Keeping One Eye on the Past

Keeping One Eye on the Past - Racing Daydreams by Colin Johnston

A nation that keeps one eye on the past is wise. A nation that keeps two eyes on the past is blind

Unknown

So reads the wisdom on the wall of The Garrick Bar – a Belfast institution. It has seen a lot of laughter & tears from the corner of Chichester Street and Montgomery Street since 1870.

I wonder if there were glasses raised in toast on 9th June 1911? The day two men – with eyes to the future – established a new business on Montgomery Street, creating one of the greatest businesses and brands to come out of Northern Ireland.

They had left the Chambers Motor company in early 1911. Marcus Patton had been chief draughtsman, and found himself in disagreement with Robert Chambers over a camshaft drive design. Shortly thereafter he found himself sacked!

The second man was an engineer from Drumaness, County Down, scion of a wealthy linen family. As an investor in Chambers and director of sales & customer relations, he hadn’t seen eye-to-eye with the Chambers brothers over the company’s future. Things came to a head in March of 1911.

The pair of engineers – draughtsman and salesman – conspired to start their own motor vehicle manufacturing company. Their backers & accountants had other ideas – sales & repair was were the profit was.

So, the new premises were established as a machine shop and coach builders. In November 1911 the agency for Humber cars was added, and they never looked back… well, perhaps with one eye.

The name of the business?

It was named after the ex-Chambers sales director, who fronted the new concern.

His name… Charles Hurst.

Today Charles Hurst Belfast is the largest automotive park in Europe. A 20-acre site, with 700 employees selling everything from Ferrari, Maserati and Aston Martin to Dacia, Kia… and the author’s Seat Mii.

Happy 110th birthday to a great Ulster success story.

Charles Hurst Group Operations Director, Jeff McCartney

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