Patrick recalls tea with the Prince of Monaco and Grace Kelly in book

Patrick Mitchell at the launch of a book about his story by author and granddaughter Laura Mitchell.

Patrick Mitchell at the launch of a book about his story by author and granddaughter Laura Mitchell. Ref shs 5818-40-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Brushes with royalty and Hollywood stars are detailed in the story of a Sidmouth inventor - who says his new book is ‘just another chapter’ in his remarkable life.

The life of Patrick Mitchell, 86, has been ‘anything but average’, says his granddaughter, Laura, who has documented tales told by the craftsman in a new book that was launched last week.

Patrick grew up in Sidmouth and was a member of the scouts before starting work as an apprentice cabinet-maker at Sanders Workshop in Old Fore Street.

It was his carpentry skills that later landed Patrick a role with the now-famous VW caravanette factory owned by Jack White – where he had a hand in crafting the first specially-converted van and eventually retired with more than 40 patents to his name.

Married to Sidmothian Cynthia, Patrick enjoyed adventures far afield during his career – including a mission to design a vehicle for Prince Rainier of Monaco, where he enjoyed tea with the monarch and Hollywood actress Grace Kelly.

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The Malden Close resident was down to earth about his new book launch, which attracted national press from the leading VW magazine, as well as a host of familiar faces from the past and present.

Patrick said: “A tremendous lot of old faces have come here today, all very reminiscent of a very happy life.

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“It is not strange looking back on such an exciting life. You have got to take every day as it comes - this is just another chapter.

“I would not be able to do it without the backing of my family and that is what has been the mainstay of my life.”

Primary school teacher Laura, 23, had not intended to become an author, but said it was the stories told by her grandfather that inspired her to write the book.

She said: “I volunteered to start a book which was originally going to be just for the family and then, as I started hearing more stories, before I knew it, it sort of escalated.

“I sat down with him once-a-week and he talked and I recorded it and typed it all up and then took it away and put it in chronological order. Each week we built it up a bit.”

Laura called on the help of friends to turn her idea into a reality and it was fellow former Sidmouth College students Gemma Clapp and Saffron Roberts who edited and illustrated the final book respectively.

Copies of Patrick Robert Mitchell: My Story are available to buy from Paragon Books in High Street.

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