WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN


1950 and Father on the Norton I believe

As a 7 year old I used to accompany father to all manner of motorcycle events and normally this
would be trials during the winter months and grass track racing during the summer. Every now and
then my Uncle Tom, of Arter AJS and Matchless fame, would let me and my cousin, Tom junior, go
to some of the closer road racing venues.

Daddy playing in the Kentish Mud  1949

At this tender age, on a cold November morning, father and I arrive at the start which is the village
playing field and the “sign in” is at the clubhouse/cricket pavillion. The Village green has now been
converted for soccer and the nets are up but no game today as the ground is frozen and all crispy
white apart from the wheel tracks from bikes and tow vehicles arriving at the start. So as you
stand there like a lemon as father and others swap stories of daring-do……. someone says
“Does your lad ride yet Frank?”………….

Within seconds I’m astride a mighty 197 Villiers Francis Barnett and struggling to reach the controls
(a bit like a modern day Harley rider) and then the most informative “how to lesson” …… give us
your hand here!…. you let go of this and give it a bit of this with the other hand. I nod sagely while
being supported by father and owner like a Knight in armour aboard his Warhorse, and so without
Lance and Sheild “this” is released and “this” is twisted!

I have little recollection of what transpired, but after several revolutions of the playing field yours
truly was getting into it and there was a fair bit of “twisting” going on albeit only in second gear.
Rounding the Pavillion turn on lap umptee ump the twisting is in play when I see I’m a bit further
out than last time and now there is a telegraph pole in my path and even worse there is this huge
supporting cable at 45 degrees going down into the ground and it’s looking as though the Knight
is going to lose his helmet, horse and all! Fortunately a slow speed turn gets me out of trouble
and then on the ensuing lap a lot of “Dad!  ….. DAD!!  DADDY!!!”  until they tell me how to stop.
A minor detail not covered in the initial breifing.

As all competitions of the day had an element of public road you had to be 16 and have a license
before you could compete…… but of course you could be an “observer” so many Sundays were
spent in the middle of nowhere with the big board in a plastic bag and a handfull of writing devices
to mark others progress, or lack of, as the rain poured down.

Meanwhile the Post Office BSA Bantam 123cc 3 speed was out in the woods every night when I
was allowed out and as some skills developed the home made sections tightened up. Pretty tough
when I think back with a gutless bike, road gearing and virtually no suspension.

Shortly before my “16th” the Bantam is dressed up with a new livery of paint, alloy guards and
some road tires and off I go to learn some road skills. A few weeks of 54 mph flat out or 56 mph
in road racing style and with the test behind me and the “L” plates gone I’m craving something
bigger better and Faster! This manifests itself as the Triumph Tiger Cub Bushman. The mind
boggles at the stupidity of youth! Neither one thing nor another. High level straight through
Burgess exhaust, trials tires, double seat and lights….. I had convinced myself that this was the
way to go as I could ride it on the road, do a few trials, and go out at Night and pursue another
NEW interest…I wonder what that was?

A few dismal attempts at trials on this “thing” soon had me convinced this was NOT the way to
go! Huuummm!
Well, when I’m 17 I can drive a car, that will cover the night time needs and if I had a “REAL”
trials bike I could do that as well. With a lot of pleading, begging and grovelling another ex Post
Office heap arrives in the drive in the shape of a 1945 Morris 8 Van, floor start, or hand crank after
tickling the carb, rear doors and about 20 miles to the pint!

……. and so it was that my trials riding career began and I’m off on my cousin Tom’s Greeves
Scottish 197 Villiers 9E, while he gets the new Greeves 24TES……. but I have a Van!

A “Centipede 3” on the 9E 1963

November 1963 and a memorable “Best Novice” at Folkestone and the game is on! Early 64 and
I get Tom’s cast off Greeves 24 TES while he moves on to the TFS.

1964 aboard the Greeves 24 TES

A few months later and I’m at RAF South Cerney undergoing Officer Training and trials riding
comes to an abrupt  stop…….but not for long!

TONY DOWN

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Comments
  • 12/2/2007 1:23 AM Steveo wrote:
    A toast to the glory days and all of the bikes.I beleive my old ’54 James and its Villiers motor ,to be the most bullet proof reliable and simple engine ever put in a motor-cycle!Its good to see an article paying homage to those wonderful steeds,thanks ,Steveo
    Reply to this
  • 12/3/2007 3:18 PM Outlaw Dave wrote:
    Tony – My first ride was also on a FB – and like you my buddy forgot to tell me how to stop it – so I kept going round & round in the Cul de Sac where we lived in Oswestry.
    Shropshire. – Can’t remember how I eventually got stopped, but I guess my first experience taught me good low speed control. – Great memories.
    Reply to this
  • 12/7/2007 10:54 PM Tim Fulcher wrote:
    I have a funny feeling feeling we may have met (Tony read your PM’s in TC). I think my dad rode the ISDT on the same vile instrument as Tony.

    Apart from that I see it’s the usual suspects.
    Reply to this

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