A Tribute to Brown Overall

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Sad news has been received from the East London (Dalston) Chapter of the HPOEC, regarding our great friend and colleague, 'Brown Overall'.  

'BO' will be best known to many members as the Club's tirelessly technical expert in the maintenance and preservation of the very few, elite surviving machines of our Graet Marque. Most club members will never forget his monthly 'Tales from "The Shed"' contribution in the pages of 'The Fettler', wherein he offered prodigiously detailed and authoritative advice, whether sought or not. 'BO' simply knew more about motorcycles than anyone else and he was overgenerous to a fault when sharing his know-how.'Brown Overall' (Nathaniel Benjamin) in happier days, aboard his Hurley Pugh Wildebeeste T34 Kursk Special, Golan Heights, 1971, shortly before feigning his death for the third time.  Hurley Pugh Owners and Enthusiasts Club photographic archive, courtesy of Mossad/IDF.

After 'The Fettler' was forced to cease publication by yet another vexatious, costly and largely unsuccessful H.M. Revenue audit of Hurley Publishing Ltd's tax affairs, 'BO' turned his attention toward his personal collection of Hurley Pugh motorcycles, purchased or otherwise acquired over the preceding half-century. Most were fastidiously dismantled and stored in boxes, awaiting equally fastidious refurbishment, alongside his vast and unique collection of original Scunthorpe works tools, reconditioned and NOS parts, and unique materials. In truth 'BO' was something of a hoarder, of immense value to the Club. There simply was no-one else who could supply a bale of 1930's authentic Burmese gutta percha (as used with wicker and ox leather bindings in the 3-seater 'Kaffir plus' saddle option for the Wildebeest Savannah Safari Special model), monogrammed 'Alaric' ivory crash protectors, or HP Moby Heavy Grade Total Loss Whale Oil. It became necessary to demolish the decrepit old shed as this endeavour grew. A substantial and superior new building replaced it, despite planning objections from curmudgeonly neighbours and one or two ominously low passes by the RAF. As one club wag quipped, he had become 'Barn Overall'. The casual visitor could almost imagine themselves back in the Scunthorpe works of the 1930's, heavy with the smell of hot steel, machine oil, Woodbines, the men's W.C, canteen boiled cabbage, and the sullen insolence of the working class. 'BO' had never been happier. Alas, it was not to continue.

Unfortunately, notwithtanding Club policy, the new storage racking had been procured from a non-Masonic source by 'BO's' indentured apprentice 'Bodge'. After only 19 years experience he did not have the maestro's appreciation of stress loading and buying British. What exactly happened will be fully reported on by the Club Continuity and Discipline committee inquiry in due course. However preliminary inspection of the crater strongly indicates that some forty-eight and a half tons of stacked HP flywheel-crankshaft standard (non-race) assemblies s/no 1150-3601 overwhelmed the shoddy Shenzen steel racking, which collapsed like dominos. The enormous shock of the shelving collapse then set off a crate containing 12 gross of remanufactured ejector saddle explosive bolts. At one time this would have been harmless, but the nannyish health and safety restrictions of today have meant that the club was no longer able to obtain safe and predictable British-made ex-WD Amatal. The modern equivalent, discreetly obtained from a manufacturer in Czechoslovakia, being continental, was typically excitable. Hence the Club's preliminary judgement is that the European Union's witless so-called safety directives are directly responsible for the accident.

'BO' had been observed by an irate neighbour, hard at work at midnight panel-beating the legshields of his Wildebeest T34 Kursk Special. It was the last anyone saw of him, or the neighbour. Both simply vanished in the conflagration. Poignantly, 'BO's' trade-mark whale-oiled 'de-mob' brogues were found hanging from a GPO telephone line in nearby Haggerston Road.

On a lighter note this appalling tragedy was greatly mitigated by the survival of his motorcycles and most of the spares; a further testimonial, if any were needed, to the robust quality of our indomitable machines. Although some of the lighter components have many dents and one-inch holes torn through by flying bolts, they should easily be capable of repair given sufficient time, talent and tea. If 'BO' taught us anything, it was never to throw anything away.

War correspondent, great statesman, newspaper proprietor, first lady prime minister of Ghana, amateur chicken sexer, heavyweight champion of the world, pogo stick greaser by appointment, confidante of Queen Victoria, Miss World and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Brown Overall was none of these things. He was however a man of many parts, and touched those around him in many ways, quite often making their own lives better by his presence.

As well as his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things mechanical in the world of Hurley-Pugh, which he used in the furtherance of the Graet Marque's continued existence, and the assistance of the HPOEC members in need of help, he was also a devoted family man, technical advisor to famed east-end custom motorcycle builders Bonce and Geezer, Theatrical Impressario, founder of a bespoke specialist leather and rubber goods supplier, and last but not least, collector of vintage cardboard boxes of many shapes and sizes.

He will be sadly missed by the entire HPOEC community, and also a wider audience that got to know him through his relentless mischief.

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