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From a Chef on Yachts to a Private Chauffeur, A Wonderful Lady & A Vintage Car Collection.

Paul the Private Chauffeur illustrated by Konomi Kikuchi
Chef/Chauffeur Illustrated By Konomi Kikuchi

I left the sea-going life and my last yacht in Miami, Florida in 1979 to become a chef/chauffeur for a wealthy Canadian lady who turned out to be rather nasty and mean. One day, while flipping through the employment section of a Toronto newspaper I came upon an ad for a Private Chauffeur offering almost twice what I was being paid.

Because the ad was placed by an employment agency I thought it was too good to be true and that it was a 'catch-all' ad designed to lure people to the office where they would be told that position had already been taken, but there were others available paying less money.

'What the heck,' I thought. 'Let's give it a try anyway!'

As I was chauffering that day I drove to the agency in the lady's small Rolls Royce, parked it outside, and walked in. The owner of the employment agency was a pleasant woman of about fifty years, explained that the job and the salary did exist and asked, quite fortunately, if 'I could drive a Rolls Royce'.

I pointed to the one outside and she went on to ask a few questions before telling me that I had a couple of things going for me. I could drive a Rolls Royce and the lady she was sending me to seemed to like people from Britain on her staff.

"But what's going against you is your age." She said. "Everyone that works for her is older than God!"

Nijinski's Secret. One of Mrs. McDougalds Best Racehorses
Nijinski's Secret. One of Mrs. McDougalds Best Racehorses

After a few hints on how to present myself, an interview was arranged and a few days later I made my way to the ladies home in Northern Toronto. The moment I saw it, I thought, "I'll never get a job there."

It was a palace!

Described by a famous Canadian Author as the embodiment of 'Tara' from 'Gone With The Wind' it was made all the more astonishing by the fact that it was set in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood and had thoroughbred racehorses galloping in the pastures.

A Chamber maid introduces me to as a future Private Chauffeur
Edith, Mrs. McDougald's Chamber Maid

There was a grand entrance leading to the main house and a discreet one which I instinctively took, guessing correctly that it was the servant's entrance. The drive led me past a series of ornate little cottages, wood-sided and painted white with window boxes of delicate pink flowers, to a door at the side of the main house.

At the door I was met by an elderly lady in her seventies, who introduced herself as Edith, the Chamber Maid, and ushered me through the kitchen and servants' quarters,, then through the elegant dining room with its Georgian furniture and works of art featuring horses and English country scenes into a room of delicate pinks and chintz opening onto a garden and a heated swimming pool surrounded by beds of pink roses. This was the sunroom, where the interview would take place.

As Private Chauffeur to Mrs, McDougald I also drove around her sister Mrs. Hedstrom.
Mrs. McDougald (right) and her sister Mrs. Hedstrom Ice Skaters Representing Canada at the 1932 Olympics

After a few minutes a delicate, lady in her early seventies, tastefully dressed in a tailor-made Saville Row suit the same shade as the roses in the garden appeared.

On her frail, but surprisingly strong right hand, she wore a heavy gold ring set with a soft bluish-gray stone. Engraved upon the stone was the family crest and in Latin, the words Vincere Vel Mori, 'To Conquer or Die'.

The lady was Mrs. J.A. McDougald, the recent widow of John Angus McDougald, a preeminent member of the Canadian Business Establishment.

Together we sat down to a cup of tea served by the Butler and spoke of my duties which would include maintaining the cars and chauffeuring the lady, her guests, and her dogs, which was fine by me as I liked dogs, and people.

Earthwalker Paul in his days as Private Chauffeur in 1912 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost
Driving Mrs. McDougald came with many Magical Experiences

When she stood up and asked if I would like to see the cars I knew I had the job. Such a lady would not be wasting her time showing me cars that I would not be driving. I followed her outside the house through a series of weeping willow trees to one of the cottages I had passed on the way into the estate. At the door she asked me to wait while she wandered off to another cottage, presumably to get the keys.

I heard movement inside and ever so quietly the door opened to reveal Mrs. McDougald, with obvious pride and joy standing in front of a vintage car collection I had never seen the likes of before.

Earthwalker Paul Coleman looked after a vintage car collection when he was a Private Chauffeur to Mrs. McDougald
A Bugatti and Alpha Romeo. Two of the vintage cars I took care of as Private Chauffeur to Mrs. J.A. McDougald.

The cottage was a splendid, spotless garage with a crystal chandelier and a floor so clean I could have eaten off it. I had never seen such cars. What a privilege it would be to look after them. I could tell the lady appreciated my delight.

The cars were the collection of her late husband, Mr. John A. McDougald, whom she loved greatly and they were very dear to her.

"Can you drive these cars young man?" The lady asked.

"Certainly Madam." I replied with confidence and more than a little exaggeration.

I had no idea what they were, or how they worked, but I knew I could learn.

Then she gave me the Royal Tour.

First came the 1931 Bugatti...



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