A few weeks after he announced his retirement Jackie Stewart returned to Dumbarton, where he had grown up. It had been a busy week, as busy as any when he was still racing. A luncheon in London honoring him as Man of the Year for the third time. Chats with Prime Minister Edward Heath, himself an avid sportsman (yachting). Tea with the Queen. Popping in and out of Buckingham Palace.
His future fell into place: despite energy crises and the growing move to cut back on racing, Stewart will travel widely as a product and safety spokesman for Ford and Goodyear, and provide TV color commentary at races, "though not really too many."
In Glasgow, Jackie and Helen opened the Scottish Motor Show. It was wondrous to see them moving so fluently among those great, cold, glittering hunks of tooled metal—hulking Leyland tractors, solid Maserati sedans, a sleek, D-type Jaguar from the days of yore ("my brother Jim used to drive that car") and a more up-to-date Ferrari 512. There were champagne glasses stowed in the cockpit of the Ferrari. "You must understand," Jackie told the audience in his Harry Lauder burr, " Ferrari drivers always drink champagne while they're racing. In fact, they drive at a speed that permits them to." It was the contrast of the silent cars and the glib man: one realized again that these machines are only tools, animated by men, and that Jackie Stewart is still the most facile animator among us.
That evening Jackie and Helen drove down to Dumbarton to visit their parents. Helen's are both still alive. Jackie's father died two years ago, on the day Stewart was winning the Argentinian Grand Prix. His mother suffered a series of strokes some years ago, which cost her a leg. She lives now in a nursing home on the outskirts of Dumbarton. Jackie stopped first at the old gas station where it all began. He chatted briefly with its current owner, his friend John Lindsay ("no kin to the chap in New York"), and then stood looking back up into the moors behind the house. Traffic roared past on the busy Clyde side highway. "I never heard the traffic when I was a boy," Jackie said. "It was so easy just to take the shotgun and hike back up into the moors. There are still wonderful grouse covers up there."
But the highlight of the trip was the visit to Jackie's mother. "She was a real hot-shoe in the old days," Jackie says. "Fastest driver in these parts. She had the first TR-2 in the vicinity, also an early Jag. I think that's where Jim and I got our racing genes. But after Jim was hurt, she never accepted the fact that I was racing, never acknowledged it. We've never even spoken about it, though she used to blame Helen for letting me continue. She doesn't know yet that I've retired."
Inside the nursing home, the old people totter up to Jackie and shake his hand and tell him how glad they are that he has had done with it finally. His mother is bundled in a shawl in the sitting room, chainsmoking cigarettes. Jackie brings her flowers, chocolates, a carton of Rothmans King Size, a new butane lighter which she finds difficult to operate. She is delighted. She praises Helen's beauty, then looks at Jackie's long hair.
"Your hair is longer than mine, Jackie," she says. "You should get a perm. It'll do you a world of good, and it lasts a long, long time."
The old folks laugh heartily at that one, and Jackie joins them.
"Mother," he says then. "Mother, I'm through with racing, Mother." He has to yell, because her hearing is not so good anymore. She stares at him, uncomprehending. "I'm finished with it, Mother."
"Jackie," she says, still not understanding what he is saying, "I canna' watch it on the telly. I canna' stand to see it. I fear I shall see you upside down."