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13th August 2010. Correspondent MJ writes:
As far as I know the Coventry Rim and wheel Company, owned by my dad, Douglas Dyas James, made most of the wheels used in the 1914/1918 war. They also made the wheels for the earlier airplanes, Gladiators and the like. An airplane in the British Museum has Dad's wheels on it.
When dad sold out to Dunlop he worked for them for a while. He was paid £10,000 a year which was an immense sum at that time.
The land that Fort Dunlop was built on had previously belonged to a farmer a Mr Lines who eventually became my Dad's gardener and his wife was the cook. They helped look after me as a child.
Dad got into wheels because other members of the family were involved in bicycles selling to Halfords. Earlier they were involved in making the Penny Farthing bicycles - one of which is still in Halfords cycle Museum in Redditch - and later the James Motorcycles made in the 7 acre factory in Greet, Birmingham. Dad also supplied wheels to the Austin Car Company.
My Grandpa Williams invented the free wheel of the bicycle, although Mr White the general manager of his company got it patented in his name!
For what it is worth, coming from a long line of engineers and inventors, I seem to have kept up the tradition by having invented a medical device that stops people getting Asthma and hay fever - Nasaleze Ltd - (with immediate effect) which is up and running and selling world-wide to over 50 countries. For 17 years up to 1974 I owned Neon Excelda Ltd at Sheepcote St in Birmingham. This had been started by Harold James, my Uncle, round about the same time as Claudegen the first company to make neon signs. Halfords was our best customer. The family was also involved with the Aston Chain and Hook but I don't know much about this as yet.
In late 1939 or possibly in 1940 the RAF told my Dad that they were going to compulsory purchase his land at Castle Vale, opposite to where the Spitfires were being built at Castle Bromwich, so they it was easy to fly the completed planes straight away from the factory. Within a few hours, through his solicitors Wallace Robinson and Morgan, Dad had given the RAF the entire estate for free. The RAF wanted to give Mum and Dad a dinner in his honour but he said 'No' - they had better things to do!
Much later I heard that the RAF had sold the land for £3 million to Birmingham Council but I do not know if this was true.