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For just over a month last autumn a fascinating exhibition was staged at Abingdon's distinctive County Hall, celebrating the story of the people behind the M.G. marque. On display was a remarkable array of material, much of it previously unseen - the variety encompassing exhibits as diverse as Cecil Kimber's leather office chair and a door aperture jig for the MGB GT. More conventional perhaps but no less interesting were various racing and record breaking paraphernalia - including scale models, souvenirs, trophies, programmes and original mechanics overalls and tools. Pride of place was given to a partially restored 1933 M.G. J2 chassis, in the process of being rebuilt by Mike Allison and which was on loan from owner Simon Johnstone. The J2 chassis had had to be partially disassembled and then very gingerly lifted up a winding staircase in order to get into the museum, but it was a worthwhile exercise as sadly the physical layout of the museum clearly does not facilitate the display of complete cars. Responsibility for putting the exhibition together lay with Brian Moylan, who as most of you will know is an M.G. Old Boy' who has continued nearly thirty years direct involvement with the marque into retirement, still playing a very active role in the affairs of the M.G. Car Club's Abingdon Works Centre.
With single-minded determination, Brian brought together a marvellous range of rarely seen M.G. paraphernalia, some of it generously loaned from Beaulieu and Gaydon but much of it borrowed from such M.G. luminaries as Syd Beer, Don Hayter, Mike Allison and many former colleagues of Brian's. The idea for the exhibition stemmed from an invitation which Brian received from the Abingdon Archaeological Society in 1993 to present a slide show and talk on M.G. as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations. As Brian recalls: I got together about forty or so slides, and in the course of putting the slides together I visited the museum, who asked me if I would be interested in putting together an exhibition for them - and it just grew from there . At the same time, Brian was working on his own labour of love, a book which he not only wrote, but published himself entitled Behind The Octagon . This book (which is a must for all M.G. enthusiasts) was launched at Abingdon Works Car Show in September, just as the exhibition opened, and during the month that the show was open Brian would often pop in, taking the opportunity to chat to visitors - many of them former colleagues - and of course signing copies of his book.
As far as I am aware, this was the first significant exhibition at Abingdon celebrating the history of M.G. since displays were mounted in the nearby Abingdon Goal in the summer of 1979 (as part of the M.G. Abingdon Fifty Years' celebrations which preceded the remarkable events of September of that year) although I understand that there was another display in 1981 entitled Gone But Not Forgotten'. The County Hall exhibition last autumn will undoubtedly have bought home the message to local people - many of them, of course, too young to have seen the factory in action - how much Abingdon owes to the M.G. factory and the people who worked there. The shame was that so many people will have missed the exhibition since it had to move out of the County Hall in favour of another exhibition (to celebrate 1,000 years of St. Helen's church!) but Brian told me he has been discussing with the museum the possibility of setting aside a room for a more modest semi-permanent exhibition of M.G. artefacts. I am sure that many will share my hope that he will be successful in this aim - and also that there will be more opportunities in the future to enjoy M.G. displays as comprehensive and fascinating as the Abingdon Museum saw last autumn.