In 2005 Tom put pen to paper and wrote `Tom Blackburn My Life’ and the article below is taken from it.
My thanks to Toms son, also Tom, for passing this on to me.
In Ribbleton, Preston on the 22 July 1932 Thomas and Minnie Blackburn introduced a son they would christen Thomas. Britain was in the grip of the Great Depression with high unemployment, soup kitchens becoming the norm and hunger marches to London from the north of the Country.
None of this bothered little Tom who had a healthy childhood and in 1938 he started his education at Woodland School in Ribbleton. In 1939 the family moved to a rented house on the front on East Beach at Lytham. Tom had a year at St John’s school and then at the age of 8 went to Lawrence House school in St Annes as a boarder. He remembered going to church on Sunday 3 September 1939 and on the vicar’s portable wireless hearing Mr Chamberlain’s announcement that we were at war with Germany. The air raid shelters erected on the green became a play ground for Tom and his friends. Tom recalled that whilst he was at Lawrence House in 1941 or 1942, on a Sunday night at about 8 pm all the young boys were rushing around in a state of undress waiting for their bath when German Bombers came over and dropped two bombs which fell on the school football fields only fifty yards from the school. One house nearby had it’s corner blown off and the bath was hanging out at an angle. Not much work was done the following day and the boys were crawling around looking for shrapnel.
In 1945 Tom continued his education at Oundle School in Northampton a school boasting no less than 3 winners of the VC and in it’s students Sir Peter Scott, the naturalist, countless MP’s and high ranking members of the Armed Forces.
Tom left Oundle in 1950 and started a 4-year student apprenticeship at English Electric, Preston. Whilst at English Elactric he attended the Harris Institute doing HNC in Mechanical Engineering and met a lot of new friends some of which were apprentices at Leland Motors.
Among then was John Lyons (the son of Sir William Lyons who then owned Jaguar cars).
Toms passion for anything mechanical led to an early interest in motorsport and having passed his driving test he purchased his first car an 1932 Aston Martin International for the the princely sum of £250. It had been an ex works car and had been taken to Le Mans as a mobile spare parts vehicle and Tom described it as well used. (That car today would probably be worth well over £100,000).
His interest in motorsport started in the left hand seat as a navigator but as his finances improved he swapped seats and started driving. Unlike most of todays events, the route would cover over 1500 miles with starts on a Friday and finish on a Sunday, with little sleep in between and was more a reliability test of man and machine. It was described at the time as “Timed Touring”” which sounds like just a run out, but who can average 30mph over Hard Knott Pass or Rest and be Thankful in Scotland.
In the early 50`s he competed in most of the major rallies of the day among those was the RAC Rally and it was on that event that in 1952 that he suffered a serious `off ‘ when swerving to avoid an “imaginary‘’ platoon of soldiers marching in the middle of the road. The telegraph pole he hit probably didn’t move very much and it resulted in a fractured skull.
After that accident Tom concentrated on one day and one night events and one weekend he competed on a Friday, setting a new record up Barbon Hill Climb, and a class win. Then Saturday night the Fylde Motor Club midnight Rally, which he won, then home for breakfast on Sunday morning, followed by a Sprint at New Brighton Promenade that afternoon which again he won.
Next he turned to the circuits and started racing first in a Lund Special, then in a variety of Jowett Javelins and Jupiters and his beloved TR2. His success in rallying carried on into racing and he became part of the Standard Triumph Works Team which won the Tourist Trophy Race at Dundrod in Ireland in 1954. He then went as reserve driver to the 1955 Le Manns. That year Le Manns was marred by the horrific racing accident which saw 84 people loose their lives and is still today the worst motor racing accident of all time. Tom had his sights set on doing the three greats, the Tourist Trophy, Le Mans and the Mille Miglia. The latter was renowned for its attrition rate with many race fatalities and the line was firmly drawn by both family and, in particular, Diane who Tom was due to marry in September.
So Tom became a sensible married man and concentrated on his various businesses until he retired at the age of 60.
Tom never lost interest in motor sport so in 1996 the bug bit again, when an old school pal invited him to join him on the Euroclassic, a four day tour of France and Germany taking in many of the major racing circuits, such as Spa, Hockenheim and Nuremburg, to name just a few. His renewed involvement in motor sport provided an invaluable distraction following the untimely death of Diane and Tom continued driving on events in Europe as well as many nearer home until failing eyesight meant he had to give up driving.