Dragon Rally

Continuing the first years from MOTOR CYCLE courtesy of Jan Heiland.

MOTOR CYCLE, 9 JANUARY 1964

LURE OF THE dragon

WHAT IS THE SECRET OF THE DRAGON RALLY? This astonishing event which year after year draws thousands of motor cyclists across icebound roads and over the snowclad North Wales mountains? The bare reply sounds too preposterous to be true: "We go to yarn and sing songs in a mock-Gothic castle."

Real and wonderful as it is, the magic lure of the Dragon defies words - maybe because it reaches too deeply into the heart of every keen rider.

Perhaps, though, there is a definition; and in one word only - enthusiasm. When all is said and done that's the only qualification for membership of Clan Dragon. Enthusiasm for our wonderful game, two wheels or three and an engine, the wind on our faces, and the road flying away behind us.

It doesn't matter whether our bike is big or small, old or new, whether we're old or young, expert or beginner, wherever we come from. Over the Horseshoe Pass lies Abergele, Gwrych Castle, and our own kind - the people who live for motor bikes, motor bikes, motor bikes.

There are no formal restrictions on entering the Dragon Rally. The Conway Club, who bear the brunt of the organizatian, provide the necessary minimum of accommodation. Gwrych Castle itself can take a few hundred sleepers (first come, first served!), the remainder will spend the night in marquees - or their own tents, pitched in the castle grounds.

HAIRY CHESTS

Marquee arrangements must be finalized early - so make sure your entry form (there's a copy on the facing page) is in secretary Ynjerapr Veivat's hands by the end of the month.

But for the hairy-chested types who bring their own tents, camping space is absolutely unlimited - so is the supply of firewood and it's all free!

The admission charge of lOs allows camping or provides sleeping space under cover. It includes a bowl of home-made soup for every arrival (6,000 portions are being prepared), a commemorative

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badge (4,000 ordered!) and gives admission to a continuous show of Castrol motor cycle films. What else is on? A truly monster bonfire is being assembled; there'll be speeches of welcome, a Dragonists' sing-song; and, of course, a headlight parade through the historic defile of Cefn-yr-Ogof.

Detail improvements to last year's organization include extra floodlighting, outside loudspeakers, the bonfire nearer to the castle, hot snacks and a stall selling bread, milk and paraffin.

But the Conway Club are staunchly maintaining the Dragon's spartan tradition. No set meals are on sale. Running water will be cold, the castle unheated - and you bring your own blankets and sleep on the floor!

EXCITEMENT

Who's going? Well, far a start there's all of us from Motor Cycle: and Ernst Leverkus, father of the great German Elefantentreffen on which our own Dragon Rally is modelled. Ernst's

compatriot, Bob Hinricks, that jovial giant with the Harley big twin outfit, has already written for an entry.

So has Max Saaler, a Sunbeam rider in Zurich, Switzerlaud. Even farther afield, one Charly Winkler is coming all the way from Vienna. And, of course, there'll be the creme de la creme of enthusiasts from every corner of the British Isles.

In the early days of motor cycling, every trip was an adventure, every other rider your boon companion. The Dragon Rally recreates that spirit. There is the excitement of a midwinter trip to the heart of nowhere and back again. There are difficulties to overcome, excitements to be shared. There is a gloved hand raised in salute, and a cheery welcome at journey's end.

For one night of the year kindred spirits meet beneath the banner of Y Ddraig Goch - The Red Dragon - to yarn about their hearts' love until the frosty stars fade and the myriad campfires die down into embers.

SEE YOU AT GWRYCH CASTLE!

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MOTOR CYCLE, 6 FEBRUARY 1964

two days to the DRAGON

CENTURIES ago, the pass of Cefn-yr-Ogof rang with the noise of battle and horses hooves. Next Saturday modern steeds will echo down the narrow track below. A mighty thrum of 2,000 engines can be heard in the hills; headlamps stab through the darkness to form a seven mile ribbon of moving light. As the lights reappear a pillar of light leaps up from a gigantic bonfire, silhouetting battlement walls.

For a different sort of army has laid siege to nearby Gwrych Castle. Close on 4,000 invaders have crossed the mountains, but this time in peace and friendship.

