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The Estate of the Late John Lumley and the Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club

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Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club

Well Known and Active Website User
Staff member
VOC Member
© 2010 Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club . www.voc.uk.com . www.vincentownersclub.co.uk

The truth that fails to be either sensational or scandalous
As useful as the internet can be, it has one very real downside. It provides a virtually unassailable platform from which the unscrupulous can launch unwarranted and destructive attacks on just about anybody. The Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club (VOC), finds itself a target of two malcontented Club Members; the one-time journalist Prosper Keating (Paris, France) and Charlie Cannon (South England).

The VOC is a motorcycle club of approximately 2,500 Members across 29 countries. Normality is that Members expect their elected Officials to take care of the Club's organisation and business discreetly, with any announcements or discussions of same, being confined to the membership. It is therefore with great reluctance that we are circulating this announcement in a wider public forum, an action made necessary due to the relentless internet assault on the VOC's reputation.

The excuse for the attack was the disposal of the estate of John Lumley; a life-long Member of the Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club who spent the better part of 60 years amassing a varied collection of motorcycles. John dismantled the majority of his collection so that it occupied boxes and shelves in most of the rooms of his house and overflowed into the shed of his motorcycling friend, Dick Wheeldon.

In the early part of 2009, when it was clear that his cancer was terminal, John set out to put his affairs in order. Believing his plan to be a legally acceptable process (but sadly, like most people, he was unaware of the nuances of English probate law), he set about making out bills of sale with the intention of distributing, for nominal fees, his motorcycle collection to his friends. Unfortunately, his health deteriorated faster than he anticipated and he ran out of time to see this through by himself. So, with the full co-operation and support of his only immediate relatives, his brother and sister-in-law, Tom and Betty Lumley, a list was compiled for the purpose of distributing gifts of machines and parts to his friends. This was signed by John and witnessed. (The executers of the estate, Thackray Williams Solicitors, and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), are aware of this list.) Tom and Betty called on the help of a few of John's close friends to carry out the physical dispersal of these gifts and over a period of several weeks, 20 people found themselves the surprise owners of boxes of parts that with time, effort and significant expenditure, had the potential to be turned into interesting and collectable old motorcycles – such as pre-war Vincent Series 'A' Twins and Singles, Brough Superior, together with some less prestigious makes and models. There was only one machine that could be considered as near complete, the majority being far short of this, and again most were in a poor condition.

The group of 20 recipients, that included two elected Officials and one Assistant of the VOC, initiated the idea that each person would make a contribution either to the hospice that cared for John, or to a cancer research charity.

John died shortly before the dispersal of his collection was completed. In his will he bequeathed his estate to his brother Tom. John's wishes regarding his motorcycles have been completely supported by Tom and Betty. They were aware of, but not actually interested in, the financial value of the machines.

Keating and Cannon cite their concerns of tax evasion, and the heirs to the estate being cheated, as reasons for contacting the executors of the estate. Apparently, initially quite pleased to be thought of as the person who also brought this matter to the attention of HMRC, Charlie Cannon is now keen to deny that he did so. The executer in turn contacted the beneficiary of the estate who confirmed that John's collection of motorcycle parts had indeed, effectively, been given away.

On learning of the estate being reopened, Dick Wheeldon called on the co-operation of all the recipients to compile a detailed file of the machines that had been dispersed and where they were. This file was passed to the executors and HMRC, who agreed that any tax would be levied on the new owners rather than on the Estate, and confirming that these machines were to be treated as gifts made by John Lumley prior to his death. Thackray Williams Solicitors appointed Bonhams Auctioneers as an independent valuer to establish what tax, would be due. (At the time of writing valuation is still to be agreed.)

So, what is all the fuss about?
Having alerted the authorities to what had happened, Charlie Cannon and Prosper Keating, were not content to leave matters to HMRC and the executors of the Estate. Instead they instigated a series of rumours and allegations about conspiracies, cover-ups and corruption which they circulated widely, both within and without the VOC. Using pseudonyms such as Alf Garnett, Jolly Jester, Vincent Rapido…they posted messages on internet forums, set up blogs containing the same material, and circulated e-mails to anybody they knew who was connected with Vincents and other classic vehicles. Charlie Cannon tried to get some material circulated through the VOC's e-mail server but typed all the e-mail addresses incorrectly. Naturally, his failed attempt was then reported by them as part of the conspiracy – the messages must have been blocked by the VOC Official(s) who control these things. Very little of this material found its way onto the VOC's official internet forum because Prosper Keating was, and still is, the only person to have ever been barred from the forum, due to an earlier, but unrelated instance of written abuse of another Club Member. Keating's assertions expanded exponentially to include all manner of dubious claims of VOC past mismanagement, to the extent of reinventing parts of the Club's history. Why the questions about what happened to John Lumley's collection should have lead to this torrent of totally unrelated and fantastic accusations, made against the majority of elected Club Officials and some appointed officers, is still a mystery.

The Executive Committee of the VOC decided early on that there was nothing to be gained by responding to the false allegations and defamation being levelled at the Club. Experience showed that refuting one lie or half-truth would just lead to another. The management position was that matters having been referred to HMRC, nothing more should have been said until they had reached their conclusion.

We are clearly not alone in our views.
In keeping with the Club's established protocol for formally considering any claims of Member misconduct, two meetings of the General Committee spent over four hours reviewing all the material. In advance of the meeting, Committee members had been supplied with the link to Keating's blog. Cannon and Keating were invited to attend to make their case. Cannon came to one meeting but offered no arguments to support the assertions that he had publicly made. Keating did not attend either meeting. The meetings' deliberations resulting in a unanimous vote of confidence in the Executive Committee, both jointly and severally and an 85 per cent plus vote to expel Cannon and Keating. The expulsion motions did, however, contain provision for the expulsions to be suspended should either individual apologise publicly for his actions within a week of the meeting. They both chose not to do so and are therefore, no longer Members of the Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club.

As seemed inevitable, the flow of material from the keyboard of Prosper Keating has not stopped. Indeed his blog was updated with more inaccurate reporting the day after the SGCM, and numerous times since. He now includes Thackray Williams Solicitors as a target of the rant, one assumes because the legal process has failed to match Keating's preferred story-line. The VOC do not propose to respond to his wild assertions – enough time has already been lost in handling the matter, time that should have been spent on the stewardship of the Club.

Officials of other clubs may learn from our experience. The owners of internet platforms are not helpful when it comes to moderating the content of their users. Legal redress is complicated, lengthy, and expensive. In reality, a simple motorcycle club is powerless to combat such an assault. Once written, this sort of dirt lingers on. Readers are attracted to the sensationalism of fiction, whereas the truth is usually very mundane and goes unnoticed.

Individual members of clubs should likewise take heed – take care if you are asked to help a close friend disperse of cherished vehicles.

Tom and Betty Lumley have read this statement, and despite what you may have read elsewhere, have confirmed it as a true and accurate record of events.
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