Major R.A.Scatchard MBE 1913-2006

Raymond Antony Scatchard died peacefully at his home in Eldwick, West Yorkshire, aged 92, after a short illness.

There is little doubt that he will be remembered in Aston Martin circles as the man who introduced David Brown to Lagonda and changed the fortunes of both companies.

Ray Scatchard, sometimes also known as Tony, was born in 1913 and grew up in Keighley, Yorkshire.  In due course, he studied engineering at Keighley Technical College and then moved to London to work on the engineering side of Armstrong Siddeley Motors, but it was quickly noted that he had a flair for sales and was transferred to the showroom in Bond Street where he stayed until 1938.

After much success he was invited back to Yorkshire by the Central Garage group to head their luxury car centre.  However, after only a few months the Second World War broke out and it was no surprise when Ray Scatchard volunteered for the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers.  He was then posted to Africa with the 24th Armoured Division, where he served with the 6th and 12th Tank Regiments.

While working with the Churchill tanks, he soon became aware of a serious flaw within the gearbox that controlled the operation of the gun turret and he was inspired to seek help from David Brown, an old and valued friend, whose family business was hugely experienced in the manufacture of gears and gearboxes.  The help was, indeed offered.

Ray Scatchard, now a Captain, was given leave to go to the David Brown factory at Meltham, just outside Huddersfield in Yorkshire, where he worked with Dr. Merritt to engineer an answer to the gearbox problem which was overcome, the solution being successfully applied to all Churchill tanks.

Ray Scatchard met Ethel Wigley in North Africa where she was a field nurse and they married in 1945.

With the end of the North African campaign and now a Major, his war moved to Italy where he fought at Monte Casino.  As the war drew to a close he was then posted to Austria where he remained until being "demobbed" in 1946.

King George VI awarded him an MBE for his loyalty and dedication to his Country and, no doubt, his significant input to the gun turret problem helped influence the making of the award.

On his return to Bradford, Central Garage put him in charge of Charles Sidney Ltd. where he had the task of turning it into a quality car dealership, securing successful agencies for Lagonda, Daimler, Healey and, of course, Aston Martin.

Ray Scatchard became concerned when the Lagonda Company got into financial difficulties.  He could see all the good work he had put in to expanding Lagonda sales in the north of England coming to nothing, particularly so, because it was rumoured that the Rootes Group were one of the companies interested in acquiring the marque.

Were they to succeed it would be a disaster for the Central Garage Group since they were Austin dealers and Ray Scatchard could see the lucrative Lagonda business passing over to his rivals.

With the approval of Mr McCalman, Lagonda sales director, and Mr A.P.Good, the Lagonda chairman, he approached his near neighbour, David Brown, in strictest confidence, hoping to persuade him to add the Lagonda marque to his newly acquired Aston Martin Company.

In conversations with Ray Scatchard, DB, while impressed by the Claude Hill Aston Martin chassis, believed the power output of the Claude Hill engine to be rather low.  Ray Scatchard leapt on this, suggesting to DB that the new W.O. Bentley designed Lagonda engine would more than over come the deficiency.

The receiver, Mr Greenwood, known to David Brown, told him there were three offers already on the table for Lagonda, the highest being about £250,000.  Although the W.O. engine had impressed David Brown he felt the size of the Lagonda set-up was more than he wished to acquire.

A gloomy economic forecast by Sir Stafford Cripps, the Labour Chancellor, prompted Rootes and the other two interested parties to withdraw their offers.

David Brown found out the nature of the highest bid and topped it to buy the Lagonda Company goodwill and some tooling for £52,500.

Ray Scatchard was pleased, if not a little relieved, to hear that the discussions with his friend had secured the Lagonda distribution franchise for Charles Sidney Ltd. and the company stayed loyal to Aston Martin Lagonda for some years.

However, back in 1953 the company had also taken on the Mercedes Benz distributorship, supplying seventeen dealerships in the north of England.  To allow Mercedes business to grow, Charles Sidney Ltd had to relinquish its Aston Martin and Lagonda franchises in 1963.

In 1969 the Charles Sidney group was purchased by The Thomas Tilling organisation who owned Mercedes Benz Concessionaires.  Ray Scatchard was appointed Managing Director where he remained until retiring in 1978, by when he had become Northern Regional Manager for Mercedes Benz car, van and truck sales and service covering the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

His strengths were his attention to detail, his discipline, his ability to come up with new ideas and have the confidence to drive them through, setting aside all obstacles. His success was due to his strong belief that an excellent and experienced service facility will result in strong repeat business and referrals. 

It was also acknowledged by his colleagues that his management skills and passion for his workforce were unsurpassed and throughout his time with Charles Sidney Ltd. he enjoyed immense loyalty and long service from all his employees and when he retired, the company, which had started with £12.10s in the till, had a balance of over £3million!

Major R.A.Scatchard leaves a dear wife, Ethel, 6 children, 16 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren; all very proud to have shared his life.

The above has been written with the help of his son, Malcolm, and we thank him for his contribution.
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* Permission to use this obituary has been granted by Malcolm Scatchard.