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  Charles Toghill (19/09/1923 - 23/09/2006)

Sadly Charlie Toghill died on the 23rd September, a few days after his 83rd birthday. He will be greatly missed but long remembered as the right-hand man for Frank Nichols for much of his working life.

A look at the photograph of the Elva Engineering team outside the York workshop shows Charlie in the light overalls, but his working relationship with FGN goes back far longer and lasted for nearly fifty years.

In fact as young lads Charlie and Frank both sang together in the local church choir but met up again in the post war years when Frank was working at the New Inn Garage for Bunty Hewett, while Charlie was making, mending, fettling and spraying for the Bexhill Garage owned by Joe Davis.

Frank was anxious to progress in these difficult times and wanted to boost his income by buying, repairing and selling second-hand cars for himself, and Charlie was enrolled to 'do them up'. The partnership worked and FGN decided to set up his own business buying the old stable block and yard in London Road Bexhill, employing Charlie and also taking on Len Sayers as the young helper.

Gently other people in the local motor trade became involved with the London Road Garage, the yard was roofed over by Charlie as business increased, and before long the Elva Engineering Co. was formed as the workforce turned away from car repairs towards the lure of motor sport. At that time the workforce consisted of FGN, Charlie, Len, 'Mac' Witts, Keith Marsden and Arthur Lee as a contracted master welder.

Charlie often travelled to various suppliers and accompanied Frank to the Steering Wheel Club on a regular basis as it was a favourite haunt for 'father' Frank. As the early sports racers found success, Charlie sometimes attended race meetings but suffered a nasty accident when returning from Brands Hatch which resulted in him staying in hospital for nine months. Dizzy Addicott had driven the car at Brands but there was minor damage to the Mk.II and so Keith offered to drive the car back to the works while Charlie drove the Morris Commercial PV. It was decided that they would stop off for a drink on route but on returning to the vehicles it started to rain and it was Charlie who had the only coat. He therefore jumped into the sports racer to head back to Bexhill, but a sticking throttle caused him to loose control at speed and he hit a tree and almost lost an arm.

Once recovered he returned to the growing team where he remained until the much reduced Elva workforce moved to Rye in 1961. However, he was often called upon to help Frank with various jobs and when FGN resigned from the Trojan controlled Elva company in Croydon he again called Charlie to help with various projects including the conversion of various Oast houses under Firlan Construction, the supply of kitchen furniture and bathroom fittings under Vale Warehouses and on to the boat building business which became Lochin Marine.

As I mentioned, Charlie was truly an exceptional and talented craftsman who could take on anything and as with other members of the early Elva team, Frank really could not have done without him. Thanks Charlie for your huge contribution to the Elva story and for sharing your memories over quite a few cups of excellent tea. It was a privilege to know you.

Roger Dunbar


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