St Ouen (Marne)
and how it looks today, 2 Fore St Lostwithiel, Cornwall, completely changed….
Marche en Famenne Belgium
Pau Grand Prix, France 1949
Charleville, the romance has been lost…..the WW2 image probably explains why, Charleville was in the path of the German Ardennes offensive in May 1940.
Albany Rd, Peel, Isle of Man 1906
WW1 – war damaged Thann, Alsace
How the mighty have fallen……. Hotel Aubin, Vic sur Aisne, France
A moment in time preserved….
Trees, statue and charm lost….
Baraque de Fraiture, Vielsalm, Belgium
Still a Cafe Mazarin in business, in the same building…….Giromandy, France
Saint Victor et Melvieu
Mazamet in the 50s….
Le Thor, France
Virage Impradin, Lavigerie, France
Krieger-Gnädig 1922 500 cc OHV
The brothers Karl, Oskar, Max and Peter Krieger lived in Berlin around 1900. Three of them were technically gifted and Peter had commercial talents. In the years before the war they started to experiment with building airplanes and they became rather successful in that. Regretfully Karl lost his life during a test flight at the end of the war. After the war planes were not in demand anymore so the remaining brothers decided to put their efforts in the design of an innovative motorcycle. They met designer Franz Gnädig who stepped into the business and they bought a factory in Suhl in December 1919. They hired personnel and developed the plans for the first series of six test models. These machines were equipped with overhead inlet valves and side exhaust valves and were ready by April 1920. The definitive design got a full ohv engine ( 80×99 mm) and was the first German motorcycle with shaft drive. Other modern points were the dry sump lubrication system, the very stiff triangular frame construction and the quickly detachable and interchangeable wheels. The 3 speed gearbox was fitted in line with the engine. The first series had cast iron pistons and were capable of 75 km/hour at 3000 rpm. Later series got aluminium pistons and could run safely at 4,300 rpm. In June 1921 there was a celebration at the occasion of the finishing of the hundredth machine. the Kriegers proved very successful in races and reliability trials. However, the manufacture of the innovative and luxurious K-G turned out to be very expensive and the factory soon got into financial problems.
In 1922 the CITO bicycle and motorcycle factory from Cologne took over the production. In the years after that various factories tried to produce the design on a commercial basis: Cito – K.G., Allright – K.G. , Original – Krieger, Gnädig and Henkel K.G. were all names under which in the twenties and early thirties the design was produced, albeit in modest numbers.
A ride from Pingelly to Perth, Western Australia in 1925
To the Kimberley, Western Australia and the Northern Territory by Moto Guzzi le Mans…
THE MONA LISA SMILE – by the late Bill Young
It is a great pity that I can’t find the newspaper cutting. It would be the only proof that the following tale is true.
Not that the crumpled cutting itself was over elegant, its ragged outline betrayed the fact that it had been hacked from the page with a blunt screwdriver or similar object. Certain cynics upon hearing my story are apt to scoff and loudly express doubts of its authenticity but – hand on heart – I can only tell the tale as it happened and leave it to you, dear reader, to decide.
It was so long ago that the passing years can muddle memory but you don’t have to be a quiz whiz to pinpoint the period
The change over from garden gate to featherbed.
Dead easy for the faithful followers of the hallowed name of Norton, as for the rest of you infidels –serves you right. At the time I was employed by Norton Motors in a roving capacity and as I was one of the few interested in off road activities and as I suspect no one else wanted the job, found myself in the competition department. If the name conjures up visions of clinically clean benches occupied by gleaming machines being carefully prepared by the white coated specialists, conjure again, it wasn’t like that at all. Just a crowded corner of the Manx shop littered with tyres, wheels, a miscellaneous muddle of parts of all descriptions and me! As a matter of fact, it was known by some of the coarser members of the staff, as the mud and slush department – which on reflection was probably a true and apt description
Most of the machines which came my way were covered with a copious coating of sodden soil gathered from various venues of the U.K.and it was often necessary to excavate the excrement before one could confront the complaint. Naturally the floor, bench and close surrounds soon assumed the appearance of an over populated pig pen in a wet winter and had I been a keen gardener with all that prime earth available I’m sure I would have been well on the leader board at the next plant pageant. Not every ones cup of char but it suited me, I had played in the mud from early childhood and I could put in plenty of over time, quite a help in the financial field which usually bordered on insolvency.
Picture me there in the morning the factory gaffer bore down on me, his florid face bearing a semblance of cordiality, but then I couldn’t be sure, it was a bad light. Skidding to a stand still on the slimy surface, he commenced “Lud” said he, ( every one under half a hundred was a lad ) “ Lud, we have decided to give you a rise!” This was good news indeed, no more twelve days, or occasional week end work , up to Scotland for the grouse season or Majorca for sun, which incidentally was an almost forgotten memory. The cautiously “How much”? I queried. “Thruppence an hour” he replied in the condescending tone of the chief beefeater giving away the crown jewels. “It’s good money” Disappointment over came diplomacy “ But very little of it” I rejoined.
In previous encounters with him I had noticed that when he was upset it showed in his breathing. He was inclined to inhale and exhale with a noise closely resembling that of an ancient steam locomotive ascending a steep slope. Now low wheezing noises were starting to be apparent while his hue deepened and a swelling in the vicinity of his collar stud suggested goitre. At moments like this it’s funny how self preservation and the vision of a dole queue can humble a man. I made a quick decision “ Thank you so much sir” I simpered, barely suppressing the inclination to curtsey, “ It will be a great help”, of course it wasn’t really, that’s why the following Saturday saw me slaving in the Manx shop with several other impoverished people.
Now if the rise had been in keeping with my considerable talents more likely I would be found at the local park burnishing a bench and breaking bread for the muscovies or some similar exciting exercise. .But then you wouldn’t have a story any way so maybe it all worked out for the best. So what’s all this drivel got to do with that enthralling anecdote you promised us? You may well ask. Settle on the settee Syd or Cynthia as the case may be, all will be revealed in good time.
