Monday, 26 July 2021

Memory Mixtape #4: The Tiger Auction

When I was a kid, my dad's main job (besides being a joiner and a farmer) was as an auctioneer. He was made redundant from a major motor auction company when I was six or seven, but soon set up his own rival car auctions, which he ran with two partners for the next few years, before they bought him out and he went back to woodwork.

When I was a kid, I used to spend quite a bit of time at my dad's auctions. There were men who would drive the cars through into the auction room, then out again once the gavel had gone down, and they'd let me ride along in the back seat. It was a very male atmosphere, full of wheeler dealers, every one of them a Yorkshire Arfur Daley, though my dad never seemed to quite fit that mold. Looking back now, it's hard to believe he ever did anything like this, but there he was up on the rostrum, leaning into the mic and fast talking through the bids before banging down a hammer to the highest bidder. Yes, he did the full spiel... just like Leroy Van Dyke.
It almost seems like something I watched on TV, like it was someone else's dad, but for a while I guess he was quite a big player in that world. I'm not sure how he got into it, other than right place, right time, and knowing the right people. (That's been his explanation when I've asked him.) He even did the annual charity auction at my school... it's like my dad was a rock star for awhile, and putting it in that context makes it all seem like a dream now, not my actual childhood.

I thought I knew all the stories from dad's time as an auctioneer, but over the weekend he surprised me when he casually dropped into conversation "that time I auctioned a real live tiger". Turns out my brother and sister both knew this story, but they're older than me. Chances are, if at happened while he still worked at the big firm, I was too young for the memory to stick. Or perhaps it was even before my time. I'm recording it here for the same reason I write a lot of this blog, not for the few kind folk who drop by to read this ramblings, but so that if I make it to my early 90s (as my dad is now), I'll have these memories here to revisit.

"Why did you auction a tiger, dad?"

"One of the dealers brought it in. They'd bought is as a pet, but it was getting too big..."

(Before you call the animal rights people, remember that this was the 1970s... very different times!)

"So, what, the auction agreed to sell it for the commission?"

My dad laughed. "They probably didn't get a penny out of it. Some of those dealers..."

"The thing I always remember," he added, "is when I banged the gavel down at the end of the auction, it scared the tiger and it ran off into the yard. A bunch of them had to chase it round the car park to get it back."


  1. Yes, a great story. There are so many parallels between you dad's life and my own. They would have got on well I'm sure.

    You are right about our blogs being important for collecting all 'the stories', almost by accident. Will be handy for Sam writing about his dad when he's older!


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