need to locate them (subsequently received and duly published in this article, with thanks). 

In the meantime Charles sent in a pic of his father as a young child with some or other car he was building at Glen Bawn, which appears in the photograph above.  Our thanks go to Charles for sending it to us and for Kenneth Gibbs for the story and to those who have been involved in getting the info to us, not least Andy Selfe (at Bishops from 1960 - 1968) and Peter Bowles (see next sentence).  Ken was instrumental in contacting Peter Bowles who was at Bishops from 1952 - 1956, who is in the photograph standing next to the Rolls in the feature photograph.  Peter writes: "Brian bought it way back with the intention of rebuilding it.  He and I spent many weekends chasing around the Cape looking for parts.  Believe it or not it was amazing what we managed to find.  When Brian bought the car it literally had been stripped right down to the chassis. The car was running and we had great fun roaring around in it, Brian on a seat and me on a fruit box. We started to work on it and got as far as putting a new Dash Board in, hard work !!  Brian then decided that it was far more fun water skiing and sold the car.  Brian did manage to trace the car; Rolls has a record of every car ever built and what has happened to it.  From what I remember, it was rebuilt in Cape Town by the person who bought it and it ended up with a new owner either in Sweden or Denmark."  


Brian Arton & Peter Bowles with the R-R Phantom 1  - see the information in the article.

The death notice for Brian Arton who passed away on 9 October 2011 at his home in Port Macquarie, Australia, mentioned his 'unique style' that would be missed.  The obit for Brian Lansdell Arton in the 'The Diocesan College Magazine' of December 2011, p.132 explains Brian's richly led life and in particular his intense and 'lifelong affinity with machinery, both flying and terrestrial'.  Brian was devout about attending the school reunions and did so to the end of his life. 

Some further information was received by the Archives and it was thought to be interesting to share among readers.  It relates to the enclosed photograph of a Rolls Royce (see below) that belonged to Dr Basil Kiernander’s and is a classic 1947 Silver Wraith Sports Limousine, seen here outside Ken's ‘digs’ in Wandsworth, in around 1973.  Ken Gibbs is at the wheel, with his cousin, in Putney, UK.  According to Ken, Basil was a trailblazer in Sports Medicine, also involved in Cheshire Homes, opened the one in Milnerton, and the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. He lived where his rooms were, near Harley St, but you had to pay for parking there which was expensive, hence it stood outside Ken's digs in Wandsworth, which wasn’t as fashionable then as it is now!     


In the photograph is Ken Gibbs, see description in the text.


So the stories of the Rolls' keep rolling in ... plse add to it if you have some information by writing to Paul Murray the school archivist, [email protected]

Apologies for the poor quality of the photogtraphs - they were copied from the email as they were not attached and so could not be downloaded - we will attempt to replace them with better quality of we manage to get them.

Thanks to all for contributing, Andy Selfe, Ken Gibbs, Charles Arton and Peter Bowles, as well as others who did so behind the scene. 


 

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