Rather surprisingly the Masonic membership of Donald
Campbell only came to light relatively recently, when the
Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London were presented
with his Masonic apron and case in April 1993. Most of
the records that show Malcolm Campbell to have been active
in the Craft fail to mention his son Donald as a Freemason.
Donald Malcolm Campbell was born at Kingston, Surrey
on 23 March 1921. He had a hard act to follow. His father
was a true British hero adored by the nation. The relationship
between father and son was never a happy one and certainly
complicated by the fact that Sir Malcolm, overwhelmed by
his own career and consuming ambition, found little time
for his son who, in turn, idolised his dad.
The tense relationship is manifest in an incident now well
recorded. For his seventh birthday, Donald received a toy
motorcar with a small and complete tool kit as a gift by his
dad. Within hours he had dismantled the toy car into small
pieces, with nuts and bolts dispersed in the house and garden.
Malcolm Campbell was not amused. On the contrary, surprisingly
angry and unsympathetic, he did not speak to his son
for several days until the toy car had been re-assembled back
into its original state.
Donald was brought up, with his sister Jean, by a nursery
governess and was soon sent to Horsham Preparatory School,
seeing little of his father during his youth. Nonetheless, he
admired and respected him and was to emulate his famous
father with great pride and success.
He began in reverse, so to speak, and took on speedboat
racing first. It was almost natural to attempt his first record
in the seat of his fatherís well-tested boat, the Bluebird K4,
which he purchased from his fatherís estate. However, his
early efforts were frustrated.
In 1951, he crashed on Coniston Water in the Lake District,
at a speed of 170 mph, and notwithstanding numerous other
failures, he persisted and his perseverance paid off. In 1955, on
Ullswater, and in his own newly designed Bluebird K7 boat,
he set his first 202 mph world speed record on water.
Between July 1955 and December 1964 Donald Campbell
was to set world water speed records on seven different occasions,
reaching 276.33 mph. He was honoured with the CBE
for his achievements.
In between these various failed attempts and record-breaking
feats, Donald became a Freemason. He was initiated on
16 February 1953 into the prestigious Grand Masterís Lodge
No. 1, having been introduced and proposed by the then
Master, Robert James Coley, a wealthy scrap metal dealer
By a good stroke of luck the Junior Deacon at the ceremony
of Donaldís initiation is alive and well. I had the pleasure
of speaking with Sir Kenneth Newton, Past President of the
Board of General Purposes, and the most senior Past Master
of the Lodge, having himself been initiated on 17 December 1945.
© Getty Images
© Getty Images
Sir Donald Campbell prepares to start a toy car race at his Horsham school in February 1931
Sir Malcolm Campbell in a Bluebird at Portsmouth prior to an attempt on the world's water speed record at Lake Coniston in 1947