Founder Member Bill Mallalieu was also a fierce competitor, whose choice of car more often than not guaranteed he would be entertaining to watch
Postponing one’s wedding by two weeks in order to organise a motor rally may not seem the most auspicious start to a life of wedded bliss, but that is precisely what Bill Mallalieu did in 1959 . . . a tribute to WPK’s commitment to the Barbados Rally Club, of which he had been a Founder Member two years before.
Of the 12 Founder Members, only three remain – Wilfred Massiah, who now lives in England, David McKenzie, who has not maintained his links with the Club, and Mallalieu, who has the distinction of having served the membership without a break throughout all 50 years.
A member of the first Club committee under the chairmanship of Maurice Hutt, Mallalieu has served since then in a variety of capacities – he was never Chairman himself, but served for more than a decade as Vice-Chairman in an important partnership with then-Chairman Trevor Gale. The development of Bushy Park in the early 1970s brought on a restructuring of the Club; with a bank loan being guaranteed by a number of members, Trustees were created and Gale and Mallalieu became the first President and Vice-President respectively.
As Mallalieu remembers: “I served a full term of nine years as Vice-President, nine years as President, then a further term of nine years as Vice-President
. . . and I am proud again to be President as the Club moves into its second half-century.”
As is the case with so many sporting clubs in communities the size of Barbados – with a population of 260,000 it is, after all, comparable to a medium-sized town in many other countries – committees of management tend to be made up largely of competitors. Mallalieu’s enjoyment of competition ran in parallel with his work for the Club
. . . and his day job, initially working for Dunlop, but later – and to this day – in real estate.
Although the Club committee met fortnightly in the early days, it was not always hard work; the first minute book includes an entry for April 22, 1959: “This announcement [of recognition by the RAC - ed] was greeted by loud cheers. A round of drinks was promptly set up and swallowed.”
His love of all things motoring is also revealed in a much more concrete way through the Mallalieu Motor Collection in Hastings on the south coast; this privately-owned museum houses a wide range of cars, from the humble Ford Escort and Wolseley Hornet to a superbly-restored Bentley, formerly owned by Prince Bernhardt of the Netherlands, and which subsequently once contested the Monte Carlo Rally.
Surrounding the cars is an eclectic collection of regional and international motor sport memorabilia unique to the Caribbean; photographs from the early days of the Barbados Rally Club, including the 1957 June Rally, are displayed alongside press cuttings, product advertisements and club badges from around the world, including the British Racing Drivers’ Club in the UK.
In the early days of the June Rally, Mallalieu and Gale took it in turns to set the route, so that the other could compete in alternate years. Back then, there was a remarkable range of machinery in use; while the open-topped sports cars of the day – Austin-Healey, MG, Triumph – were favoured by some, including Mallalieu for certain classes of competition, the Founder Member also espoused some truly impressive vehicles. In 1960, he was to be seen driving a Humber Hawk in a dexterity test, then there was a string of what, in the 21st century, are referred to as ‘big juice’ cars: Ford Fairlane, Ford Falcon GT and Pontiac Parisienne, those American cars followed by a 3.5-litre Mercedes-Benz, one of the most technically-advanced cars of its day.
In his capacity as a committee member, Mallalieu travelled the region. In 1965, he was in Guyana (British Guiana, as it was then) to support Bobby Gill, the first Club member to compete outside the island; in 1966, he was among Club members who travelled to Jamaica on the trip that convinced the committee that longer rallies could be run in Barbados – there, he competed with brother Mark and John Sealy in his Volvo 122S.
Mallalieu won the first of those 500-mile overnight rallies, the 10th Anniversary June Rally in 1967, with Sealy as navigator in his Alfa Romeo Sprint, a car that had starred on the manufacturer’s stand at the London Motor Show the year before. Mallalieu’s second June Rally win came in 1978 – in an achievement thus far unique in the event’s history, he and Sealy swapped roles, Mallalieu navigating Sealy to victory in a Fiat 127. The Mallalieu family scrapbook also records Bill’s son Andrew winning the 40th Anniversary event and establishing his own record, with Sean Gill, as the only driver-navigator combination to have won the event four times.
Even in those early days, all was not plain sailing – Mallalieu was also the first driver to lodge a protest in a Club event: “The protest was lodged by Peter Ince and myself after the 1960 June Rally, during which the first hill climb was attempted.
“The entries were divided into two classes – fast and slow. On arriving at the bottom of Spa Hill, you were told whether you were fast or slow, then sent off to climb the hill as fast as you could. The only difference was that slow cars were set off at 30-second intervals, while the fast cars would leave 60 seconds after the previous car.
“I was driving a very large Ford Fairlane, classified, correctly, as fast. We arrived at the start behind two Ford Prefects drlven by ladies as slow as you could get. We were sent off one minute after the second Prefect and 90 seconds after the first. We met them both within half-a-mile of the start, at the top of the first hill; we then had to pass them. The road was barely wide enough for a small car – certainly not for one small and one large – but we forced past, not quite touching either of them, and completed the hill.
“We felt the organisers had been remiss in not allowing a greater interval, so protested. The committee turned down our protest, probably because its members could not think of what to do with the results had they upheld us . . . of course, it didn’t really matter, as we were the fastest, anyhow!”
Mallalieu last saw motor sport action, albeit at significantly lower speed, during SOL Motorsport Interactive at Bushy Park in February 2006, an event organised to launch the season by the Barbados Motoring Federation, of which Mallalieu’s son
Andrew is President; Bill mercilessly punished the tyres of the 1968 Ford Escort from his Collection on the autocross test laid out by Barbados Rally Club members.
In a Sunday Advocate supplement marking the Club’s 35th Anniversary, Mallalieu said: “The Club has been able to retain the interest and commitment of most of the families that founded it, giving it continuity.” And that social element of the Club was always important – Mallalieu remembers: “One of the best parties the Club ever had was at my home; it was in honour of the British rally men Andrew Cowan, Henry Liddon and Tony Pond, who were passing through Barbados on their way home from South America. From memory I think every member of the Club turned up.”
After some years of staging its Annual Prizegiving at formal function venues, the Club returned to its roots; of the November 2006 affair, staged at Club Vice-Chairman Barry Gale’s home in St Philip, Mallalieu said: “It was a tremendous evening, and a big step forward to reviving that old Club spirit.”