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Thursday
Jul212011

The Origin of a Curious Local Expression…..

Motorists from the rest of the country may have noted that, once the eastbound limits of the M62 have been reached, and the road changes its name to the A63, somewhat different driving standards, practices, and hazards will be encountered. There is little lane discipline, tailgating is common, as is undertaking, and there are countless minor accidents that seem to be caused by incompetence and lack of skill. Considerable comment is therefore engendered. I think I have discovered the background.

It is universally agreed that much can be traced back to the local business empire created and controlled by Agatha Chandler. Agatha was a unique entrepreneur who, despite her humble beginnings, was quick to spot developing opportunities, and had an instinctive flair for using herself in promoting her various business interests.

A sparkling, pretty, teenager, she earned her first commissions selling cosmetic products from door to door. She soon understood the nature of the business, and appreciated that the real money was being made by the manufacturers and bulk distributors. She created her own range of products and within 18 months had a team of 80 young female sales/demonstrators working for her in the greater Hull area. She created a sales brochure, complete with a dazzling picture of herself on the cover. The sales team were trained to show the brochure to the housewives of Hull. The sales pitch started ‘You too can look like Ag Chandler’ and indeed many customers did want to achieve the same glossy appearance.

Agatha was already quite wealthy when, aged 23 she met a young ‘gentleman’ called Michael Hunt. Michael had already impoverished his parents with his demands for an expensive education, fast cars, horses, and a crippling monthly cash allowance. Agatha met him at a local hunt ball held in one of the Willerby hotels. Michael had very nearly not attended the event. He was bored with the local hunt scene and wanted to move in more ‘glorified’ circles. Unfortunately, he had a bit of a ‘reputation’ and his application to join the nearby and very upmarket, York Hunt, was being resisted. Upon realising that Agatha could provide the cash boost that would help his ambitions, he switched on his considerable charm. Agatha was smitten. The ill fated relationship was sealed when, much later in the evening, a drunken and emotional Michael whispered in her ear ‘that he was desperate to get into York Hunt’.

Six weeks later they were married and she changed her name to Agatha Hunt. For a while, Mike was an attentive husband and Agatha duly indulged him with an allowance of £2,000 per month. However, her family and friends soon developed an active dislike for Mike. They could see that he was using Agatha for her money. ‘There is something really, really, fishy about Mike Hunt’ confided Agatha’s sister to her new boyfriend.

Agatha ignored them all, and threw her energies into expanding her business empire. Always a stylish, and colourful dresser, she launched a clothing range to compliment the cosmetics. New brochures were produced, always featuring Agatha on the cover.

‘Look like Ag Hunt’ was followed by

‘Dress like Ag Hunt’

Agatha’s instinctive marketing flair made every venture an outstanding success and the money rolled in. Mike indulged himself in his gentlemanly pursuits – riding, gambling, womanising, and crashing fast cars – but was always careful not to allow any scandal to follow him back to Hull. There was much whisper, and innuendo, and Agatha’s friends despaired that she couldn’t see him for what he was. ‘Mike Hunt is just so slippery’ confided Agatha’s aunt Maude to Vicar Dobson over a plate of Huntley & Palmers at the ‘bring & buy’ sale.

By now, it was the 1980’s and the ‘Ag’ brand had become a phenomenon across Yorkshire and the North East. The Leeds office of a leading publisher commissioned Agatha’s autobiography, and paid an advance of £50,000 against the anticipated sales of ‘I am Ag Hunt’

Agatha shrewdly started to franchise her brand. The Hull stage school renamed itself ‘Acting like Ag Hunt’, and found its courses 200% over subscribed. However, to be fair, it was Mike that spotted the opportunity that lead to the business for which Agatha’s brand is still known throughout East Yorkshire.

In 1985, ‘The Holderness Professional Postilion, Coachman, and Chauffeur Training Company’ was advertised for sale. Mike took the advertisement to Agatha. ‘Look Aggie’, he said, ‘We could turn this traditional business into a Driving School. Everyone is learning to drive these days and we could make another fortune. I could run it, I am not getting any younger and I could do with a really big commercial challenge. I need something to stretch me’. Agatha was starting to think that the part of Mike that most needed stretching was his neck, but this view was temporary and largely coloured by the item of female underwear that she had found in his car the previous week.

Agatha was still at the point of indulging Mike. She was pleased that he was taking an interest in the business. She arranged to buy ‘The Holderness’ Company and installed Mike as Managing Director. Together, they took the decision to order a fleet of dual control ‘minis’. Agatha reverted to her tried and trusted marketing formula. She arranged to be photographed at the wheel of the latest Ferrari model and in due course the ‘Drive like Ag Hunt’ brochure was circulated across Hull and East Yorkshire. Mike appeared to throw himself into the running of the business.

Agatha’s aunt Maude, who had the distinct impression that vicar Dobson had been avoiding her for the past few years, finally managed to corner him in the kitchen of the church hall as they prepared an olive salad for the flower arranger’s lunch. ‘Oh Vicar, I am so much happier now’, she cooed as she gently twisted the bulbous end of the large pepper mill, ‘We have finally found something that will really stretch Mike Hunt’.

At first, ‘Drive like Ag Hunt’ prospered and made a lot of money for Agatha and Mike. However, as always, success breeds competition. Other driving schools sprang up and started to take customers away from the business. Mike started to cut costs. The standard of driving instructors fell as Mike cut the wages and benefits. In truth, Mike was hopeless at running a business. However, whatever he lacked in terms of business acumen, he more than made up for in terms of devious guile and cunning.

Mike created a master plan upon which he was prepared to invest considerable funds. Basically, he bribed the examiners. Waiting until a period of snowy weather forced the cancellation of all tests, Mike invited the entire staff of the driving test centre to a ‘Drive like Ag Hunt’ symposium at a local posh hotel. He laid on wine, women (or men), and song. At the end of a drunken debauched day, Mike outlined a plan where 10% of any fees generated by ‘Drive like Ag Hunt’ would be paid into the Driving Test Centre Benevolent Fund whenever a ‘Drive like Ag Hunt’ learner passed their driving test.

The scheme worked far beyond any expectations that Mike may have had. The driving examiners regularly passed ‘Drive like Ag Hunt’ candidates more or less on the basis that they had managed to get round the test course without having caused death, or injury, to any third party. Once again, Mike’s business flourished, even more so when his newspaper advertisements carried certified testimony to the remarkable 99% pass rate achieved by ‘Drive like Ag Hunt’. The scam finally ended, in 1998, when ‘The News of the People’ exposed it and the business was wound up. Mike was fined a vast amount of money, and went to prison.

In the meantime, Mike and Agatha had split up in 1988. Mike had received the ‘Drive like Ag Hunt’ business as part of the, rather amicable, settlement between them. Agatha had reverted to her maiden name of Chandler. She continued to make money by the bucketful, and retired in 2004 to concentrate on her string of racehorses, and her sponsorships of the local sports teams. Occasionally she thinks rather fondly of Mike, but then determinedly puts the thought out of her mind.

To this day, locals tend to be remarkably tolerant towards some startling examples of really bad driving. The other week, I was being driven by some friends for a day out at Beverley Races. Somewhere near Cottingham, we were ‘carved up’ by a middle aged man driving his car rather in the manner of an eight year old enjoying his first solo ride at the dodgems. One of my friends looked at the other ‘Did you see that?’ he asked, and then laughed and said ‘Drives like Ag Hunt’. The other friend also laughed, ‘Yes, drives like Ag Hunt’, he agreed.

I didn’t understand the remark at the time, but having done some research, I now understand this remarkable tale, and this unusual local expression.