Posted on 11 November 2017
THE BENTLEY MARK VI FEATURED IN OUR IMAGES HAS AN INTRIGUING HISTORY
Built in 1949, the car was first owned by Wilson H Hey, a Surgeon who led a fascinating and controversial life.
Hey spent the First World War as a battlefield doctor with the Royal Army Medical Corps, in which he rose to the rank of Major. He was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour for his treatment of French casualties. However, his experiences there set him on a path which resulted in tabloid scandal and a criminal record.
After the Great War, Hey returned to his post of consultant at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, where he was a pioneer in using radium for the treatment of cancer. Time off was spent in the mountains, climbing regularly in Britain and the Alps. By 1939, Hey’s passion for the outdoors motivated him to campaign for the establishment of organised Mountain Rescue teams, and in particular the need for effective pain-relief for injuries sustained in the mountains. He could see a way to not only ease suffering but also to considerably boost the chances of the casualties' survival in extreme and remote conditions.
Frustrated by bureaucracy and red-tape, he decided to personally fund and supply the effective pain-killer, morphine to Mountain Rescue posts across the country. The problem however was that in the eyes of the law, this was highly illegal. The law strictly limited the use of this drug to hospitals only, although special dispensations were given to coalmines.
Hey was convinced that in order to force the government to revise the law, it was necessary to deliberately flout the rules. He had anticipated the possible legal proceedings that would follow, and felt that a high profile court case and a spell in jail would publicise the cause effectively.
In 1949, he was summoned before the courts. Hey arrived in his Bentley knowing there was a chance he may not be making the return trip that day. In fact, he narrowly avoided prison, but garnered a large body of support from politicians, peers and leading figures from the Royal College of Surgeons.
As a result, in 1950 the law was changed. Non-medical members of mountain rescue teams could now hold and administer morphine, helping relieve suffering and ultimately, saving lives.
Meanwhile, the Bentley had become a distinctive part of Hey’s household. Hey employed a driver, called ‘Reanie’, a stridently independent woman who was typically clad in stylish tweed trouser-suits. Reanie negotiated the official two-week Bentley Chauffeur course with Merit; of course, she had driven field ambulances during the war.
After Wilson Hey’s death in 1956, the Bentley passed to his engineer-son Thomas. He used the car as his daily motor and continental cruiser for the next 60 years, exhaustively and meticulously cataloguing every turn of screw and tighten of nut.
Amongst other projects, Thomas Hey worked as an engineer developing flight-critical hydraulic systems for the famed ‘Vulcan', which at the time was Britain’s game-changing strategic nuclear bomber.
In his private time, the Bentley was Thomas's pride and joy. He used his scientific approach to devise ingenious solutions and improvements, such as it’s electronic car alarm and engine immobiliser which he designed and built at a time before pocket calculators even existed. It is doubtful that another Bentley exists anywhere in the world that has such a detailed and insightful service history!
Nick originally moved to Scotland in the early 70s to design commercial fish farms. One of his innovations was repurposing waste warm water from Scotch Whisky Distilleries to provide optimum growing conditions for the fish.
Nowadays he owns and runs a farm on Speyside, home to some of the world’s finest whiskies! In his spare time, Nick is engaged in the rolling restoration of his Grandfather’s Bentley - making sure that it is fit and ready for the next 60 years!