As afore mentioned it was Saturday in the Manx shop and happened to be the day of the Ulster. Between breaking our backs we were listening to the commentary of the races on the radio borrowed from the gaffer’s office as he wasn’t there at the time. Compatriot Ken Kavanagh on his first real works ride was runner up in both Junior and Senior to , you know who, a certain G.E.Duke. There was great joy and jubilation in the camp, Norton’s 1 and 2 and it wasn’t hard to imagine the scenes in Ireland, happy riders posing for the post race pictures flanked by the Norton hierarchy all wearing the self satisfied smiles of people who knew the answers before the questions, running races had only been a formality. At the time Alan Wilson was competition manager and usually his face was prominent in the pictures, this time he had missed the trip and was here with us but determined to get into the act – and so he did.
We had just risked a double hernia by hoisting a garden gate Manx off the bench and Alan lost no time by leaping up on the vacant space as it was a stage at the local Tivoli. Being fresh out of evening dress, I was not a frequenter of the Old Vic but I am sure that no greater dramatic art could have been enacted there by Sir Lawrence Olivier himself that which we were about to see. He shook imaginary hands, bowed to invisible admirers, nodded to all and sundry but mainly that enigmatic smile was the climax of his performance. It was Joe Craig to the last wrinkle, not to much or to little, mystic, is the only way to describe it, if I’ve got my words right. This act was repeated several times to much applause, loud cheers and countless encores then it gradually dawned on him that perhaps he was unworthy of such enthusiastic adulation. Maybe his audience simply preferred sitting watching him to straining theirs sinews lifting over weighty bikes, so we all called it a day and went home for tea.
It was a few weeks later that the Eric Oliver episode occurred. He was a familiar figure around the factory, often his large van, proudly displaying the sign “Campione del Mondo” was parked in Brace Bridge Street while he ran around his business in the works. He was the sort of person who never had enough time, he was always in a hurry which may have had some bearing on why he was so successful in the racing arena. I well remember the evening, there was a trial coming up and I needed entry fees and travelling expenses, so was doing a bit of over time to raise the ready. There I was, digging the dirt out of the rear of a chain case of a trials bike, when the silence of the deserted factory was broken by the clatter of the iron wheels rattling on the bare boards. Then Eric loomed into sight wheeling a Manx engine and balancing a box of various accessories on the cam box
It appeared that he had arrived from the continent the previous day with a tired engine under his arm, on the bus too, would you believe? Cajoled the boys on the engine bench to give it a “ go faster “ transplant and was due to return for another meeting later in the week. There was a bit of finishing off to do on the engine and he was looking for a spare bench top to complete it, so he could get an early start in the morning. This was the time when the rules were changed to limit side cars to 500cc and before he had a joe motor, the engine was standard Manx and only went quicker because that was the way he rode them.
A lot of mystery had gone for me of what lay behind the muddy chain case and it was the work of a moment to sweep away the top soil on the bench and slip the motor into the waiting cradle Then a funny thing happened, I had been hooking on various bits and he was fitting the carburettor when, out of the corner of my eye I saw him put the tapered throttle spring in the side down, from memory I think the carb was a G.P. – D.K. Before you rush into print to tell me that they were not available at this time, certain selected people had got their hands on them and he was that sort of bloke. Anyway I knew from previous experience that if the spring was up side down it restricted the full opening of the slide – try it some time. I felt like a junior foot man at the Buckingham palace standing on the balcony over looking a sea of loyal subjects as Prince Charles strode out with an important part of the regal attire unzipped: What do you do in a case like this? me, a boy from the black stump, which is a popular Australian colloquialism, and he a world champion. But then I knew that the engine was being nobbled which was hardly fair to man or motor, so I discreetly pointed it out to him. He told me he always fitted them that way but was convinced by a glance down the throat, sure enough the slide wasn’t fully opening, reverse the spring and it disappeared completely. There was another meeting in a couple of days and he assured me that he would let me know how the engine performed then.
If you are inclined to raise a doubting eyebrow at my story I will test your incredibility even more and you wouldn’t be the first. With the engine completed Eric asked me to give him a lift as he was living near me, My transport was my trials bike, naturally with no passenger accommodation. He hunted around and discovered a sponge rubber pillion complete with steel base which caused me to protest at the thought of scratching my polished alloy mudguard. This did not deter him for long as a hacksaw blade soon removed the steel base, he placed the rubber on the guard, hopped on and I dropped him off at his place. When I returned to work the next morning, both he and the engine had gone and I gave it no further thought until the letter arrived later that week. Not that it was a letter really just a newspaper cutting which was totally lost on me except for a couple of words as it was in a foreign language, completely foreign in more ways than one. A quick trip to the drawing office soon offered a translation, a friend of mine laboured in that holy of holies and had a double advantage over me, clean hands and an education. Roughly translated it said that the English driver E..Oliver had convincingly won the three wheel contest as the circuit le Citroen, or some other unpronounceable name, on his British Norton which had been tuned by Joe Craig.
I lost no time in taking the cutting up to the boys on the engine bench, who, to a man, smiled smug smiles and bowed in all directions. This pantomime was enacted for a week or more after first making sure that the boy from Ballymena was not observing their antics. Although I have no longer got the crumpled cutting, I still have my trials bike and I wonder had I let Eric put that steel based pillion on my guard, the resultant scratches, even now, would bear mute testimony to the truth of my story. When I think back all those years and recall that upside down throttle spring, I wonder if I could be permitted a little lopsided smirk myself.
