Simanaitis Says

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GEORGE EDWARD MILLIGEN was born in 1910; he died in 2004, shortly after which his collection of things mechanical was auctioned by Bonhams at the Goodwood Revival Sale 2004. 

Here are tidbits about several of the Milligen Collection, together with biographical information of George E. Milligen derived from Benjidog Historical Research Resources. It was at this website that I learned about George’s sister Vera.

Genealogy. John McIlwrath Milligen, 1855–1947, was a wealthy coal merchant and ship owner who fathered two children, George and Vera, with Violet Harriet Woods. Though apparently Milligen and Woods never wed, John Milligen made generous financial provision for George, his mother, and his sister Vera. 

Vera and George, c. 1917. This and following images from Benjidog Historical Research.

Benjidog describes George as “a private man, a keen and successful farmer, and one of the UK’s foremost collectors of top-quality veteran cars, model trains, and all kinds of other things mechanical. Little information has been forthcoming about his personality other than he has been described as ‘eccentric.’ ”

Sibling Vera. His sister’s life was rather more than eccentric: Vera married Alexander Dennis “Tex” McLeod (a real Texan having previously performed with the Buffalo Bill Cody Show).

By 1942, Benjidog notes, “Tex and Vera were well-enough known for Pathé News to produce a short newsreel item about the pair at their farm in Sussex.” This Pathé News item can be accessed at the Benjidog website. The duo later took a Wild West show on the road throughout England, with “Vera Milligen and her Famous Horse Bracken.”

By June 1950, Vera had enhanced matters with a stage moniker Vera Cody. Later she was “stealing the limelight,” with an accordion added to her schtick. And, in time, Vera began appearing as a solo. 

“On 25 February 1954,” Benjidog reports, “we find the first mention of ‘Goldie—the conga-dancing horse.’ The Birmingham Daily Post is quoted saying “Vera Cody has a nice-looking horse that dances to various rhythms and some assorted dogs that appear to enjoy showing off their tricks.” 

I suspect Vera enjoyed it too.

Vera continued touring the Music Hall circuit throughout England, though, as was inevitable in the business, she tended toward the bottom of the bill. Tex died in 1973; Vera, in 1987.

George’s Love of Things Mechanical. George Milligen was more than a gentleman farmer at his East Ruston Manor House, near Smallburgh in Norfolk. Benjidog notes, “Judging by later accounts, George was an ‘early adopter’ of the use of tractors on his farm and departed from the Norfolk tradition of using horses. He is said to have become a successful farmer as a result.… The family, presumably descendents of Vera Milligen, still run successful farming businesses based at Old Manor Farm.” 

Benjidog suggests that George never seems to have sold any of the cars or other mechanical acquisitions he acquired over the years. The complete catalog Bonhams: Highly Important Motor Cars, Steam Engines, Locomotives, Models and Automobilia Including the Collection of the Late George E. Milligen runs to 156 pages; my pamphlet, 20 pages.

1929 Supercharged 7.1-Litre Mercedes-Benz 38/250 SSK. George Milligen bought this car in 1940.

Bonhams observed, “This spectacular short-wheelbase, supercharged 6-cylinder SSK simply redefines ‘patina,’ having been maintained in running order within this most private Collection, most of the time away from public gaze.”

1929 Bentley 6 1/2-Litre, Coachwork by Barker, London. Bonhams wrote that this boat-tailed two-seater “is reputed to have been ordered originally by the Duke of Kent, but when he decided not to take delivery, it was sold instead in July 1929 to stockbroker Ralph Jump.”

I love the car’s exuberantly streamlined running boards.

1934 Hispano-Suiza J12 Sports Coupé, Coachwork by Vanvooren, Paris. This car “was the personal transport of the French Ambassador to the Court of St. James from 1934 to 1939.”

Its 9.4-liter V-12 made it “one of a select handful of luxury cars that could achieve 100 mph with closed coachwork.” 

“Peter Pan.” This is a model GNR Atlantic 4-4-2 locomotive and tender built by Bassett-Lowke. Captain J.E.P. Howley used it around a railway of Staughton Manor in the early 1900s. 

Bonhams notes that in 1927 the locomotive “hauled King George V and Queen Mary,” with a small plaque commemorating this event. It’s shown with George Milligen shortly after it joined the East Ruston collection.

It’s evident that George enjoyed life, as did his sister Vera. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 

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