This weekend is the 70th anniversary of the crash death of racer John Cobb on Loch Ness.
Richard Noble had his passion for speed ignited by the tragedy.
He later became the fastest man in the world, setting a new land speed record of 633mph in 1983.
But it was watching John Cobb’s ill-fated attempt at the world water speed record on September 29 1952 that planted a seed in his six-year-old mind.
On Friday, Noble returns to Loch Ness to open an exhibition to mark the anniversary of Cobb’s tragic death.
Why is Cobb so well regarded?
‘Remembering John Cobb’, organised by Glenurquhart Heritage Group, is being held at Glenurquhart Hall from September 30 to October 1.
It tells the story of the record attempt but also Cobb’s bond with the community that took him to its heart.
Cobb spent weeks at Temple Pier at Drumnadrochit preparing his Crusader boat for the record attempt that cost him his life.
“I owe the man a great deal. He was a great driver and a great record breaker, one of the greatest”, says Noble, who set his record in Thrust2 at Black Rock Desert, Nevada.
“I happened to see the Crusader boat aged six and got sort of fixed on it after that.
“If it had not been for that, I don’t know where I would be. Something happened on that day.
“Crusader looked unlike anything else that was around in those days. It looks incredibly new, even today.”
What happened on Loch Ness in 1952?
On September 29 1952 Cobb began his bid to hold both the land and the water speed titles at the same time.
The Queen Mother was among those who stopped by Loch Ness to wish him good luck.
In 1947 he had achieved a record speed of 394.1 mph on land and the double accolade was in his sights.
Two runs faster than the existing record of 178.4mph were needed to take the water speed title.
His first was clocked at 206 mph, but during the second Crusader broke up and Cobb was killed.
Local people were left shocked and heartbroken by the death of a man they came to know well and who respected their way of life, including a strict observance of the Sabbath.
When his hearse was driven through Inverness, thousands of people lined the streets.
Heritage group secretary Josie Mackenzie says: “John Cobb’s death came as an enormous blow to the community.
“At the time people felt as if they had lost one of their own.”
Memorial built to Cobb, a ‘gallant gentleman’
By the first anniversary of Cobb’s death, Glen Urquhart Rural Community Association (GURCA) had raised enough money to erect a cairn “in tribute to the memory of a gallant gentleman” at the side of the A82.
“John Cobb was a real gentleman. He would not run on Sundays, even on one particular occasion when water conditions were perfect”, says Noble.
“He said he wouldn’t run and didn’t. People really respected him for that.”
Gordon Menzies also remembers Cobb making his world record attempt at a time when Crusader was kept in his father’s shed at Temple Pier on Loch Ness.
“I grew up with the whole story, so I have a real personal interest.”
Mr Menzies, a tour boat operator who still lives in the area, was on hand when in 2019 a team working on behalf of Norwegian firm Kongsberg Maritime located and carried out sonar and photographic surveys of Crusader.
The last piece of the puzzle?
Since then, further research has been carried out into the tragedy, including a book written by Steve Holter, Crusader: John Cobb’s Ill-Fated Quest For Speed On Water.
This and other research suggests there was a flaw in the build of the boat. There was a weak part in the central portion, causing it to break in half.
The more recent evidence is included in the exhibition.
“Gordon brought to our attention the fact that the data collected from this recent investigation gives us a new perspective on the tragic events that unfolded on September 29th 1952”, said heritage group chairman Duncan MacDonald.
“It gave us the impetus to recreate our exhibition to share this new information with visitors and locals alike.”
Mr Menzies adds: “The 70th anniversary is an opportunity to tell the last bit of the tale.
Whole Cobb story can now be told
“There has been all sorts of speculation about what happened and the whole story can now be told.
“However, there is little point in pointing the finger at anyone now.”
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