Bill Young’s Norton 500T in 1988
ON THE GOLDIE UP THE GREAT NORTH ROAD: By the late Ken Duperouzel
Recently I related how Gerry Smith and I had ridden across the Nullarbor in April 1951. Gerry was on holidays and after some days in Adelaide he returned to Perth. As soon as I could I sold the AJS. A close friend, Ron Bradbury, had shipped my 1950 350 BSA Goldstar to Adelaide. Prior to dispatch, Bill Anderson with my permission raced the bike at the Yanchep TT – 8th April 1951 where he crashed it and dented the tank.
Ken on 350cc BSA Gold Star – Woodside – South Australia
I joined the Atujara Motorcycle Club in Adelaide. It was astounding the members who were either “big names” or went on to become big names. Dennis Minnett (ex England) – well known Brooklands/TT rider, Laurie Boulter – later killed in IOM, Rex Tilbrook – manufacturer of the Tilbrook sidecars/125 race bikes, Jim Silvey – top scrambles rider, and Les Diener – very well known successful rider/tuner 250 Velocette. It was a great club, with great camaraderie, and I believe it still is. The highlight of the year was the annual “Advertiser” newspaper 24-hour ReliabilityTrial. Not for me this type of event as I had recent bad memories of the “Prince of Darkness”.
A story worth telling is riding the Goldie up the Great Northern Road (main road to Port Augusta) past Parafield Aerodrome about 30-miles from Adelaide. This ride was for the purpose of tuning the bike in preparation for Woodside and later Gawler airstrip road races. In company of a friend, Brian Floyd (Ariel), we had passed several riders and mechanics also doing tuning and high speed runs. Some miles further on, having found a quieter section of road (less traffic), It was time to prepare the Goldstar.
I should say that the Goldstar was both my personal transport and race bike. Change the silencer for a megaphone, other adjustments etc. Now it was ready! I did an almost top speed run to the north checking road conditions, then a full bore run back towards Adelaide, made a U-turn for another high speed run north and back to where Brian was waiting for me.
Imagine my surprise – shock – horror when slowing to stop, I looked around and there was a South Australian Motorcycle Police Patrolman on a 650cc Thunderbird Triumph right on my tail. I felt sure he would ‘throw the book’ at me. On stopping he came alongside me.
“How fast was it going?” he said. Utter despair gripped me and I thought there was no use in denying I was speeding. I thought he would probably do me for excess noise too, and maybe even dangerous riding. “About 85/90 mph.” I said in reply, since I was using a rev counter – no speedo.
“I thought so.” said he, “My Thunderbird was showing 95mph, and you were pulling away from me!” Speedos were optimistic then and still are now. Next thing he said was “Have you seen Jack Pengelly anywhere, he is supposed to be out here too?”
I said that I had not. Then to my surprise he put the Triumph in gear while saying “he must be further up the road” and rode away. My mate, Brian, was incredulous at the turn of events , while I was dumb-struck too. It turned out that the motorcycle patrolman was a close friend of Jack Pengelly’s, but he sure ‘shocked the hell’ out of me. I duly raced at both Woodside and Gawler race meetings with moderate success. Maurie Quincey was a star of these races, also Bert Flood on his 125cc Lambretta, and Alan Wallis (later long serving ACCA National Secretary) on the works Tilbrook, which he still has.
Kevin Cass retraces Arthur Grady’s circumnavigation of Australia
Seventy years on, the first circumnavigation of Australia by a powered vehicle has been retraced by an
motorcycle identical to the original.
The rattling crack of an open-piped exhaust split the lazy air of a sunny autumn morning. The motorcycle
Wollongong historic enthusiast Kevin Cass spent the Australian winter following in the wheeltracks of
Cass left Wollongong on May 19 and a week later arrived at Adelaide’s Birdwood Mill motor museum via
Grady’s exploits, a publicity stunt organised by the West Australian Douglas agent Armstrong, achieved
After completing the lap of Australia, Grady was immortalised by a small, pen and-ink-illustrated book
Grady travelled alone, without any support. His swag consisted of an army oilskin ground sheet and
Just four days after a rousing send-off from Perth in October, 1924, Grady literally ran out of roads and had
As he headed north-east into the edge of the Simpson desert, the station homesteads were 80 miles apart.
It was tough country. One station bunkhouse he dossed down in had the beds suspended by chains from
Station owners often gave Grady vague instructions, such as “Ride across the paddock until you reach the
Perhaps the worst incident was when he spent a day retracing his steps and found his waterbag had
“Everything was hushed and awfully still” he wrote. “I would reflect a little faintheartedly on my journey,
Eventually he abandoned the bike, tying his mosquito net on the end of a stick as a marker, and set off on
In the dawn light he returned to his bike. started it up and stumbled over the faint marks of a buggy track.
Now a new problem faced Grady. How to cross the swollen creeks.
“Collecting a few handfuls of grass I stuffed them tightly into the exhaust pipes and, with a piece of fat, kept
His oil supply dried up once, and he made do with a home-brew of six bottles of medicinal castor oil, half a
One station Grady crossed was 14.000 square miles. Loneliness was not a problem as he befriended some
By the time Grady struck Brisbane the worst of his trip was over, despite the fact he was only halfway
The great journey is finished and I am quietly satisfied with the honour of being the first to do it.
The Douglas was eventually returned to England and put on display but what happened to it after that is
Grady was later offered a large sum of money to repeat the trip on an lndian but declined. He later raced
RECAPTURING THE MOMENT – 1995
KEVIN Cass, of Wollongong, started from the opposite side of the country to Grady, not that it matters
“I’m doing it for the whole movement of historic motorcycling,” he said when he was in Adelaide. “I want to
Cass made it around the country without any major dramas, but he was nearly stopped with mechanical
In 1924, Arthur Grady of Fremantle, Western Australia, made the first motorcycle circuit of Australia on a Douglas in five and a half months. Neil Bromilow of the VMCCWA also replicated this on a 1922 678cc Martinsyde, from 2 June to 5 July 1984 covering over 15,985 km.
Fabulous period photo taken in Tasmania, featuring a Zenith, Moto Reve and a Gradua tucked away behind
Pic by Murray Barnard
Two Brough Superiors photographed beside the Boer War Memorial at Kings Park, wonder where they are now?
One of the best descriptions of riding a motorcycle is by a great writer and soldier: T.E. Lawrence, from his RAF journal, The Mint.
The Mint is an unusual & often overlooked book. Rough and forthright, it gives an account of the time spent by T.E. Lawrence as an ordinary cadet and airman in the RAF (hiding under the alias T.E. Ross). There is little joy or freedom in the book. However, amidst the depression and squalor one chapter in particular stands out. Lawrence had by this time (1925-26) become an aircraft engineer and he found something in that surpassed his time during the Arab Revolt i.e fast machines and freedom. And most of all, motorcycles. One of the greatest accounts of a motorcycle ride…
“The extravagance in which my surplus emotion expressed itself lay on the road. So long as roads were tarred blue and straight; not hedged; and empty and dry, so long I was rich. Nightly I’d run up from the hangar, upon the last stroke of work, spurring my tired feet to be nimble. The very movement refreshed them, after the day-long restraint of service. In five minutes my bed would be down, ready for the night: in four more I was in breeches and puttees, pulling on my gauntlets as I walked over to my bike, which lived in a garage-hut, opposite. Its tyres never wanted air, its engine had a habit of starting at second kick: a good habit, for only by frantic plunges upon the starting pedal could my puny weight force the engine over the seven atmospheres of its compression.
Boanerges’ first glad roar at being alive again nightly jarred the huts of Cadet College into life. ‘There he goes, the noisy bugger,’ someone would say enviously in every flight. It is part of an airman’s profession to be knowing with engines: and a thoroughbred engine is our undying satisfaction. The camp wore the virtue of my Brough like a flower in its cap. Tonight Tug and Dusty came to the step of our hut to see me off. ‘Running down to Smoke, perhaps?’ jeered Dusty; hitting at my regular game of London and back for tea on fine Wednesday afternoons. Boa is a top-gear machine, as sweet in that as most single-cylinders in middle. I chug lordlily past the guard-room and through the speed limit at no more than sixteen. Round the bend, past the farm, and the way straightens. Now for it. The engine’s final development is fifty-two horse-power. A miracle that all this docile strength waits behind one tiny lever for the pleasure of my hand.
Another bend: and I have the honour of one of England’ straightest and fastest roads. The burble of my exhaust unwound like a long cord behind me. Soon my speed snapped it, and I heard only the cry of the wind which my battering head split and fended aside. The cry rose with my speed to a shriek: while the air’s coldness streamed like two jets of iced water into my dissolving eyes. I screwed them to slits, and focused my sight two hundred yards ahead of me on the empty mosaic of the tar’s gravelled undulations. Like arrows the tiny flies pricked my cheeks: and sometimes a heavier body, some house-fly or beetle, would crash into face or lips like a spent bullet. A glance at the speedometer: seventy-eight. Boanerges is warming up. I pull the throttle right open, on the top of the slope, and we swoop flying across the dip, and up-down up-down the switchback beyond: the weighty machine launching itself like a projectile with a whirr of wheels into the air at the take-off of each rise, to land lurchingly with such a snatch of the driving chain as jerks my spine like a rictus. Once we so fled across the evening light, with the yellow sun on my left, when a huge shadow roared just overhead. A Bristol Fighter, from Whitewash Villas, our neighbour aerodrome, was banking sharply round. I checked speed an instant to wave: and the slip-stream of my impetus snapped my arm and elbow astern, like a raised flail. The pilot pointed down the road towards Lincoln. I sat hard in the saddle, folded back my ears and went away after him, like a dog after a hare. Quickly we drew abreast, as the impulse of his dive to my level exhausted itself.
The next mile of road was rough. I braced my feet into the rests, thrust with my arms, and clenched my knees on the tank till its rubber grips goggled under my thighs. Over the first pot-hole Boanerges screamed in surprise, its mud-guard bottoming with a yawp upon the tyre. Through the plunges of the next ten seconds I clung on, wedging my gloved hand in the throttle lever so that no bump should close it and spoil our speed. Then the bicycle wrenched sideways into three long ruts: it swayed dizzily, wagging its tail for thirty awful yards. Out came the clutch, the engine raced freely: Boa checked and straightened his head with a shake, as a Brough should. The bad ground was passed and on the new road our flight became birdlike. My head was blown out with air so that my ears had failed and we seemed to whirl soundlessly between the sun-gilt stubble fields. I dared, on a rise, to slow imperceptibly and glance sideways into the sky. There the Bif was, two hundred yards and more back. Play with the fellow? Why not? I slowed to ninety: signalled with my hand for him to overtake. Slowed ten more: sat up. Over he rattled. His passenger, a helmeted and goggled grin, hung out of the cock-pit to pass me the ‘Up yer’ Raf randy greeting.
They were hoping I was a flash in the pan, giving them best. Open went my throttle again. Boa crept level, fifty feet below: held them: sailed ahead into the clean and lonely country. An approaching car pulled nearly into its ditch at the sight of our race. The Bif was zooming among the trees and telegraph poles, with my scurrying spot only eighty yards ahead. I gained though, gained steadily: was perhaps five miles an hour the faster. Down went my left hand to give the engine two extra dollops of oil, for fear that something was running hot: but an overhead Jap twin, super-tuned like this one, would carry on to the moon and back, unfaltering. We drew near the settlement. A long mile before the first houses I closed down and coasted to the cross-roads by the hospital. Bif caught up, banked, climbed and turned for home, waving to me as long as he was in sight. Fourteen miles from camp, we are, here: and fifteen minutes since I left Tug and Dusty at the hut door.
I let in the clutch again, and eased Boanerges down the hill along the tram-lines through the dirty streets and up-hill to the aloof cathedral, where it stood in frigid perfection above the cowering close. No message of mercy in Lincoln. Our God is a jealous God: and man’s very best offering will fall disdainfully short of worthiness, in the sight of Saint Hugh and his angels. Remigius, earthy old Remigius, looks with more charity on and Boanerges. I stabled the steel magnificence of strength and speed at his west door and went in: to find the organist practising something slow and rhythmical, like a multiplication table in notes on the organ. The fretted, unsatisfying and unsatisfied lace-work of choir screen and spandrels drank in the main sound. Its surplus spilled thoughtfully into my ears.
By then my belly had forgotten its lunch, my eyes smarted and streamed. Out again, to sluice my head under the White Hart’s yard-pump. A cup of real chocolate and a muffin at the teashop: and Boa and I took the Newark road for the last hour of daylight. He ambles at forty-five and when roaring his utmost, surpasses the hundred. A skittish motor-bike with a touch of blood in it is better than all the riding animals on earth, because of its logical extension of our faculties, and the hint, the provocation, to excess conferred by its honeyed untiring smoothness. Because Boa loves me, he gives me five more miles of speed than a stranger would get from him. At Nottingham I added sausages from my wholesaler to the bacon which I’d bought at Lincoln: bacon so nicely sliced that each rasher meant a penny. The solid pannier-bags behind the saddle took all this and at my next stop a (farm) took also a felt-hammocked box of fifteen eggs. Home by Sleaford, our squalid, purse-proud, local village. Its butcher had six penn’orth of dripping ready for me. For months have I been making my evening round a marketing, twice a week, riding a hundred miles for the joy of it and picking up the best food cheapest, over half the country side”.
I took the following pictures at Lawrence’s cottage, Clouds Hill in Dorset, along the road where he was so sadly killed. It is an extraordinary place to visit and to remember the life of this incredible man. Murray Barnard
I thought you would like to hear first-hand how
Len Stewart and I got on at the T.T. Races. Len had very bad
luck in the Senior, in which he rode a Works CS1 Norton, and
as you know, having had the misfortune to buckle his back
wheel at Governor’s Bridge on the first lap, which caused his
early retirement. When I look back on it all now it’s simply a
wonderful experience. Even with our knowledge of the T.T.
course which we had beforehand, we were not able to
appreciate it until the day of the race. There is no doubt
about it; it’s quite unlike anything in the way of riding which
may be experienced in any part of the world. It is not a
reliability trial, nor a road race, nor a track race, singly, but a
combination of the three, It is a severe test of nerve and skill
on the part of the rider, and physical endurance, and also it
is the severest test; a motor cycle which performs splendidly
under all sorts of strenuous conditions in preparation for the
T.T., fails hopelessly on the actual day of the race from
troubles absolutely unheard of before. In the 350cc Junior
Race, 20 out of 46 finished, and in the Senior 18 out of 57. To
finish alone, you will see, is an achievement to be proud of
from the manufacturers’ point of view, because it requires
the best of material and workmanship to produce a motor
cycle which will stand up to 264 miles over seven laps of such
There is no road in Western Australia that I can liken to the
T.T. course, excepting perhaps the bit through Claremont
and Karrakatta via West Subiaco to King’s Park road on the
Fremantle to Perth route. Taking those twelve miles as an
example, it would be rather tame to compare it to any
twelve miles of the T.T. course, as the bends are neither as
many nor as bad on any part, and certainly the road surface
is not much better. I always thought the T.T. course was a
billiard table and that the roads were perfect for the job,
but never let it be said. I have watched fellows in front of me
riding at 85 and 90 miles per hour, and carefully noted the
antics of the machine they rode. They simply bounced along
all the time, never on the ground any more than a few yards
at a time. In some places the wheels, especially
the back one, sometimes over a foot in the air. The course is
thirty seven and three quarters miles, two hundred yards
round, and as I have said, every twelve miles is worse for
bends and surfaces than the Perth to Fremantle road. Not
only that, there is a mountain to climb out of Ramsey, 1400
feet in seven miles, and second gear most of the way.
We were timed over this stretch one morning by “Motor
Cycling” and all our speeds worked out, in the Sunbeam
camp, from 58 to 61 miles per hour, an average which means
over half the way in second gear through heavy mist from
Ramsey to the Bungalow. Of course we only struck the mist
on practice mornings as we leave the start at 5.OOAM. It is
quite light and we are able to see quite all right excepting on
the mountain, and I am not exaggerating or telling an
untruth when I state that it is only possible to see sometimes
not more than five yards ahead in some places, and never
more than ten yards for distances of three to four miles…
Len and I learnt the course so well that we were able to
average 60 miles an hour in the foggiest of mornings, passing
competitor after competitor up and down the mountain. It
is said that the mountain is very fast, and down to Craig-ny-Baa
a 350cc Sunbeam all out will be doing 85 to 88 miles per
hour, and from Craig-ny- Baa to Brandish Corner, around the
region of 90 miles per hour. A 500cc Sunbeam will do from
90 to 95 down the mountain, and from Craig-ny-Baa to
Brandish Corner round the region of 100 miles per hour.
Between the corners of Craig-ny-Baa and Brandish there is a
bend to take, sharp enough for one to be unable to see
around it when coming down the straight, yet we take it all
out, and I can hardly hesitate to say we need the whole of
the road to do it. They say that Hillberry is the fastest corner.
