James May is a true gentleman in the world of automotive journalism. His floral shirts are infamous, his laugh is infectious, and he always likes to begin with “Hello”. He’s also celebrating a birthday today – his 54th in fact. So, er, Happy Birthday May!
James Daniel May was born on the 16th January 1963, in Bristol, South West England. James’ parents, Harold and Ruth, had a total of four children – two girls and two boys. In his own words, James didn’t grow up in just a single house. “I moved all over Britain. Home life was very happy. We all had food and shoes,” he says.
His love of vehicles and machinery blossomed from a young age. “The first toy I remember receiving at Christmas was the Corgi Routemaster Bus. I can’t have been more than three years old. It was a gleaming, bright-red objet d’art with jewelled headlights; a Fabergé egg to a small boy. I still have it, though it’s not quite as shiny as it was,” James says. “When I was a child I wanted to be… a fighter pilot because I like aeroplanes. Or a surgeon.”
Once he reached schooling age, James’ parents enrolled him into the Caerleon Endowed Junior School in Newport. Like most young boys, he was rather fond of bicycles. “The toy I wish I’d owned, but never did is the Raleigh Chopper bicycle. My parents didn’t really approve of that sort of thing. I never actually had a new bicycle anyway. I was encouraged to make them out of old bits,” he explained. “I learnt to be quite thorough from my dad and to do things properly. And I learnt to be quite nice from my mum.”
James spent his teenage years in South Yorkshire, where he attended Oakwood Comprehensive School in Rotherham and was a choirboy at Whiston Parish Church. It was here that he experienced a moment that changed him forever…
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