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London Bridge... Any information on this? Terry Bedford writes:
Yes I should say! I have some information on London Bridge...
As a crass teenager my uncle Ivan told me the whole story whilst standing under the eaves of my parents house, in the drizzling rain, having just come back from America. His name was Ivan F. Luckin; the man whose idea, for which he was originally ridiculed, was to sell the London Bridge to America. Funnily enough, while visiting a friends house for a weekend party, I saw a piece of London Bridge set into a small block of perspex, and on remarking my small connection through uncle Ivan, my host, John King, told me he was in charge of removing the facing stones and transporting them to America. He was the managing director of a civil engineering company called Molems.
The story goes, somewhat like this: with exceptions for a rusty memory, Ivan Luckin, a true British gentleman, rotund and resplendent in pinstripes and homberg, had his own advertising company. He, unusually for those days, visited America on business. He was Chairman of the City of London Police and a London Councillor. In his capacity as councillor he attended meetings to decide what was to be done with the old bridge. Various ideas were bandied about, including selling it off for scrap, to be made into ashtrays and the like. Ivan thought he knew the Americans, through his business dealings and said that he felt that they would be willing to buy 'history' as he put it. The very idea invited ridicule, but he remained firm and even offered to promote the sale with booklets, which gave the history of the bridge from Roman times to the present day including an offer slip in the back, no less! Pretty radical stuff, which we all know paid off handsomely! He visited America with the Town Clerk of London to promote the sale. Four hundred television stations, radio stations and newspapers attended the press conference. Normally, I was informed, the press would be virtually baying for blood, but, you could have heard a pin drop, he told me in his very plummy deep English Gentleman's voice, as he related the history of the item he had come to promote.
The rest is history, as they say, apart from his idea to have coat of arms and London buses to add interest. He telephoned Norris McWhirter and asked him to put an entry in the Guinness Book of Records, and was told that it wasn't the biggest or the oldest or the longest. But as Ivan pointed out it was the biggest antique to be sold, and was duly entered as the largest antique to be sold in the world. I think I have a 1972 issue with the entry. Auntie Nora, his devoted lady would however never marry him. She lived next door to me and my family. They remained together, he living in splendour in a lovely imposing house called 'Rodeen', with a lovely bluebell wood at the bottom of the garden. Garden? humph, very clay soil - a devil to dig, and I had to kick off each forkfull with my boot. That didn't last long, and she a widow, lived in a nice suburban street, some four miles away. They motored to Switzerland for holidays and attended Lord Mayors balls and the like. I think he hosted such himself from time to time. Ivan and his beloved Nora stayed together until she developed cancer and went to live out her remaining days with him. He was found dead, on the floor beside his bed, having died in the middle of the night alone as he had always been. Ivan had a profound effect on me all my life even to the point of thinking that it would be 'Cool' to be a bachelor and remain single all my days. Love put paid to those plans, I'm glad to say. I may have a picture of him somewhere, at my engagement party.
Uncle Ivan strongly disputed the rumour that they didn't know what they were getting and somehow it was expected to be the Tower Bridge. He was secretly very disappointed that he didn't get a knighthood or similar for his efforts.
By the way, John King went on to be brought out of retirement to finish a job no one else could, namely; finish building the Channel Tunnel!
I hope this has been of further help to you.