Ephemeral …

… adjective
  1. lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory: the ephemeral joys of childhood
  2. lasting but one day: an ephemeral flower

… along with youth, fashions, heroes and life.

David Purley raced in Formula 2 and Grand Prix events between 1972 and 1977.  He is best remembered for his desperate attempts to save Roger Williamson from a burning car at the Dutch Grand Prix in 1973. For this he was awarded the George Medal; the video footage is too harrowing, too sad to watch. In 1977 his brakes failed in practice for the British GP – his car went head-on into sleepers and came to a stop within a car’s length from 110 mph. He eventually recovered and took up acrobatic flying, the sport that finally claimed his life in July,1985.  One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name – Sir Walter Scott

In this picture, taken at  Brands Hatch in 1972, he sits contemplating the racing line. My reflection is fleetingly captured on the side of his car and a series of terrible events are practicing their lines in the wings.

David Purley ...

(click on the image to enlarge)


  1. M-R · April 2, 2015

    Such a terrible time for F1: ill-prepared tracks and totally unprepared marshals. A needless tragedy.

    • northumbrianlight · April 2, 2015

      Desperate times indeed but utterly compulsive to a morose teenager questioning the meaning of life, the universe and everything. I was equally obsessed with the music of Leonard Cohen.

      • M-R · April 2, 2015

        Plus ça change, Robin …

  2. Pingback: A moment | Words & Pics
  3. LaVagabonde · April 2, 2015

    By it’s very nature, a sport of speed creates various ephemera. You are lucky to have taken photos of some of your heroes.

    • northumbrianlight · April 2, 2015

      There is much more of this in the book (despite the title) – maybe you will prefer that to the golf 🙂

  4. 2e0mca · April 2, 2015

    An image evocative of racing in that period and such terrible events recalled.

    If you are interested you can read the AAIB report into the accident that killed him at http://www.aaib.gov.uk/cms_resources.cfm?file=/Pitts%20S-1D%20Special%20G-POKE%2008-85.pdf

    • northumbrianlight · April 2, 2015

      Many thanks for this, very interesting. Remarkable, a life lost because of a stray square cm of rubber in a fuel pump.

      • 2e0mca · April 2, 2015

        Sadly, it only takes something as small as that to ruin a pilot’s day – if you’re lucky it happens in normal level flight and you are in a good position to glide into a field – David Purley was not so lucky.

      • northumbrianlight · April 2, 2015

        Would the acrobatics have contributed or was it just bound to happen eventually?

  5. 2e0mca · April 2, 2015

    Acrobatics would place the aircraft in a position where loss of engine power would make recovery difficult, especially when carried out at low level. The piece of rubber could have happened at any time – but in straight and level flight the pilot would be able to trim the aircraft and make a landing. Loss of power in a vertical climb gives almost no time to do that as the flying speed of the aircraft dies very quickly and loss of speed results in less control.

  6. restlessjo · April 4, 2015

    F1 is so much safer now, isn’t it? Some folks do seem to need to live dangerously though.
    Good day’s golfing? (a fairly safe sport 🙂 )

  7. Pingback: Ephemeral | My Atheist Blog

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