A brief account of the life of John Joseph Parkes
J.J.P. was born on May 19th 1903 in High Barnet, Hertfordshire. His father, Henry George Parkes, was a civil servant at the Inland Revenue (as was his grandfather); his mother, Elizabeth Swain, was a housewife.
In 1905, when John was only two years old, his father died of asthma, at the early age of forty. Thus John and his brother Matthew had a difficult childhood in the sense that his mother had to depend mainly on relatives in order to make ends meet.
John went to a preparatory school at Cockfosters, then was tutored at home for two years by a neighbour, after which he went to Bushey Manor School.
From an early age he was fascinated by in all mechanical devices. His first encounter with an aeroplane took place around 1914 when he saw a Bleriot Monoplane and a Longhorn Farman biplane landing at Bushey Hall Golf Course and ran there to see them and their pilots, Gustav Hamel and Claude Graham White.
J.J.P. got his first job in 1917, at the age of 14, working for the London County Council for fifteen shillings a week. He was then taken on by a Mr. W.M. Joy (described by him as a “wild Irishman”) as a self-taught “ship’s engineer”, operating the diesel engine of a schooner on which Mr.Joy transported cars from England and the Continent to Ireland on behalf of an Irish car importer. This brought a rise in salary to six pounds a week.
After he had been doing this job for about a year the car importer, Mr. Wilson, bought up the Angus Sanderson Company, which produced cars by assembling components made by a variety of small manufacturers. This provided the opportunity for John to embark on a student engineering apprenticeship with Angus Sanderson, based at Hendon. After a few years the company went into liquidation which led him to move on to another car manufacturer, Swift of Coventry Ltd., where he completed his apprenticeship in 1925 and subsequently became manager of the company’s London depot. In 1927 he moved again to work for the Rootes Group in Maidstone, which at that time was a car distributor.