This is the third Dragon Rally and the biggest of them all.

Enthusiasts have joined together from all over Britain, indeed from far corners of Europe, to meet in good fellowship and to honour the wonderful sport of motor cycling. Its magnetism has drown them across seas and over hundreds of miles of wintry roads.

For one day and one night the old walls and ancient hills will ring with chit-chat, song and laughter. Then, in the morning, the army melts away, each to his own hearthside.

But the fire still burns, rekindled year by year at this lonely castle by the sea. The spirit of the Dragon!

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MOTOR CYCLE, 13 FEBRUARY 1964

Dragon Plus

HOW WRONG CAN YOU BE? Predictions of the crowd at last weekend's Dragon Rally Set 4,000 as a possibility. Too few by more than 1,000. Nobody expected the snow and ice of last year, but did bank on the weather being wet and, probably, cold. Wrong again; North Wales was almost warm, with hours of sunshine and hardly a rustle of wind. Arrangements were made for about 2,000 campers with their own tents. Wrong for a third time. The number was nearer 3,000!

Yes, this year's Dragon at Gwrych Castle was a record smasher in every way. There may never be another quite like it. Numbers could well continue to mount, but such balmy February weekend weather can surely never occur twice in a century. Mainlanders from as far north as Inverness and as far south as Penzance; Irishmen from the north and south; Austrians, Belgians, Germans, Swedes and Swiss - over 70 altogether from across the water - made the big trek. All reported wonderful rides to buoy the spirit and make you vow again that there never could be such grand sport as motor cycling. Riding home on Sunday was just as exhilerating.

Without this riding plus, last weekend was as inspiring as ever; the true enthusiast's coil from Elephantmen Ernst Leverkus, the 500 strong headlamp parade, the mighty bonfire, the sing-

song in the castle, the nattering round camp fires. Finally another plus - Father Bill Shergold conducting a "real fellowship" service on Sunday morning. As he put it, to join the Dragon Rally and know what true comradeship means, is to "catch a tiny feeling of Heaven."

That famous Brough addict and vintage authority, Titch Allen said, "Every year the Dragon enriches one's spirit; the chaps here are the salt of the earth."

YOU KNOW the quotation: Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink. Well, it had a rueful meaning for Dieter Kaufmann from Hanover. His sidecar wheel come off second best from an over-enthusiastic encounter with a roadside bank round Cefn-yr-Ogof.

He'd be all right, you say. with a choice from one of the many sidecar-carried BMW spare wheels. Poor Dieter! His bike is a Horex...

By the way, Dieter was the "distinction" of being the first arrival at Gwrych. He checked in on Wednesday! That's what easy weather does. He had started early in the week as a precaution against the sort of going we had last year.

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TWO Midlanders pitched their tent as dusk fell an Saturday. One of them went to look for brew-up Water, When he hadn't returned after a couple of hours, his friend reported him lost. A call went out but still the missing Dragonist didn't appear.

At ten o'clock on Sunday morning the two pals bumped into each other on the castle terrace. Though he had searched all night the missing camper had been quite unable to locate his tent. He hadn't found the Water, either!

PROVIDENCE is not to be tempted, even at the Dragon. "How many breakdowns shall we Stop for?" asked a humorous rider of his passenger on srarting out. Almost needless to say, the first they saw was their own!

IF YOU want to hear lurid stories of snowbound roads you must meet a 1962 Dragonist. Only report of the white stuff came from Gerhard Monourek, who brought a seven-fifty Harley solo from Vienna. "After Munchen (Munich to us), roads icy and a bit snow," he said.

YOU Londoners who made the diversion round by the Oxfordshire Sidecar Club's Dragons Brew - how many more miles longer do you think it was than the Ml run? John Ebbrell's speedo showed 245 miles from Ilford to Gwrych via Ml and A5 - and 248 returning by way of Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Oxford.

Ready with a smile, a word, the soup, the bangers and tea, the Oxfordshire lads and lassies welcomed nearly 500. "Last year we only had half that number," quipped chairman Jack Gibbs, "but then, the lads needed the hot grub twice as much."

