FORMER bespoke tailor and motor racing driver John Blades has died at the age of 78.

IT was fitting that on the occasion of his 70th birthday he received a congratulatory e-mail message from Sir Stirling Moss.

He was often seen on circuits from Ouston to Croft, as well as more famous British venues like Brands Hatch and Silverstone and such European circuits as the Nurburgring.

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He had strong local links with Croft Circuit, near Darlington, where he presented the Derek Bell Trophy for Formula 2 and 5000 cars at the Darlington and District Motor Club autumn meet for many years.

He drove GT 40s, Chevrons, Lotus cars and Ginettas and once held the fastest time for Croft – though as he quipped at the time “maybe for one week”.

It was for this kind of good humour, and his talents as a tailor, that made Mr Blades so popular throughout the North-East, where he was also known as a keen game shot and fisherman.

From his showroom outside Ponteland, near Newcastle, his strong regional business was augmented by faithful clients in the City of London who strongly believed in his mantra that “a good cut makes for confidence and is a reflection of success”.

He left school at the age of 16 and joined a family business stretching back across three centuries. Mr Blades learnt his trade from his father, whilst developing his own unique sense of style and personality which shone through in his tailoring.

His great, great, grandfather, William Hilton Scott Blades cut the first Raglan Coat designed by Lord Raglan before the Battle of Balaclava in the 1850s.

Just three years ago Mr Blades was re-united with the Blagdon Sprint Trophy, a motor race once held on the outskirts of Newcastle.

He had won the trophy in 1961 and it took pride of place in his home until 1964 when race organisers Kings College Motor Club took it back. He was eventually reunited with it after it was traced to a trophy cabinet at a Newcastle University hall of residence.

At the time he said he spotted the rose bowl “at 30 paces” and “could not believe seeing it again after 50 years”.

The retired tailor and gentlemen’s outfitter and former racing driver was born at Hexham, Northumberland, on September 22, 1939.

He died after a brave battle against cancer on December 14, aged 78.

He is survived by Val, son Julian, daughter Heidi and several grandchildren.

His cremation takes place tomorrow (Wednesday December 27) at West End Crematorium, West Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, at 1.30pm