Hatters Rally

South Beds M.C.C.
organiser Keith Raft

Held at Upper Sundon, North of Luton, late autumn 1970.

I did my first Hatters Rally in 1970 as a passenger. My bike (350cc Velo Mac) was a little sick at the time so I managed to talk Andy Hawthorn into going, but he wouldn't set off until Saturday afternoon (didn't want to miss his overtime). Andy and I had done a couple of rallies together, the Dragon, the Peak, the Severn, Heart of England and the Aegir. He had a Velo Clubman and was quite a good rider.

By the time we arrived at the rally site the pub was open and the campsite mostly devoid of people. We hurriedly erected the tent if you could call it that. It was a Wakefield's ex-army 2 man bivi, 2 one piece wooden poles, 2 guide ropes, 6 pegs and no ground sheet. Around the sides were small pockets to place stones in - high tech or what? To us young un's this was a real experience.

1976 Hatters with Graham Butler, John Flitney and Fred Flitney. The guy with his back to the camera may be Stewart Paice but there again it may not.
Photo from Heather MacGregor

The night was in full flow as we walked into the pub. It was packed to the rafters, the ale was flowing, songs being sung, all different in each room of the pub. The night passed far too quickly.

Well it's Sunday morning and time for breakfast. The early days of rallying food was simple. It had to be. A tin of beans and a tin of hot dog sausages and half a loaf of bread eaten at tepid as the Camping Gaz stove couldn't get anything hot. Now for a look around at the bikes. Very few were bog standard in those days. We saw Keith Raft's Norton ES2. Keith was a big lad so he had uprated the rear suspension by adding two extra girling units, fitted outboard off the originals and upside down. And then we came across this thing parked amongst the tents, a ratty old BSA 500 single with the name "Little Queenie" painted on the petrol tank. Of course we started to take the p---s out of this thing and a voice came from the tent near by extolling the virtues of the machine. The light hearted banter went on for a good ten minutes before the owner clambered out. It was Paul Foster with his friend Phillip Hogg (Ariel 650 cc) from Birmingham. Well somebody has to live there! We had a good few moments talking before we parted. Andy and I met Paul and Phillip a few times later at other rallies and became damn good friends. Paul and myself both had our right knee's shattered in bike accidents a few days apart in July 1971. I reverted back to riding a sidecar as and when. Paul continued to ride Goldies solo, with a leather scabard on the right fork leg to take his walking sticks. He also lost the nickname Queenie to be replaced by Cripp. Little did I know that 3 years later I would help carry his coffin after he got killed coming off his bike in Portsmouth.

I did several other Hatters Rallies at different sites, My last in 1976 but all in the same general area, always well attended by continentals and our home grown regulars, Paul Mullis, Carl Hulme, Rodney Taylor and Steve Cawthorn to name but a few. As well as the London area lads one of whom springs to mind was old Dutch Pete. He rode a white Guzzi V7, always wore leathers when leathers weren't the norm. When he got to a rally he normally had to be helped off his bike, not lifted off but hold the weight of the bike. He wasn't a big chap and was getting on a bit, longish grey hair and beard. As soon as his helmet was off it was replaced with a leather cap, could have been thinning on top. He must have been in his 60s and I think he lived in the Tulse Hill area. One of those things you never notice these people go. He was never at all the rallies so you didn't expect to see him every weekend or every other weekend so it's several months before some one say's "I haven't seen Dutch Pete for a while." Any one else remember him?

- Les Hobbs

Start of quotation My name is Claude. I am French. I was at Hatters Rally in 1970. I was on a 350 Honda. It is for me a very good memory from 1970.

I have been a motorcycle fanatic for 47 years. I own now a lot of bikes and I spend much of my time in England. I have also been to the Isle Of Man seven times and 14 times to the Elephantentreffen in Germany as well as many trips all around Europe.

Hope to read some messages from others fanatics. End of quotation

- Claude Motte

Start of quotation I was 9 year old boy in 1970 living in Upper Sundon. I remember well the hoardes of bikers and their bikes invading our small village. It was such an exciting meeting to see all of the different bikes and talking to the riders. Some had come from other countries to attend, all were very friendly and tolerant of us local kids. The rally came to Upper Sundon several times but I do not remember how many. It was the highlight of the year for all the kids.

I went on to be a biker myself and I still own and ride a bike to this day. Last week I was at a big meeting in Stafford with my bike club. End of quotation

- Dave from Upper Sundon

Start of quotation I have a bright orange Hatters badge, year unknown. Is anybody interested? End of quotation

- Marian Sargeant

There is a very active rally badge market on ebay. Try selling it there. Anyone who has lost precious badges may be able to recover a copy on-line. Meanwhile you can recall the memories here on LPMCC.net

Start of quotation We went to the Hatters Rally one foggy Friday night, not the best time to be on the M4! It must have been 1972.

Got there, they were serving soup or stew, anyway it went down well. Tent up, get some kip, then in the morning off to the Severn Rally (same weekend).

This was the only time we tried to do two rallies in a weekend! End of quotation

- Alan Rogers