We are staying, as we always stay, in the cottage where Maurice Wilks designed the land rover. He worked for Hillman Motor Car Company in Coventry in the early 1920s and then spent two years with General Motors. After returning to work for Hillman, he was appointed chief engineer at Rover in 1930, where his older brother was already works manager (he had previously been managing director of Hillman) and was to become managing director in 1934. Wilks bought a smallholding on Anglesey and used an American army jeep to travel round it during the war. He and his brother had the idea of designing a version of the jeep for British farmers which they decided to call a Land Rover. The first land rover rolled off the assembly line on 11 March 1948. It’s clear that Wilks belonged to a peculiarly British strand of manufacturing, strong in engineering and technical invention, more interested in high quality production than in volume, good with his hands and at carpentry. He had the idea for the Range Rover in 1952. So, next time I see a great Chelsea tractor, I will think of Maurice Wilks bumping around in a prototype over the boggy fields of south-west Anglesey.
I went in search of his tomb which is in in the churchyard of Llanfair y Cwmwd, so remote that it doesn’t appear in Google maps, down a back lane north of Dwyran. It reads: MAURICE FERNAND WILKS AUGUST 19TH. 1904 – SEPTEMBER 8TH. 1963 A MUCH LOVED GENTLE MODEST MAN WHOSE SUDDEN DEATH ROBBED THE ROVER COMPANY OF A CHAIRMAN AND BRITAIN OF THE BRILLIANT PIONEER WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WORLDS FIRST GAS TURBINE DRIVEN CAR.
The church is sweet:
This is the tomb: