I had only been on the road for less than a year. My first bike an Ariel VB 600cc side valve and side car. The 250cc rule had come in. An older chap at work had given it to me and what a dog it was. At one time it was blowing a head gasket a day! And of course I was giving it a damn good thrashing; 55 mph flat out. I needed something better and my friend and mentor John "Wìshbone" Williams located a BMW R69 for me. Not having a full license I could not ride it. My Ariel was in the youth club being worked on and the sidecar, which would not go through the door, was outside in the yard - or it was until it was stolen one night.We had all been talking about the Dragon Rally for some time and it looked at first that I would not be able to go. But another friend of Wìshbone's, Jim Bowen, said he would drive the bike and I could go as pillion.
So we set off Saturday mid-morning, A41 to join the A464 and then the A5 just outside of Wellington. From there to Llangollen, which was for many people a natural stopping point; chippy, cafes pubs and toilets. Also to watch the fools in canoes trying to drown themselves in the river which was in flood. There had been a lot of rain in the previous few days. We pressed on over the Horseshoe Pass towards Ruthin, St Asaph and into Abergele where the rally was at Gwrych Castle.
The castle stands upon a small hillside to the west of the town and camping was at the front. It was packed and the number of bikes and tents was untrue and, as you can imagine, due to the rain, a mudbath 4-6 inches deep. It soon went dark as we cooked an evening meal. That out of the way we headed towards the town. Not all of the pubs welcomed us, but I do remember one that let us into the back room, the bar being kept for the locals. The room had been stripped bare; carpets, chairs, pictures, trinkets, tables, the lot gone! And I think if the landlord could have got the wallpaper off, he would have. The only thing that was left in the room was the jukebox. We had been there for about an hour and a half when it kicked off. A bottle was thrown. It just missed some chap selecting records at the jukebox and went straight through the window. John and Jim dragged us out rather sharpish. Others in our group were Derick Plant, John "The Feet" Fairhurst and Brian Wall. We found another pub and continued drinkng, then went back to the campsite for the bonfire.
The morning was a nightmare. Everybody was trying to get their bikes off the field through (if I remember correctly) some sort of archway from road to the castle. Mud was everywhere. We finally got the bikes out and took the coast road A548 to Rhyl and had breakfast in a cafe then pressed on to Flint and Mold coming back a more scenic route.
That rang a bell for Tim Box (or should that read 'sounded a claxon')
My first Dragon was in 1970 at Llanberis. For those who are to young to know what it was like, let's just say there was a lot more going on in those days. The headlamp parade, snaking its way around the countryside, the male voice choir, the disco, the beer tent, the trials course for road bikes (imagine that now - hysterical). Sleeping in derelict M.O.D buildings, nipping down to Caernarfon for some serious drinking.
- Tim Box
By the time the 1971 Dragon Rally came I had passed my driving test so I took the BMW there along with Andy Hawthorne, Gaz Bennet, Mac "The Black" (could never remember his surname) a couple of other lads known by their nicknames as Poe and Prim, Bob Hughes aka Rupe or Rupert the Bear, Keiron Malett and his younger brother known as "Cowboy".
This year the weather was a little better, not rainy nor frosty and the location had changed, probably due to objections of the natives and police in Abergele. It was straight on at Llangollen to Betws-y-coed and then to Llanberis and some disused derelict army camp. As we arrived late all the prime spots to pitch tents had gone, so we ended up seperated from the main body of the ralliests on a grass bank with a good 25° slope. We all had problems trying to get the tent pegs into the ground. It wasn't quite so bad in my case, I had the dreaded igloo and could manage with 4 pegs. When God finished making the world this is where he dumped all the rubble.
On the evening we walked down the hill into the town of Llanberis and sampled some of the local ales. It must have been alright as I can't remember much about the evening apart from joining a massive queue at the chip shop on the way back to the tent. I woke up the next morning in my sleeping bag half way out of the tent. I must have turned over several times in the night and slid down the bank. And there was this strong smell of fish. Some joker behind me in the chip shop had reached over the side of the counter and nicked a piece of raw fish and put it into the hood of my tank suit.
I did the 1971 Dragon shortly after coming back from the Elephant Rally. I was on an A10 BSA sidecar outfit in fetching purple and black. My passenger was Mick Dalton. We came from London from the Saltbox MCC at Biggin Hill in Kent. I remember the cold wet mud but not much else (maybe it was the alcohol)
- Bob Smith
1975 & 1976
I did another couple of Dragon Rallies in the mid 1970s, '75 + '76 I think, with Alan Giddens. 1976 we tossed the tents over the wall left the bikes in the road and didn't bother signing in. We had been rallying for years and had never seen or heard of a Conway Club member attending any other clubs events. The Dragon Rally was a hyped up cash cow and the Conway Club have milked it for years. OK that's my view. Other people might see it differently but at the end of the day we had fun doing it and that was all that mattered.
The following note arrived with a Five Star award.
Don't remember too much, but it would have been the 1975 rally (Never did get a badge).
Nick Vandervelden- Nick V
* We hope that Nick will tell us "another story" soon.
Myself & some mates did the 1978 rally. I was on a CB750/4 Honda. Our group included Pam Hough, Martin Poyner, Jerry Thornton, Pat O'Connor, Barry (Bazil) Rathbone, Little Mickey Jones, who abandoned his Aerial Arrow when it seized somewhere around Telford & hopped on the back with someone else. I always wondered if he ever went back for it. There were more people , but I can't recall who they were now.
- Mark Thornton