Pembroke: Sir Tom Cowie turns engine off for last time

SO FAREWELL, then, Sir Tom Cowie, 70-year-old chairman of the T Cowie motor group. Sir Tom, the grand old man of the motor trade who started out tinkering with old motorbikes in a Sunderland back street in 1948 and built a car and bus empire worth pounds 340m, finally put the gear stick into neutral yesterday and coasted into deserved retirement.

'I've been here a long time and I thought it would be nice to do a bit more shooting (grouse) and spend some time with my children,' he said yesterday (he has 10 children aged between 11 and 43).

The world of commerce is losing a colourful figure. Never backward in coming forward, he once commissioned a book of his own life called The Tom Cowie Story. He was chairman of Sunderland Football Club for five years but claimed the experience put him off football for life.

Sir Tom will stay on as president and still has his 5.7 per cent stake in the business - worth nearly pounds 20m - to comfort him.

THE GREEN CATALOGUE, a mail-order directory for the right-on and environmentally minded, is tapping its politically correct subscribers for cash. Set up in 1991, the catalogue wants pounds 600,000 to improve its computer system and its mailing list, and to increase stock.

The catalogue range is worth some attention. The summer 1993 edition includes scoop-necked jumpers made of organic cotton, endangered species T-shirts and handbags made from the inner tubes of Irish lorry tyres. There are also some multi-purpose items, such as a solar-cool baseball cap, which uses the sun's energy to power an electric fan to cool your cranium. Just the thing for Wimbledon.

EITHER the Law Society has it in for the rain forests or there was a slight error in the 22 June issue of the Lawyer magazine. We are told that the society is shortly to publish the revised edition of its eagerly awaited professional conduct guide for solicitors. Then the bombshell. 'As part of a cost-cutting exercise, 6,000 guides will be sent to each firm.'

LONDON'S RIVERBUS, the chugga-chugga boat service, which runs along 10 miles of the Thames from Chelsea to Greenwich, has been saved from a watery grave. The blue and white boats looked sunk when their main backer, Olympia & York, went bust last year.

But yesterday a lifeboat arrived on the scene when a group of London corporations and Thameside companies chipped in pounds 1.75m to keep the loss-making service afloat. Even the staff, fearful for their jobs no doubt, had a whip-round for a few quid.

Riverbus now has big plans. It is ordering a new boat, taking its fleet to 11, and hopes to extend its route further into the Sloane country of Battersea and Wandsworth. 'But darling what a perfectly divine way of commuting.'