Mr Hilary Louis Clive is a sprightly, much travelled, 91-year-old who now lives with his equally active wife Zena in north London. Their apartment overlooks Stanmore Golf Club, a sport that he has always been interested in. They moved there many years ago, buying it ‘off-plan’, and leaving behind their home in Hampstead Garden Suburb.
His travels around the world have resulted in a fascinating collection of pictures and memorabilia spread throughout the flat, but taking pride of place is a large picture of their children and grandchildren. Hilary is very adept at making things and has turned one of his bedrooms into a DIY workshop and office. He can turn his hand to manufacturing just about anything in wood, metal and plastic. He has two small lathes in the room, one of which is a watchmaker’s lathe.
As a youngster, Hilary worked in Petticoat Lane market in London, which is where he gained his knowledge of the rag trade. This eventually led him into business making and selling ladies’ dresses, which he did from his showroom in London’s Regent Street. One day, while standing in the shop doorway, he spotted a grey Armstrong Siddeley driving past sporting the registration HLC 1. Hilary remembers saying to himself, “That’s for me!”
He contacted his insurers who tracked down the car’s owner. Hilary wrote, asking if he could acquire the registration. The owner’s reply seemed to imply that he suspected that the enquirer might be a bit of a nutcase, but he said that Hilary could have the number plate. In those days one needed to own both vehicles in order to transfer a number plate between them, so the owner kindly sent Hilary the vehicle registration document so the transfer could take place. Hilary transferred the registration and duly returned the document.
The gentleman from whom he acquired the number asked Hilary about his occupation. When Hilary said that he was a dressmaker and seller, the man arranged for his wife to pay a visit. Six months later the lady came into the showroom and introduced herself. Hilary, still delighted at getting his number plate, allowed her to select six dresses, which at that time ranged in price between £2 and £2.10s. Hilary calculates that the registration cost him no more that £15. It is worth substantially more nowadays and he plans to put it onto a retention certificate and leave it to his grandchildren, so they can share the proceeds when it is eventually sold on.
Hilary has always loved driving and has competed in the biennial London to Jerusalem rallies on many occasions. Hilary has been reluctant to use his beloved Mercedes for the rally, so the organisers provide him with a car for each event.
As a way of saying thank you, he plans eventually to donate his car to the organisers. The various commemorative plaques from these rallies are proudly displayed on a wall in his flat. He isn’t taking part in the 2008 rally as he feels that three weeks away is too long for him at the moment, but he is planning to do a one-week rally to the Algarve in 2009.
Hilary has always pursued challenging activities and, in addition to rallying, he has enjoyed skiing, golfing, fishing, safaris and even dance exhibitions.
His early love of golf saw him becoming captain of Potters Bar Golf Club. Over the years he has managed to sink six holes-in-one, three of which were at Potters Bar. He got down to a handicap of just five and found himself playing with champion golfers, Peter Thomson, Tony Jacklin, Gary Player and many of the Ryder Cup golfers.
Hilary’s love of adventure led to his participation in the 1979 Sinai Desert Trek along with 80 other people, and he vividly remembers sleeping under stars instead of in the dormitory tents where most of the others slept.
One of Hilary’s proudest moments was in 1994 when he and the other entrants of the London to Jerusalem Rally were treated as VIP guests of King Hussain of Jordan to acknowledge their charitable work. It was the first Kern Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund Rally and the King presented each of them with a commemorative Israel/Jordan Peace Medal.
In 2002, at a rally where Stirling Moss was a guest of honour, the racing legend offered to drive him around the Formula One circuit. Needless to say, Hilary was thrilled.
He was less thrilled on another occasion when his car broke down outside the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, in the middle of the film festival. Hilary had to endure the embarrassment of waiting around outside the busy hotel waiting for someone to tow his broken-down vehicle. In another driving incident he recalls, he had parked illegally, but was allowed to go on his way unhindered as the attendant had the initials HLC, the same as those on Hilary’s car registration!