It is a corner, a real one, and how on earth we scrape round
at the speeds we do is quite beyond me. Perhaps it has
something to do with the camber of the road, but if you
make one mistake, it is crash and no bones about it, as many
have done this year. The practise laps have been more
thrilling than the racing in my opinion. We have had twelve
days of it, and every day we do two to three laps and easily
average over 60 miles per hour. Len and I did over 50 laps
before and at practice. Len had five wallops before the actual
practise commenced, nothing serious, but severely bent the
o.h.v Norton spare he was riding. He hit a cow at Ramsey,
which was the last episode, and had to go to Court over it,
but was lucky enough to melt the Judge into tears with
sympathy, and got away with it. In practise he hit a fowl at
Glen Helen, and there was fowl (also egg) all over his bike
when he finished his practise lap. In practise itself, Len had
no spills at all on his T.T. bike, but one very nearly, one
morning when Willmott Evans on a Triumph cut him off at a
corner unknowingly, at over 85 miles per hour. Len made
straight for a brick wall, and his broadside skid measured 70
yards, on the macadam. Talking to me about it afterwards,
he said that was one of the nearest squeaks he has ever had
in his life. Len’s practise laps were splendid, as they were
around about 34 and 35 minutes, and one morning he did
33.12. Imagine how he felt when he walked up to me at the
pits where I was filling up for Dick Burch on a Sunbeam
during the Senior race, and told me what happened to him
and his back wheel in the first lap. Of course you know I felt
very sorry for him, as it is a long way to come and then have
such bad luck.
He was Number 2 and Mainwaring on a Scott was Number 1.
After the start of the race Len passed Mainwaring round the
course, they duelled with one another, passing and repassing
all the way from Ramsey up and over the mountain.
At Governor’s Bridge, the worst place of all, Len tried to beat
him on the corner, which he did quite successfully and would
have got away with it, only Mainwaring unknowingly took
the whole road in the gully after Governor’s, upsetting Len
for his corner, causing him to right about face and
scrape the curb with his back wheel, tearing some spokes
out. I was in the pits when Len passed, after it happened, and
there he came full bore for the straight at over 90 miles per
hour, riding one hand and looking behind his back wheel,
which wobbled every turn as it passed the grandstand. He
told me afterwards that bits of rubber flew in all directions
about Crosby and it was impossible for him to carry on as the
wheel had simply jammed in the forks. The other Australian,
Arthur Simcock, a great friend of ours, had very bad luck also.
In the first lap of the Junior, he crashed at Sulby, and was
unable to proceed. In the Senior, he rode well, but packed
up with engine trouble early in the race Cohen the South
African, who rode a consistently splendid race, slow but sure,
in the Junior, was awarded a replica, and in the Senior fell
out in the sixth lap with engine trouble. As for myself. I had
rather bad luck, but have this fact to be consoled with, that I
am the first and only West Australian to have actually
finished in the T.T.
In the practise I had two very unpleasant experiences, the
first being connected with the late Archie Birkin, son of Lord
and Lady Birkin, who was killed practising whilst riding a
McEvoy 500cc Senior machine. I was the last to speak to him
at practise at the start one morning, and a little over fifteen
minutes later I was horrified to find him lying dead on the
road, as I was only one minute behind him on my
Sunbeam. A car had crept on to the course unknown to
anyone, on its way to Peel, and poor Archie was the
first man round the course. He swerved to save himself from
hitting it, and as the roads are very narrow indeed, he
bounced from one edge to the other at a speed of over 85
miles per hour. His crash helmet was torn from his head, and
I have never seen such fearful injuries before. I thought it
was my pal Graham Walker, at first, and it was only when I
saw the nickel tank of the machine that I knew it was
someone else. George Patchett and I did not know what to
do, we were so shocked. I dashed away to tell the Marshals
and Doctor at Ballaugh, and George stayed to do what he
could for him, his friend.
The next unpleasantness took place on the following
morning, when I came full bore round a blind bend at about
80 to 85 miles per hour, and fifty yards away was a stray
horse broad side in my path, with a high wall on either side.
I thought it easier to hit the horse than the wall, so I made
for his hind quarters as it was useless to trying to pull up. Just
as I reached it, the horse swerved and galloped down the
course towards the on riders behind me. I missed it by a
fraction of an inch, and Burney on a Royal Enfield following
behind, also had a very narrow escape.
The day of the Junior race arrived, and I was not a bit excited
as I thought I would be in the tent where all the machines
had been sealed and kept in control over the week-end. All
the chaps were very decent, and wished me the best of luck,
which I returned to them, of course. There were a few
preliminaries to go through in adjusting the machine, and to
the strains of music from a very fine band we all marched out
numerically to the start in front of the stand in Glencrutchery
Road. In front of the stand each man had a pit and attendant.
All you are allowed in the pits are the tools from the tool-kit,
a puncture outfit and a pump, and the marshals watch you
like hawks. There is a sealed petrol container with a hose
attached, and oil cans for quick filling in the pits. We were
sent out at half minute intervals, each to the National
Anthem of his country. Graham Walker and George Dance
bribed the bandmaster to play for me “Tell me the old, old
story” which they played as I pushed away.. My bike started
beautifully, and I went quietly, with three-quarter throttle
down Bray Hill to give the engine a chance to warm up a bit,
and mindful that Walter Handley, number 32 was half a
minute behind me. Wal told me he would catch me at
Crosby, and to look out. I gave him a run for his money and
he did not catch me until on the straight before Ballacraine.
His speed was simply marvellous and I made no attempt to
try and catch up as I knew it was useless, so I remembered
instructions, and rode with seven-eighths throttle safely and
rode my own race. It seemed funny, but I seemed to be
passing chaps, so I eased down a bit more. After the first lap,
as I came past the pits, they gave me my blue flag, which
meant that as per instructions I was lapping at 36 minutes.
They had been keen about the instructions and they never
liked to be disobeyed. 36 minutes I was told to lap at and 36
minutes it had to be. I know I can lap at 34-35, but that speed
is simply an engine breaker. Some of them stand up to it, but
most of them don’t – and as it was my first race I thought I
would like to finish at least. All went well until the Sixth lap.
