A ROUTINE search for next of kin of a man who died in Bournemouth has revealed a dramatic and exciting life that was lived in the fast lane.
When Tony Godfrey, 88, died in a care home last December, he had no known relatives and had not made a will.
BCP Council contacted professional probate genealogist firm, Finders International – stars of BBC’s Heir Hunters programme, to trace any potential heirs to his estate that also included two classic cars.
The research revealed that Tony, who was born in Southampton, was in fact a British and US racing champion. He competed on several occasions in the Isle of Man TT, known as the biggest and the one of the most dangerous motorsport events in the world, and he also won the US Grand Prix.
Tony never married nor had any children. He was an only child of Elsie Mabel Wright and Gerard Malyn Godfrey, who were married in 1921 and both died in 1975. Tony’s father was a trench digger in the First World War, The only other relatives were on Tony’s father’s side of the family. He had an uncle, Arthur Frederick, who died in the First World War and is buried in France and an aunt, Susanna Helen Godfrey who had one daughter, Joan Elizabeth Wilson, a cousin of Tony’s.
It is Joan’s daughter, Elisabeth, Tony’s cousin once removed, who is the sole beneficiary of the estate valued in region of £30k and has two classic cars.
Elisabeth, from Bath, said: “I got the letter from Finders International just before lockdown and I was gobsmacked. I asked my son to look into it for me and he was happy to confirm that it wasn’t a hoax.
“I never knew or met Tony. I had done some family research into my grandmother’s family but I didn’t find out very much about Tony’s father. It’s very sad to think Tony died and we never knew each other. I am really not sure what I’ll do with the inheritance but I’ll most probably share it with my family,”
Tony was part of the TT Riders Association. In 1963, he became the first man to be airlifted to hospital from Isle of Man when he crashed, then aged 32, in the Isle of Man TT 250cc race. He was taken to Ramsey Cottage Hospital where he remained unconscious for 10 days, cared for by Matron Myra Kelly. The pair kept in touch over the years and in 2007 Tony flew back to the island, then aged 76, for the first time since the accident, for a reunion with his carer.
Friend and mechanic, Chris Oliver, said: “Tony and I lived one mile away from each other in Southampton. We were both into motorcycling and both served our apprenticeships at aircraft companies. When Tony started racing he asked me to his mechanic. It was a hugely exciting time in my life.
“In 1959 Tony was the British Champion beating Mike Harwood by one point. Then in 1962 both Tony and Mike were invited to the US to compete in the Grand Prix at Daytona Beach, and Tony won it! It was marvellous. It was a miracle that Tony’s survived his accident in the Isle of Man and I was delighted to fly back to the island to bring him home when he was better.
“Despite his near fatal accident on the Isle of Man, my understanding it that Tony still managed to outlive most of his contemporary competitors. Tony was greatly respected by the racing community and it would be lovely to commemorate him in some way.”
Daniel Curran, of Finders International, said: “We were delighted to help the local council in this case. Successfully tracing relatives of a deceased and ensuring their estate goes to the rightful relatives is always a privilege.
“People are generally really interested to find out further details of their family tree, and this case has been no different. Tony’s life on the track and reports from his fellow motorbike racers and enthusiasts all paint a picture of a true champion.”