Hatfield Students mark 50th anniversary of lawnmower trek

PUBLISHED: 14:27 06 May 2009 | UPDATED: 22:03 26 October 2009

Mike Savage, left, presents a haggis to professor Tim Wilson, as the four other members of Operation Matador look on

Mike Savage, left, presents a haggis to professor Tim Wilson, as the four other members of Operation Matador look on

ON Good Friday, 1959, five students from what was then Hatfield Technical College set off from Edinburgh Castle for a road trip with a difference. Their aim: to negotiate a Ransomes Matador mower from Scotland to London's Hyde Park non-stop in just four

Tom Hudson sets off from Edinburgh Castle on the Ransomes Matador lawnmower in 1959

ON Good Friday, 1959, five students from what was then Hatfield Technical College set off from Edinburgh Castle for a road trip with a difference.

Their aim: to negotiate a Ransomes Matador mower from Scotland to London's Hyde Park non-stop in just four days.

The students, who at the time were all working for the de Havilland Aircraft Company, wanted to prove the reliability of small petrol engines, and called the trip Operation Matador.

They certainly made their point, for 99 hours later the quintet were in the capital, presenting a haggis to the Keeper of the Royal Parks in London, who was, fittingly, a Scotsman.

Now, fifty years on, Tom Hudson, Mike Smith, Mike Savage, Hugh Tansley and John Wilson reunited at the University of Hertfordshire to celebrate the golden anniversary of their feat.

The five, now all in their 70s, presented vice-chancellor Professor Tim Wilson with a haggis, and were accompanied by a replica of the mower that became their home for four days more than half-a-century ago.

Prof Wilson said: "It's just marvellous, the sense of adventure these people had 50 years ago.

"The idea of driving a lawnmower from Edinburgh to London just to prove that the engine is reliable is amazing. That spirit is just the sort of thing we do at the university, and I'm delighted to have them here."

For the full story and more pictures, see the May 20 edition of the WHT.


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