John Hopwood sadly passed away on October 27th, 2006, aged 73. John was a prominent and proud member of Stockport Motor Club in the 1950 – 1960s era and together with Roy Fidler they were the Clerks of the Course of the famous SMC, Regent Rally, always run in November with full entries of 180 competitors. They were pioneers in finding white roads, which were then unknown goer’s on Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire on the old 1” to 1 mile maps of 111.
John always Rallied under the Ecurie Cod Fillet name; this came about with Roy’s family owning several local ‘fish n chip' shops in and around the Stockport area, furthermore the SMC bulletin editor always wrote whenever they got a win that, Ecurie Cod Fillet has ‘struck again’. Roy used a ‘home built’ Buckler Special which was simply a chassis with two seats, 1172 Ford engine and open bodywork. John had his Romer, rubber, watches, pencils, purse and handkerchief all attached around his neck on string; otherwise they would simply disappear onto the open road beneath. Sometimes when their car was not quite ready from the previous weekends foray, they would turn out and win in one of ‘Fidlers For Fish’ delivery vans, complete with a crate of ‘Manx Kippers’ rolling around in the back. This was around the same time that the victorious Scottish Ecurie Ecosse racing stable were winning in their C-Type Jaguars at Le Mans and Spa etc, and this is how the ECF name stuck.
Eligibility to become a member of ECF was to win a Motoring News (MN) rally, no mean feat indeed especially when entries in those days were inundated with star quality competitors. During the Motoring News ‘200 mile road races’ of the 1960s, John would be seen at the start of events going round collecting Team Entry fees so that he could enter as many permutations as possible, to ensure that the Team Prize was always won by Ecurie Cod Fillet.
When John was holidaying in the Isle of Man in the early sixties he asked the local motor club why they did not run a road rally? They didn’t know how! Was the reply. Well typical John got stuck in, and in the interim meetings, someone from the I.o.M. casually asked if it would help the rally if they could implement the normal ‘road closure’ procedure. Well after a heavy dose of smelling salts, John managed to pick himself up from the floor and hey presto, ECF were the instigators of the inaugural Manx Trophy Rally in 1963.
After many years of involvement, John retired from rallying and also his expertise glove manufacturing Company, Bury & Hopwood. From this point onwards other notable celebrity stars were ‘allowed in’ including Sir Jackie Stewart, Eric Carlson, and Pat Moss to name just a few. And from it’s early beginning with just a few members it increased very slowly each year and eventually blossomed into an Exclusive Club with approx 400 members worldwide. With an ever increasing list of hopefuls! But no chance, as Raymond Baxter once said, we are members of the most elitist club of motor sporting personnel in existence.
John produced his ‘witty ditty’ ECF bulletin about three times a year and together with his core team of ECF members organised a re-union every 3 years, which once again was a mammoth task with members attending from all over the world. John also edited his famous ‘Cod Fillet’ quiz which appeared in every copy of every MSA affiliated Motor Club bulletin, in the UK, of which no doubt many of you had a go at guessing the answers, just like me.
His dedication to British Motor Sport started every morning with breakfast, dinner and tea and no doubt in his local pub. Always a great team member to have on your side at an inter club quiz, where I teamed up with him in the 1970s when we both competed under the Stockport Motor Club and Knowldale Car Club flags and later both the HRCR and Knutsford Motor Clubs.
During the 1980s John and I competed in his TR2 and my TR3a on several Historic Rallies, on events in England, Wales, France and Ireland with our natural competitive spirit coming to the fore.
As a great testament to his services to both ECF and British Motor Sport, there were over 300 people who attended his funeral, filling both the church and the school next door in Hyde. Followed by a many a tall story being told at the Hyde Cricket Club reception, just a mile away from John’s family home.
His wife Anne, daughters, son-in laws and grandchildren will sadly miss ‘Hoppy’ and his witty ways. He became a much-loved Grandpa during his latter years through his various illnesses and had every intention of living life to the full. So much so, he had once again volunteered to man a Time Control on the Rally of the Tests on November 10th in Wales and as a further tribute, the organisers altered the Road Books to re-name this a Memorial Time Control where each and every competitor had to adhere to a one minute silence while standing to attention.
As a true and just person, I am absolutely positive that John Hopwood would not have got a ‘WD’ at his very last ‘Time Control’.
07 November 2006 – Don Barrow ex-President SMC.