I pulled into my Pit at the end of the Fifth Lap, and was told I
was only lapping at 38 minutes, which turned out to be
wrong, as I hardly ever varied from 36 minutes or 62 miles
per hour. I was lying 10th and if I had kept on as I was going
would have finished 4th or 5th, but luck would not have it
so. I tried to go faster; I skidded at Braddon Bridge on my
front wheel, corrected it, but was out of my line to take a
corner into the bridge. I ran along a two feet gutter for about
ten yards, took a complete somersault, and landed on my
back in the middle of the road. Spectators dragged me and
my bike out of the way of oncoming riders, and then I
proceeded to make adjustments and straighten things a bit.
Having done my best in this direction I was well on my way
to finish the last two laps. In order to make up for the time I
had already lost in the crash, for the first time gave the bike
full bore and rode wide open everywhere. At Kirkmichael
whilst running through the village at about 85 miles per hour,
the brake pedal, which was resting on the clutch spring,
caused the clutch adjusting nut to un-spin itself, and clutch
parts became spewed over a quarter mile of the road before
I could pull up. In Kirkmichael the streets are only about
fifteen feet wide, so you can imagine the fun I had trying to
find the bits, with chaps coming down this alleyway at
speeds anything from 75 to 90 miles per hour. I gave the job
up at first, as I realised it was impossible to carry on, but a
small boy came running down with my clutch spring, which
gave me a little hope. I robbed one of the nuts from the
countershaft spindle to take the place of the one I had lost,
but was stuck for the spring retaining plate, so decided to
have a look for it. About two or three hundred yards up the
road, with the help of some kindly villagers, I managed to
find it. As a matter of fact a young lady found it for me. So I
rushed back to the machine with my hopes high in the air in
spite of the fact that I had lost valuable time. Try as I might I
could not get the clutch spring compressed far enough to fit
it on the shaft. Some of the crowd even took off their laces
from their boots and we tried to tie the spring down with
them without success.
A small boy suggested that I should go up to his father’s
blacksmith shop half a mile or more away up the road, so I
set off in the broiling hot sun at a run to see what I could do.
Found the shop eventually and tried to compress the spring
with a rickety old vice. At the first attempt the spring
flew out, hit the roof, and lost itself amongst paint tins, carts
and pieces of old iron. The air was full of dust and blue
language, but the errant clutch spring was found, and after a
few more wild attempts, and remembering that more haste
makes less speed, I managed to get the spring
compressed and tied with copper wire. Thought I would
never be able to run that half mile back again as I was almost
boiled inside my leathers. However I got the clutch spring
fitted, but the copper wire jammed itself against the boss of
the outside clutch plates, so all I had was a fixed engine to
finish my lap and a half with till the finish. I lost no time in
getting under way. When approaching Sulby Bridge, which is
a direct right hand turn over a bridge with a wall on either
side, I started to tread on my brakes without the use of
second gear to pull me up, which is usually used. All out
along the Sulby straight, the machines certainly fly along,
and to pull up for this bend the first thing we do is to change
straight through to second from all out, then use the brakes
also to pull the bike up. I didn’t like to risk my gears so used
the brakes only and learnt a sound lesson i.e. that you cannot
pull up as fast without the engine as a brake as with it,
because the back wheel leaps into the air. Sulby Bridge can
be taken at 30 to 40 miles per hour, and as my speed was
over fifty I knew I was in for it good and splendid, so put right
boot on the ground, laid the machine as flat as I could and
skated face about, and hit the bridge wall, instead of with my
left shoulder, with my right one, going backwards,
frontwards, up in the air I went and crash once more on my
back in a cloud of dust. I was a good way from the spectators
and in a dangerous spot, so no one came near me, but I
managed, although very dizzy and shaken, to turn the bike
around and get it out of the way of the chaps coming behind.
I stopped up the road and examined the damage. Found I
had bent footrests, brakes, twisted handlebars and frame,
bashed exhaust pipes, mudguards and controls. In for a
penny, in for a pound, was what I thought, so once more I
proceeded on my way and rode like a madman until the
finish, using just top gear and foot slogging around slow
corners in order to keep the motor going. How it was I didn’t
crash again is beyond me, as the speed wobbles and skids I
got were most alarming, but I finished a very sorry spectacle,
with my leathers half torn off me, and the bike almost
ruined. Still it was a great experience and one I shall never
forget, and I am very thankful for having at least finished in
If I stay in England, or if I go home before Christmas, I shall
certainly come again next year, and will ride in all three
races. But to ride again in the T.T. I will, as it’s made me
keener than ever to ride and do some good if I can. Len
Stewart feels the same way about things and I am sure, but
for his rotten luck also, would have finished well up. His first
lap of 34 minutes 53 seconds, with a fall included, was simply
splendid, and I am proud to think that an Aussie can hold his
own with the best of them. Sunbeams won the team prize in
the Senior after an excellent performance. I should have
ridden, but was in very bad shape and I could not do so. I was
supposed to ride in place of Jock Porter, who crashed early
in the practise, and could not ride. Dick Burch took my place.
I will be riding, officially representing Australia, in the
Scottish Six Days Trial and International Six
Days Trial, on a Sunbeam. I will also compete in the Ulster
Grand Prix with a bit of luck. Roy Charman was over to see
the Senior race in company with George Wallis, the designer
of the famous Wallis machine. Roy is coming home shortly,
so he will be able to give you first-hand news. He expects to
be home sometime about September.
Kind regards to all the chaps. Aub
AUBREY George Melrose was born on 12 November 1900, just eight weeks before the foundation of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901. Aub’s long, adventurous life was so rich and varied that it is difficult to know what to leave out, He was a boxer, a gymnast and an athlete; at the age of 15 he went to the opening of the Panama Canal to speak on behalf of the YAL; and his motorcycle and car racing careers spanned more than forty years. He turned to motorcycle competition when barely out of his teens, and he made such a name for himself as a talented, daredevil motorcyclist that he finished up in the UK in 1926, riding for the Sunbeam motorcycle firm. He was the first Australian to ride at the Isle of Man in the famous TT, and in the Ulster Grand Prix. Back in Australia Aub was instrumental in setting up the now-famous Harley Scramble, and was so good that he promptly won three out of the first four! A bad-racing accident in the late 1920s nearly severed his foot, and he faced the onset of the depression unemployed and on crutches, but overcame both of these obstacles and established his successful garage business.
