This week an 82-year-old woman was reunited with an electric vehicle made by her father way back in 1948.
Charlie Ridley worked among Coventry’s iconic motor trade industry, but he used the shed at the bottom of his Cheylesmore garden to invent and build vehicles from old scrap.
One item in particular was a battery-powered scooter which he managed to get registered and road-worthy. He would use the vehicle, which could make it up to speeds of 30mph, to get to and from work as well as giving rides to his children.
After Charlie died his widow donated some of his workshop items, including the scooter, to Coventry Transport Museum. The items were donated in 1979, ahead of the museum opening the following year.
It has been with the museum, primarily in storage, ever since. That is until this week, when Charlie’s daughter, Margaret, now 82, along with members of her family, were reunited with the family heirloom at the Transport Museum
Margaret’s niece, Laura Quirke, arranged for a surprise gathering at the venue on Friday, 26 January, where the scooter was presented to her aunty for the first time in decades.
“I was expecting a family gathering, but I felt it was going to be something special as it’s a work day,” Margaret said. “But I hadn’t a clue it was for this. I knew an engine had been donated but I didn’t realise it was this – I’m amazed someone has been able to find it.
“I could identify it as something my father made at the bottom of the garden in the shed he used to go and hide in. We all took turns in having a ride on the back.
“It was a labour of love for my father, he was making stuff all the time. We always wondered what he was doing and we would go down and ask what he was up to and he’d say ‘I’m making a wommit!’ He’d always say the same thing.
“He was ahead of his time; he’d use bits of old vehicles or whatever he could find to make things. I don’t think I’ve seen this scooter since I was a child.”
Niece Laura said: “I was in the Transport Museum three or so years ago when Coventry was City of Culture and it reminded me of a story where my grandmother donated an engine to a museum and I started asking questions.
“Last year I spoke to Megan at the museum who confirmed they had the engine and this electric motorbike and she sent me a picture. Then it seemed like a natural thing to do to reunite Margaret with it.”
The scooter was unique at the time and it was featured several times in the Coventry Telegraph who monitored Charlie’s progress and attempts to get the vehicle road-worthy.
According to these old newspaper clippings from the 1940s, Charlie used old parts of Calcott vehicles. Calcott had been one of the many manufacturing companies which sprung up in Coventry at the end of the late 19th century and the start of the 20th century.
However it was acquired by Singer in the 1920s, which means some of the parts on Charlie’s scooter are likely to be over 100 years old.