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William Walmsley

Co-founder of Swallow Sidecar, later to become Jaguar Cars

William Walmsley

1892 - June 1961

William Walmsley is often forgotten for his contribution to the Jaguar story; he may, in fact, be called the ‘originator’, as it was Walmsley who designed and built the first Swallow sidecar on which the business was founded.

Walmsley, the son of a prosperous coal merchant, was born in Stockport in 1892. He was educated locally and on leaving school spent some time in the family business, where he learned about building coal waggons. Walmsley was due to follow his father into the coal transportation business, but he joined the Cheshire Yeomanry Regiment in 1911. During World War One he served in Egypt, Palestine and France, where he received a gun-shot wound to his right leg and by the end of the war he had worked his way up to sergeant. On the return of peace, Walmsley moved back to the family home – Fairhaven in Flowery Field, Stockport – and with a recently-acquired ex-War Department Triumph motorcycle. He spent his time rebuilding the Triumph which attracted the attention of some of his motorcycling friends who had him rebuild their bikes too. Walmsley wanted a sidecar to go with his Triumph but none of those on the market at the time found favour; they were too tall and cumbersome, so he set about designing one of his own.

Walmsley was good with his hands and applied his skills to make an ash frame and fabricate a sidecar body out of aluminium panels, which he cut and fitted himself to an existing Watsonian sidecar chassis. The stylish design, which had a bullet-shaped streamlined octagonal body, was quite unusual and different from the other sidecars then on offer. Walmsley gave the design the name ‘Ot-as-Ell’. It was on the road by mid-1920 and he registered the design as a Swallow Sidecar on 7th April 1921. Friends of Walmsley admired the design and asked for examples to be built for them.

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