A giant of the railway world and a true gentleman
By Geoff Courtney
The omens were good for legendary railwayman Richard Hardy – who died on February 18 at the age of 94 – from the day in January 1941 he was offered an LNER apprenticeship at Doncaster by Edward Thompson.
Richard, known to most as Dick, or to others as Mr R H N Hardy, was born on October 8, 1923, and was drawn to steam locomotives at an early age during his early years in Amersham, Bucks. He was educated at Marlborough College, and as his schooling drew to a close he told a careers advisor that he wanted to join either the LMS or LNER.
At the time the LNER’s chief mechanical engineer was Sir Nigel Gresley, and the advisor told Dick to go for the LNER “because there was a gentleman at the top”. He duly wrote to Gresley and received a reply from Thompson, inviting him to an interview.
Perhaps seeing a kindred spirit in the 17-year-old sitting across the table as he too had been a pupil at Marlborough College, Thompson offered Dick a premium apprenticeship after a mere
15 minute interview and, to the youngster’s surprise, said his chauffeur would take him to some digs in town.
And so he found himself at 43 St Mary’s Road, under the care of landlady Miss Marsh, with whom he stayed for nearly five years and who he described as “a wonderful landlady of the old school who would stand no nonsense.” The rent was 30s (£1.50) per week seven days a week with four meals a day, this later rising to 35s “with profuse apologies”.
He was one of five youngsters there, one of whom was another Doncaster apprentice, and he enjoyed a stable and enjoyable environment in the company of Miss Marsh, her mongrel Queenie, and his fellow boarders. “I could come in all hours if I was in overalls, but if I went to the flicks and was not in by 2230, she wanted chapter and verse,” Dick once wrote.
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