Harry Louis, though, clocked 233 miles from South London to Gwrych on the MI-A5 route; 252 on the return by way of Shrewsbury, Worcester, Oxford. Fact is, the welcome at Oxford would be worth far, far more miles than that.

A TRICKLE on Friday, a torrent on Saturday; and even on Sunday morning they still kept coming through the main gate. Just about the last to sign in for the coveted Dragon badge were two lads from Walsall at noon. Final count of bodies shattered all previous attendances: 5,044!.

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Absentee chafing at the bit was Pekka Suuranen, who sent the Conway Club "motor-cycle spirited greetings from Finland." But next year Pekka hopes to swap his continental one-two-five for a British bigster. Says he, "A team of wild horses couldn't then keep me away. And I promise to tempt some other boys with me."

KEN CRAVEN arrived at the Dragon on his well-equipped AJS outfit. It caused quite a bit of interest - especially from two types who surveyed the panniers closely. Said one to the other, "Here's another bloke using Craven gear!"

COINCIDENCES came by the billy-canful. Manfred Berg and his friends from Germany met staffman Mike Evans' father at an M1 service station on Friday night. A few words in German and Manfred was dispatched with a message to son at the Dragon. But then it transpired that Manfred was the first Dragonist Mike Evans chatted with when he reached North Wales. The Germans were able to hand over the greeting "Viele grusse von dad" (many greetings from dad).

SMART getup worn by Helmut Modro and Bernd Missfeld were green uniforms of the West German police. At work they patrol on BMW outfits but they had travelled to North Wales on their private BM sidecar.

When they arrived at Gwrych they were well entertained by the Abergele police and slept in the local station until they left for Germany at 2 am on Sunday morning. Why the rush? Duty called at the Cologne carnival on Monday morning.

WITH attendance about 1,000 more than expected, the Conway Club can be excused for running out of badges (and free soup, too!). The later arrivals, who were the unlucky ones, will receive their badges by post.

FOUR apprentices from the Norton factory needed transport. The factory chipped in to lend them two of the export only seven-fifty Atlases. One was a single carb police model, the other the twin carb version. But the lads had to keep a tight rein on itching throttle hand. The bikes were brand new. "Running in speeds only," said the boss.

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Start of quotation I attended the '62 rally and 2010 will be my 48th rally.

There is a great feeling when you get there and meet old friends and great sadness when you hear about old friends who have passed on.

- Ron Jones


Start of quotation Just a line to say how much I enjoyed reading the 1964 Dragon report. Although I was only 11 when it first appeared in the old Blue 'Un, it brought back memories of my early days with the magazine in the early seventies as a telesales rep. It was years before I got the chance to join the editorial team as a photo filing clerk but I had the privilege of meeting both Harry Louis and John Eberell.

Harry was a perfectionist: every story went across his desk before being polished by the sub editors and if he decided it was not up to par the erring writer was called in for a quiet chat which, I was told, could be a terrifying experience. As well as the Dragon I believe he was also a regular at the Stella Alpina and the National.

John was an equally dedicated rider – he established the Trail Riders Fellowship – and I well remember the shock when he was killed 'in the line of duty'. If memory serves he was roadtesting up in Scotland and was taking a break in a layby when a truck reversed towards his bike. Instinctively John tried to gt the bike out of the way and didn't make it.

Mike Evans, who also featured in the story, went on to help promote the industry working for the Motor Cycle Association.

In those days rallies and touring weren't seen as specialist activities, in fact staff writers were expected to ride to work every day – and not in the jeans or leathers that my generation sported. Motorcycle Action Group founder, the late lamented Dennis Howard, once told me that he was sent home to change because he arrived at the office in a check suit. It seems that staffers were required to wear sober business suits under their stormcoats and waders. Tell kids today and they won't believe you!

Also mentioned in Dragon report was Father Bill Shergold, known to generations of rallyists as 'Farv', founder of the 59, 69 and 79 clubs who, as I'm sure you know, died . A wonderful character who is greatly missed. I look forward to catching up with many of his 69MCC clubmates at their next bash in April.

So many memories from one short report – thanks for publishing it.

I trust all’s well with you and yours and hope to see you in a beertent some time soon.

TTFN End of quotation

- Dave Richmond