A true pioneer

What I love about curating this shambling, rambling pile of words is the serendipity of some of the subjects that come out as a consequence of unrelated ones, merely due to a tenuous link. Here, I’ll throw this post over to ace Brownhills history and webmaster David Hodkinson, for whom the BOAK building loss triggered a distant memory of one rather great British eccentric…

Over to David:

Bill, pictured around 1970. The spirit of the eccentric seems lost in British politics today, sadly. Photo taken from the Science and Society Picture Library, found by David Hodkinson.

Your items about the BOAK building set me searching the net. I wondered if the “Raving Loony” who stood in a Walsall Parliamentary election some time ago was involved with the BOAK business. Very soon I discovered I was completely on the wrong line. But – it’s so much fun to be distracted because you never know what will turn up.

Having followed all of your bike based videos – I wondered if you knew of this earlier bike based road safety activity?

…. In later life when money became short, he was forced to abandon Josephine (his car – not his wife! -David) and so built his own reinforced bicycle similarly laden with placards which also served much the same purpose. His bike which became a familiar sight at various election contests up and down the country, weighed 140 pounds and came armed with a camera, in order that he might take photographs of any errant motorists that he came across in his travels. Unfortunately the bike was eventually hijacked and taken to Aberystwyth where it remained, its ultimate fate unknown since Boaks was unable to afford the £20 to have it repaired.

In 1976 he contested the Walsall North By-election occasioned by the antics of John Stonehouse ….

Commander Bill Boaks might best be described as a Great British Eccentric with strongly held views on the issue of road safety, and once featured in the Guinness Book of World Records as holding the record for having stood as a parliamentary candidate more times than anyone else. As it turned out, Boaks who generally stood under the banner of Air, Road, Public Safety, White Resident, (or variations thereof) and in his later years as a Democratic Monarchist Public Safety White Resident, never came even close to winning a seat, but as Philip Howard once wrote in The Times there was a time when ‘no British election would be complete without Lieutenant-Commander Bill Boaks on his bike’.

He must have been a fit old bugger. Pioneering the ride cam, eh? Picture from Dave Pollard photography, found by David Hodgkinson.

As for me calling Commander Boaks a ‘Raving Loony’ – I think the world would be a lesser place without people that the masses call ‘loony’. I am only exceptional in my total averageness – but I have a formula for a healthy civilisation.

  • 1000 – average people
  • 1 – leader
  • 1 – brain box
  • 1 – athlete/risk taker
  • 1 – artist
  • 1 – moralist

And perhaps most importantly 1 total loony – because without someone who thinks differently to everyone else and devote themselves to a cause, how many avenues would be unexplored?

If you have the time to spare you may want to look at this full item –


All the best,

David Hodgkinson

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