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Like many of his school chums, Gerald Ball was fascinated by cars and the world of motor racing. While still at school he was the kid in the corner with an oily rag on the Castle Combe Circuit in Wiltshire, keen to get under the bonnet at the slightest excuse.
It was, as he puts it, 'heads down and bums up' as they built up trade. By 1978, with his wife Elizabeth keeping the books, things were looking good enough to expand, so they bought a second outlet, Central Garage, in the village of Marshfield, 20 miles away in south Gloucestershire. After four years they dissolved the partnership amicably, with Gerald keeping on the new place as a solo effort.
Gerald explains that: 'It had been going since the 1930s, first as a blacksmith's and then as a garage. There were cobwebs everywhere and bikes hanging on the wall when we took it over, but we soon turned it into a good business with a petrol forecourt and a two-bay workshop for general repairs.
Marshfield is a proper village with a good variety of small shops, but it faces the problems of villages everywhere. Sometimes the 2,000 or so villagers don't appreciate what they've got on their doorstep. For example, we can't compete with petrol prices at the supermarket nine miles away, so that's where they fill up. It's only when their tank is empty that they call in and buy a gallon and say how wonderful it is to have a garage in the village. But it's only if they keep using our shops and garage regularly that they will help preserve what they are looking for in a village.'
Gerald Ball, Garage Proprietor
oil on board
H 34.5 x W 29.5 cm
on loan from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters
signature and date