ITRC: The Dangerous Family Tree spotlight

Of course, many people believe that our family is descended - by rope - from the famous circus family, the Dangerous Brothers, who toured the country towards the end of the last century with some pretty mind-boggling acts. They were true...

Of course, many people believe that our family is descended - by rope - from the famous circus family, the Dangerous Brothers, who toured the country towards the end of the last century with some pretty mind-boggling acts. They were true pioneers of their art. Emily the unicycling elephant was a wonderful idea, and popular too...Until the tightrope broke, while Flammo the flatulent fire eating human cannonball enjoyed a brief career, flickering just once across the night sky above Aughnacloy en route to an appointment with a casualty officer and, ultimately, retirement. Meteorologists still argue about him to this day.

But I'm afraid we can't really claim kinship there, even though the circus did have winter quarters at Castle Dangerous in the late eighties. My aunt Mathilde never made a full recovery after the incident with the bearded lady in the second bathroom, so we didn't invite them back. Fuss and elephant poo are too hard to take for five months...No....If anything it was our family, which inspired the circus to adopt the name. Not the other way round......

In fact.... the founder of our family tree, a noble Frenchman by the name of Aristide D'Angreuse crossed the Channel with William the Conqueror.

He crossed it again shortly afterwards in the other direction with Gaston the Coward and then came back again with Guilliaume the man with the arrest warrant and the very long, sharp knife. As soon as his feet touched English soil he realised that he had left his shoes behind.

"Sacre Bleu", he cried. "Mes pieds sont tres froid!"

However, quickly realizing that the English couldn't understand what he was talking about he immediately learned to speak their language and changed his name to Dangerous. He never looked back. A chance meeting with a pretty serving wench soon led to a family of nine strapping sons - shoes or not he never let the grass grow under his feet - and as soon as they were old enough to keep him in a manner to which he intended to become accustomed, he set them a task.

"My sons," he said, for he could never remember their names. "You are the foundation stones of an illustrious dynasty. My work is now done. It is up to you, the fruit of my loins, to go forth and come first. To excel in all you do, and, while you're about it, build me a fine home in which I can drink away my declining years...."

And so they did.... And so did he. In later life they gave him a knighthood to keep his ears warm in bed, but by then Castle Dangerous, the old family seat, had been built, the moat filled, and the line established.

Some, they say, are born to greatness, while others have it thrust upon them. We in the Dangerous clan know this only too well, although in our case it's more usually bewilderment. But, we are sportsmen - and women, through and through, are we not? Remember Sir Willoughby Dangerous, pioneer of the offshore long jump back in the last century? He would surely have won Olympic Gold but for that unfortunate training session on Beachy Head.........

And Captain Barnaby Dangerous, possibly the greatest shot-header this country has ever known. Sadly, his finest moment was also his last...

There have been others too...The Dangerous Brothers, Bob, Bob, Bob and Bob - quads baptized at sea during bad weather - who were selected for the four-man bob team in 1936? Not only could they not be caught.... None of them was ever identified!

And we mustn't forget the ladies' achievements. Lady Letitia Dangerous was the darling of the social set between the wars with her synchronized interior decorating display team, while her cousin Clarissa became the first woman of her generation to successfully scale the Prince of Wales! No shrinking violet she! Incidentally it was Letitia's son, my own great grandfather Percival, who daringly jumped over twelve motorbikes in a double decker bus. And travelling on a half- fare ticket too.... That was true bravery Hah! We don't often mention his brother Peregrine though, the first person to throw a horse in front of a suffragette. He went to his grave believing his action had given horses the vote. Little did he realise it was much worse than that....

Needless to say, as soon as a sport or pastime requiring derring-do and nerves of steel came to our notice there has always been a family member ready and willing to accept the challenge. El Dangeroso, from the Spanish side of the family, was the toast of the bullfighting set for a time. He began as a picador, then became a matador but ultimately left by the backadoor when his suit of lights went out during a power cut.

And Sir Francis Dangerous, the round-the-world yachtsman is still at it having started back in 1950. He says the wind keeps blowing him off on another lap just when he's ready to finish. Leastways that was the last message we got from him. I'm sure he's eaten the last of the pigeons by now...

And then of course, there's my dear old Grandad, Sir Archibald. He was much taken by the new fangled sport of motor racing, and went down to Brooklands to try it, but quickly found it impossible to keep up. Once he'd managed to get his hands on a motor car it became easier, and by the time his career ended some 25 minutes later he had lapped the old track at 100mph and achieved a new world altitude record for unwinged vehicles, all in one afternoon. After he got out of hospital he embarked on an aviation career, but always said his first flight was his greatest.........

And so to my dad, Sir Stirling, the last head of the family before Yours Truly.

He could have been the best of the lot. He could drive, fly, ski, sail, run and cycle better than almost any man. Trouble was, nobody ever knew which he was going to do at any given moment - least of all himself. His progress down the Cresta run on foot is the stuff of legend, and tales of how he wore the Leaders Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France are still told to this day, often by the Leader himself, although he was not best pleased at the time.

For myself, responsibility weighed heavy on my shoulders from an early age. Obviously I had to do something to keep the Dangerous name alive, but what? And then I heard about the sport of rallying. It sounded right up my street. Loads of chaps careering round the countryside bumping into things, and every one of them needing another chap sitting beside them to tell them where they were, and where they should go next! And even more chaps waiting in parks and lay-bys here and there to repair the damage. What could be more perfect? It's probably fair to say that my career has yet to really take off, but I'm working on it. This year I've been around the Toshiba Tarmac Championship trying to pick up a few tips. 'Holding a watching brief' as we voyeurs say. When I've completed my researches, Marcus, Colin, and that nearly bald ginger-haired chappie may have to look to their laurels. For now though, I'm just a humble bystander. I have written a sort of account of my year, by way of an 'aide memoire', and that also appears on this website. After all, they say that the onlooker sees most of the game.

-bssltd-

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Series RALLY