Working by candlelight in 1974 power cuts... to prepare luxury new car for Joe Gormley

One of the regular power cuts takes out most of the lights in London's Piccadilly Circus in 1974. Picture: PA

One of the regular power cuts takes out most of the lights in London's Piccadilly Circus in 1974. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Increased use of electric vehicles will inevitably put greater demand on the supply of power, currently a mix of coal, gas, hydro, wind, other renewables and nuclear.

Never again will the country be so dependent on the coal industry as happened in the early 1970s which culminated in no less than two general elections in 1974, and the ousting of Ted Heath.

Most of the UK’s electricity was produced by coal burning power stations and between 1974-1975, the miners won two separate pay increases, each of 35 per cent.

The leader of the miner’s union then was Joe Gormley who was in regular contact with Ted Heath and later, Harold Wilson.

To help conserve coal stocks, Heath ordered the three-day week from January 1, 1974, whereby businesses had to run as best they could with no electricity for three out of seven days.

The power switch was simply pulled.

I happened to be working at the Rover dealership in Hampton Court at the time and had previously taken an order for a new Rover 3.5 saloon, the luxury car as used by many political leaders at the time.

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Early in 1974, the car arrived from the factory and after the usual pre-delivery checks and preparation, I readied the car for hand over to its new owner, which coincided with one of our black-out days.

As a car business, times were hard enough as it was with rampant inflation, the Arab-Israeli war creating the oil crisis in 1973 which saw fuel rationing and massive price hikes.

We worked by candle light when necessary, just to survive. 

Heavy cars over three litres were traded in for small cars at a huge loss.

Ford Zodiac Executive saloons costing £2,000 new were trading hands at £900 or less after a few months old and V8 Astons or V12 Jaguars would not sell. Rolls Royce likewise.

My client arrived to collect his new Rover in the darkness of our showroom. 

A certain Joe Gormley, a polite and courteous man who was most apologetic about our plight.

“Ted Heath just won’t listen to me,” he said.