Given that the famous Brock’s Fireworks factory was active in Sutton during the years of Knights-Whittome’s business, we were hopeful that we might have found an image of someone linked to the factory to offer us a firework related subject for today’s post, but alas, none of our research to date has brought up anything relevant. Instead, today’s subjects were selected because it happens that they were photographed exactly 106 years ago to the day. They were not Knights-Whittome’s only clients of the day, in fact, his other client of 3 Nov 1910 was a Miss Greenstreet, whose brother, Lionel Greenstreet has already featured on this blog for his involvement in the Shackleton expedition to the Antarctic. However, as it turns out, at least one of these two sweet young boys has turned out to be just as interesting and almost as well known in his own circles, though from an entirely different walk of life…
We had already identified these two boys as most probably being Douglas Raymond Ray, born 1905, and his younger brother Lionel Hope Way, born 1908, as recorded in the 1911 census. The family lived in Grange Road, Sutton. Their father, Douglas Walter Way, was a bank clerk at the Bank of England. A Google search revealed that Lionel, the younger brother had served in as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery during WW2 and had sadly died of pneumonia, aged 33 in 1941 in Aberdeen. Beyond that we were unable to find much information about the younger of these two boys.
His older brother Douglas on the other hand appears to have left quite a legacy behind him. A Google search of his name revealed a life which was filled to the brim with experiences and occupations most would only dream about. The life in fact that every little boy may well dream of living. His obituary, which featured in The Telegraph 18 Aug 2001 begins with the endorsement ‘Raymond Way built an empire on acumen and hard work. We’ll never see his like again…’
The article goes on ‘Douglas Raymond Way was born in Sutton, Surrey in 1905 and died in 1981. He filled the time between with a variety of careers: Brooklands racing driver; RAF pilot; proprietor of Shackleton Aviation; Lloyds underwriter; boxing and wrestling promoter; farmer; Radio Luxembourg motoring correspondent; Home Guard soldier with Tommy Trinder; fairground barker; car and motorcycle salesman. He also found time to marry on three occasions and work seven-day weeks trading cars and promoting himself and his business.’ His son Fred Way is quoted “My dad learned his trade from the fairgrounds. He was a circus barker, then he ran the wall of death, but he did a lot of jobs. There was even a plan to write a book about him, called How to have 28 jobs.”
He was a well known figure on the stock car racing circuit and at one time Britain’s most successful used car dealer, selling over 2000 cars a year in his heyday under the slogan “Don’t delay, buy your car the Raymond Way”. In addition to regular car sales he also bought and sold cars owned by famous personages including Churchill’s Daimler, Wallis Simpson’s Buick, Goering’s eight-ton armoured car, the Duke of Windor’s Buick limousine; Sir George Bernard Shaw’s Lanchester; Ivor Novello’s Rolls-Royce and King Feisal of Iraq’s Rolls-Royce.
A website devoted to Stock Cars from the 1950’s paints a vivid picture of the man, and talks of Raymond flying his own Piper aeroplane over Staines Stadium, trailing a banner advertising his dealership. Raymond hired out cars to TV series such as “Z Cars”, and to movies. He once had a mechanical elephant installed at his dealership.
Douglas Raymond Way was clearly a man whose success in business was largely driven by his strength of character and determination. His long list of fantastical careers and achievements read like a wish-list of ‘when I grow up’ fantasy jobs. We wonder whether his brother would ever have matched his success had he lived longer, or whether his brother’s early death could indeed have contributed to his desire to achieve so much. The Telegraph mentions his brother Lionel only once. “Way (Raymond) had no doubt that he was somebody. When he and his brother Lionel went in Ray’s Rolls-Royce to watch their beloved Crystal Palace before the war, Lionel went off to the terraces, Ray to the grandstand seats: “I’m Raymond Way, I can’t go on the terraces,” he said. The two brothers watched the game from different ends of the pitch; in a few years Lionel would be dead from pneumonia.”
The Telegraph obituary ends…’Few of us remember the man who sold us a car, but at the very least Way deserves to be remembered for his style. On the back of the photograph of his motor launch “White Ghost” he wrote, “Every kid wants to wear loud ties and get his hair waved. And every millionaire wants to own a yacht. I’ve done the lot. Here’s my yacht, with me at the helm, after I had loaned her to the Admiralty when war began. We searched the Thames and the North Sea for mines. Thank God we never found any. After all, she was a nice yacht”
Not a bad achievement for a little boy in knee high socks from Sutton.
One of the joys of working with this material is that there is always the element of the unknown with these plates. From the moment we unveil a subject -often for the first time in one hundred years – until the moment we identify the person or place depicted, there is an air of possibility. We do not know who these people were, or what they did or did not achieve. Their lives remain full of potential and possibility. Sadly, we have learned that many of these young people were never able to fulfil their full potential. But for the many who were cut down in their prime, like Raymond’s brother Lionel, there are always a few bright stars, who seemed to achieve enough for the rest.