Aub Melrose was also keenly interested in cars, in particular the ubiquitous Austin 7, and in 1922 he was one of the prime movers in the foundation of the W A Car Club, which catered for those motor enthusiasts who wanted a milder, on-road form of motor sport rather than the all-out racing offered by the WASCC. This led him into car trials. In 1936 he and his wife Gwyn scored a major triumph when they drove their tiny 1921 Austin 7 across the Nullarbor, won the South Australian Centenary Trial against all comers, and then drove home again. This was not the first of his Nullarbor crossings – eventually; he crossed the desert no fewer than 52 times, including the first lone crossing by motorcycle.
He was so convinced of the need for a proper road that in 1935 he led a delegation to Canberra to petition the Government on the matter. It wasn’t until 1942 that the first actual road linked the East and the West (before then it had been a route rather than a road) and he was the first civilian to use it. Constructed by the army, it was known as the Military Road until later renamed the Eyre Highway. His damaged foot (and possibly his age – he was almost 40) kept him out of the Army when War broke out, so he served in a civilian capacity by instructing army dispatch riders in the techniques of rough riding.
Aub actually started car racing in the 1930s, and from about 1937 entered most of the round-the-houses races – including the famous Patriotic Grand Prix – invariably in the valiant little Austin 7. The WASCC pretty well dissolved during the War years, but Aub was one of the enthusiasts instrumental in getting the Club going again and, in particular, staging the massively successful Victory Grand Prix at Caversham in 1946. The inevitable Austin 7 gave way to a variety of cars in the post-war years. He bought a damaged MG TD and built it up for the 1951 Australian Grand Prix; raced an Austin Healey 100M to second place in the 1956 six hour Race; competed in Round- Australia Trials in Austin A40, an Austin A70 and then an Austin A95; and in 1960 drove a Porsche to fourth outright in the Touring Car Championship and sixth outright in the Six Hour Race, at an age when most men are content merely to talk about such things.
Over the years Aub Melrose occupied just about every position in both the WA Car Club and the WA Sporting Car Club, became Life Member of both, and was held in the greatest of esteem by all who knew him. In the early 1970s he suffered a series of strokes, which left him partly paralysed, and he could only move about, and talk with the greatest of difficulty. In his last years he was in and out of hospital, and he died on 18 November 1978, six days after his 78th birthday, but lives on in the memories of the many friends who will never forget him.
Charles Archibald Cecil “Archie” BIRKIN (30 March 1905 – 7 June 1927) was a British motorcycle racer, brother of Tim Birkin, one of the “Bentley Boys” of the 1920s. He was born into a wealthy Nottingham family in 1896. He was the son of Sir Thomas Stanley Birkin, 2nd Bt. and Hon. Margaret Diana Hopetoun Chetwynd. During an early morning practice session for the 1927 Isle of Man TT, Archie Birkin swerved to avoid a fish-van travelling to Peel and collided with a wall at Rhencullen and was killed instantly. The corner in Kirk Michael on the A3 primary road where the accident occurred was renamed ‘Birkin’s Bend.’ From 1928 practice sessions for the Isle of Man TT Races and Manx Grand Prix were held on closed-roads. A regrettably short-lived marque, McEvoy built motorcycles from 1924 to 1929, its most famous creations being the fearsome Anzani and JAP-powered V-twin racers. In the hands of ace-rider George Patchett, McEvoys, in both solo and sidecar trim, stormed to notable successes on the steeply banked Brooklands Circuit at Weybridge. Old Etonian Michael A McEvoy ran his motorcycle operation from the tiny village of Duffield on the busy A6 road just North of Derby. His full time employment was at the nearby Rolls-Royce Derby factory where he honed his engineering skills.
The first eponymously named motorcycle appeared in 1924 and McEvoy made its Motorcycle Show debut at the Olympia Exhibition the following year. On show there, and reviewed to much acclaim, were 350cc Blackburne and 500cc JAP-powered singles and a show-stealing 1,000cc Anzani V-twin. 1926 was a landmark year for young Michael McEvoy, his business now being well established and he himself having quit his employment at Rolls-Royce to devote his energies to his fledgling business. He relocated that year to larger premises in Leaper Street, Derby, and George Patchett moved from Brough Superior to join McEvoy as Competition Manager.
That same year substantial financial backing came from Cecil Allerhead (‘Archie’) Birkin, brother of Sir Henry (‘Tim’) Birkin, one of the famous ‘Bentley Boys’ and backer also of Bentley Motors Ltd. With McEvoy’s Rolls-Royce background, Patchett’s experience at Broughs and Birkin’s financial clout, here was a potentially winning formula. That same year McEvoy’s range expanded to include a JAP-engined 8/45hp, overhead valve, V-twin, a state-of-the-art super-sports model guaranteed capable of 100mph. Contemporary McEvoy advertising boasted ‘The Fastest All-British Big Twin’ and that their machine ‘holds all high speed British records worth holding in its class’. The fearless Patchett broke nine World Records and won the Championship of Southport on the sands there in 1926 at 116 1/2mph.
It had been McEvoy’s intention to build bespoke motorcycles for the wealthy and discerning, much in the manner of George Brough at nearby Nottingham, however financial necessity saw McEvoy adding models to cover almost every capacity class, even down to a 172cc Villiers-powered lightweight. Despite business pressures Michael McEvoy still found time for exciting development projects on the drawing board and an all-new four-cylinder prototype, along with a range of overhead-cam singles, was exhibited at Olympia in 1928.
Sadly none of these models reached series production. The death of ‘Archie’ Birkin while practicing for the TT in 1928 lost McEvoy his major financial backer and this was a blow which was to prove not just crippling but fatal.