Memories of '67
Now that motorcycle rallies are becoming popular once more, I recently went round to the local bank vaults with a couple of Securicor boys and a Lloyds insurance representitive, just to look through my old rally badges. Apart from keeping on a rally hat in a high wind, they also bring lots of memories flooding back.
Like so many Phoenix members, my first rally badge was the legendary Dragon, this time 1967, the first 'green' year. I went to this rally on my Honda Benly along with my old friend Bruce Gibson who now lives in South Africa. He was riding an LE Velocette and we rode separately from the other eighteen Phoenix members - yes 18. The rally was dry but very cold indeed. I was not very impressed and may never have gone to another rally but for meeting some neighbours from a club called the Kettering and District. They persuaded us to try a small invitation rally organised by the Huntingdon MCC at Hoton Mill. We had six members on this rally and found out just how good for singing, boozing and friendship these rallies can be. I seized the Honda up at this rally but it had to be on the road in time to go up to the Lake District at Easter. At Garstang the Honda seized up again and I had to continue to Keswick by train to enjoy blizzard conditions, picking the bike up for the train journey home. The year before the forks had broken off on Hardnott Pass.
Next camp was Wells-Next-The-Sea. Tony Bradley, Malcolm Sheppard and me (on Honda of course) It was really a Kettering and District camp with about twenty present for the Whitsun break which was no longer a Leicester holiday. There was a thunder storm on Saturday night and we watched lightning shimmer down the masts of yachts anchored outside the Shipwrights Arms. There was four inches of water at the campsite but the igloo tent kept the tide out. This was the origin of the myth that Wells-Next-The-Sea is where the lifeboats point inland.
Breakdown and flood do not put me off (this lad must be nuts) so the next camp was just a quiet weekend with four of us, including Tony Bradley at Lake Bala. It was the first good weather and trouble free camp I had ever been on.
In June we camped at Thorpe in the Peak District. The Kettering and District were there in force but we mustered seven members and we all got into the usual rallying state.
In July the BMF held their Woburn Rally. In those days it was a camping rally and we had twenty members there camping close to a similar number of K&D lads. This was my second rally badge and the third came next month at Stanford Hall, home of Lord Braye, patron of the BMF. This was a Fellowship of Riders' camp and again ten of our members met the K&D. I have slides of all these events showing old members such as Whistle, Wishbone, Dirty Eddie and many others. We held a tug of war and one photo caught the action as the rope broke.
In September, with the holidays over, things began to pick up. When the Hunts MCC held another invitation camp there was a great deal more interest than the previous time because of the infectious enthusiasm generated by our meetings with the K&D club, and we had seventeen members present. The singing at these camps always left us speechless for days, with singing contests between the four clubs. (Hunts, South Beds, K&D and LPMCC) all singing different songs, loudest wins, dirtiest second.
For the September break we went to Devon with seven riders, Tony Bradley, Brian Porter, Malcolm Sheppard, Bob Nash, Dave Parry, Ken Stevens and me. The trip was famous for three things; Brian Porter carrying six dozen eggs on his carrier with only one aero elastic, none broken; the famous Phoenix strip-off curry; Bob and Ken winning too much scrumpy cider off the locals playing darts.
To round off the month six members went to the Blackpool Rally. This rally saw the end of the Honda as it blew up on the M6 and I just sawed it up and threw it away. I did reach the rally to collect my fourth and last badge for 1967, my first rallying year.
Don't get the idea that the Honda was not reliable. Besides a lot of rallying, travelling at 60mph with full camping gear, I did a lot of ordinary club runs and spent a fortnight touring Scotland alone. The Honda had begun life in 1963 and gave trouble free running for the first two years doing 25 miles daily. Trouble arose through tuning the bike up and running a helluva lot of miles too fast. A good road would see it pushing 90mph, on at least one occasion with the club run in pursuit. But it was not a rally bike, so in November 1967, when the K&D held a Guy Fawkes night party, I was on my 'new' 1952 AJS single. The camp was on stubble at the edge of a ploughed field in the rain. Dave Scrivens and I bought a bottle of whisky at the nearest village but when we got back to camp it was empty er hum.
To round off the year in style the Hunts MCC invited us to an Xmas party at St Ives (Hunts not Cornwall) and we had 12 members camping in the sub zero temperatures for two nights although I must admit I can never remember leaving the pub.
All together in 1967 we had many club runs beside camping rallies which were only just catching on. The members covered 26,000 miles on official trips. We had an average of ten members on each run and each run averaged 190 miles.
Read with interest. Liked the period pictures of weather we don't get now; that was when men was men and winters were real.