Self-styled ‘Wandering Minstrel’, Goff Radcliffe, has spent most of his working life in the road haulage business. “Prior to selling my business to Pickfords, the number GR 15 was always on my service van. I have tended to understate myself and was never tempted to put it on the various Rolls Royces that I have owned.”
The number is now on his Land Rover Discovery, complemented by GR 45 on a 1910 International lorry. “I have had these for over 35 years,” he states proudly. “GR 45 does the London to Brighton run and other HGV shows.” Goff also has GPR 6 on his wife’s car, and 6 GPR on retention, a lovely matching pair of numbers which he purchased through Regtransfers.
But his pride and joy is the number 89 KEY, which is displayed on the Volvo hospitality unit which tows a fairground organ to corporate events and shows. The number relates, however, to the organ itself, an extremely rare and beautifully preserved ‘89-key’ Marenghi model built in Paris in 1901.
“It plays on punch-card music,” Goff informs us. “All key instruments from piano accordions through to grand pianos are all signified by the number of keys.
My 89-key fairground organ is critically acclaimed as one of the finest examples still travelling. I hire this out for corporate events, open days and weddings, etc. One client remarked it is cheaper than hiring the band of the Coldstream Guards!“
Goff bought the registration at auction, but the process was fraught with potential disaster, as he explains:
“I rearranged my very busy working life in order that I could bid in person, but the driver that undertook my regular Italian run was taken ill, so I was forced to undertake the run myself.”
“I arranged to bid by mobile phone but, just as the auction began, I was entering the Mont Blanc Tunnel and the mobile phone reception was awful. Twice the phone ‘died’. I prayed I would not be cut off again as the under-bidder would then get 89 KEY.
“This time my luck was in and the reception was clear enough for me to hear the bidding in the room. I could tell there was not much interest in the number. The end result being that the number was knocked down to me for just over the very low reserve price. I didn’t need to be driving over the Alps with 44 tonnes as I was personally flying much higher than that!
“Upon reflection I suppose that, apart from a locksmith or another 89 key fairground organ owner (of which there are only about 12 in the country), 89 KEY would not be of much interest. But it attracts such a lot of interest when I attend events. On more than one occasion, someone has asked me if it was worth replacing the road plates with ‘show plates’ on private ground. My polite response is ‘please take a look at the tax disc in the windscreen.’ Modesty forbids me to gloat when they realise it is the genuine number.”