Ian Donaldson: calling time on 25 years in the chair

Ian Donaldson A neat quarter century - and ongoing health issues - seemed a perfect time to hand over the chairmanly reins of the Midland Group to a younger successor, with so many memories to take me into my 2022 handbook entry as simply a member from now on.

It was 25 years spent watching - and participating a little - as our industry transformed from paper to the ether and monthly or weekly deadlines to.. 'right now, please'.

I will enjoy watching our new chairman - and I can think of no-one better for the role - as he politely tweaks the Group to face a future where the only certainty is uncertainty itself.

That will mean surprises along the way but, as long as the world at large enjoys personal transport, there's always going to be something for us to write about.

When I started as a young motoring scribbler, the older hands were relaxed enough to enjoy three days away on a new model launch and still only turn to their typewriters when they returned to their offices, some in Fleet Street and always near a watering hole which made afternoons siesta time.

Now, a car launch might well mean turning up somewhere unglamorous in the morning, driving the new car and heading home after a hastily grabbed lunchtime sandwich. An overnight stay is barely more relaxed, with copy needed from bedroom-as-office based journos as soon as the ignition is turned off outside.

Difficult to argue that the new way is more productive. And don't get me started on the ethics of the gifts that used once to expected on a launch - difficult to argue that your words were uncorrupted as you unwrapped an expensive pen or mobile phone. I'm delighted that payola vanished some time ago.

One sad feature of today is the lack of time to natter with fellow motoring addicts; some of the most interesting and amusing people you could ever hope to share a hotel bar with. Not all of them were charmers, of course, but the good ones greatly outnumbered the bores and boorish.

My time with the chairman's badge has taken me to some lovely places, from the US to South Africa and Korea but it's the people you remember. Rather a lot of them are (or were) in the Midland Group of Motoring Writers.

Here's to the next 25 years...

Ian Donaldson is honorary president of the Midland Group of Motoring Writers