Born on 5th January 1934 at Liskeard, Devon, John Davies moved to live in Scotland when his father, Bill, also a keen trials rider transferred from Devonport to Rosyth Naval dockyard.
John became a shipwright and later a draughtsman at the Royal Naval establishment, where he worked all his life.
Davies was what was known as an all-rounder, he rode trials, scrambles, grass-track and enduro. He had the ability to ride a trial one Sunday and grass-track the following sabbath, such was his adaptability.
Known to Scottish riders as ‘Johnny’, he started competing in 1951 on a 197cc James in trials. He entered his first Scottish Six Days on a B32 350cc BSA in 1953, finishing on 232 marks and a second class award to put on his Mum’s mantle-shelf!
He had joined the local Dunfermline and District Motor Cycle Club and retained his membership all his riding career.
He joined the RAF for his national service and was stationed at RAF Leeming and joined the local Northallerton club. His father and he built up a very quick Velocette 500 for riding in local scrambles while he was stationed there.
Davies rode regularly against the famous Tate brothers, Maurice and Ron, bike dealer Norman Crooks, Dickie Preston and Peter Hodgson. All top riders in their day.
Although his first love was trials riding, John became an expert scrambler, taking the Scottish 250cc title (Alexander Trophy) in 1957 on a 197cc Francis Barnett and the 350cc Scottish championship (D&J Bell Trophy) on his DBD32 BSA Gold Star. His contemporaries included George Hodge and Ian Bell, both multiple Scottish champions.
George Hodge said recently: “Johnny was such a smooth relaxed rider in scrambles, you thought he was riding down the street to get his Sunday paper, whereas he was really flying!”.
Davies married his sweetheart, Peggy Hopkins from Edinburgh, but the wedding was planned in such a way that it was after the final race of the scrambles season, not only that they honeymooned in the Manchester area so that he could pick up an ex-works Dot from the factory on the way home to Dunfermline. They had two daughters, Sharon and Lynn.
Johnny was a clever man with the spanners and was an engineer at heart. He built many trials specials, which included a four-stroke Kawasaki trials bike in 1978. He converted a Honda Seeley TL200E to mono-shock rear suspension and a Yamaha TY250R mono converted to take a Yamaha Serrow four-stroke motor with electric starter when his Rheumatoid Arthritis became more progressed in 2002.
He also helped friend Ian Bell to build two Royal Enfield Trials Bullets, a 350 and a 500, from parts sourced from the factory competition department at Reddich in 1956.
Johnny’s great phrase when something went wrong was this: “What was the last thing you did before the bike wouldn’t go?”.
When he ceased competitive riding, Davies joined the Scottish ACU trials committee, stewarding many trials, he became trials chairman and held the position until his death on Saturday, 8th July, 2006 aged 72 years.
Davies was the driving force to ensure that Scotland hosted a round of the ACU British Trials Championship.
Johnny was always spotting trials ability in young riders and was one of the first to spot the talent of Gary Macdonald, who went on to become the most successful Scottish born trials rider of all time.
Macdonald said in a recent interview with Trials Guru: “Johnny Davies was a great man, he believed in me and helped me no end when he was on the SACU”.
His memory lives on as he was the creator of the ‘Scottish Clubman Trials Championship’ – the John Davies Trophy is awarded annually.
Trials Guru on John Davies:
Johnny Davies was a dyed in the wool motorcyclist. He loved bikes, rode them virtually all his life, a passion handed down by his father Bill. He even rode a pillion trial in glorious Devon as passenger for his Dad when he was still at school.
When I travelled away from home on business around 1999 to 2005, I would be driving homeward when the mobile would ring and it was Johnny. “Where are you John? On your way back North? Fancy something to eat? I’ll get Peggy to put some extra potatoes on then, we’re having chicken! See you in an hour?”.
I would drive straight to Johnny’s house having phoned ahead to home explaining that I’d be late home and then spent an evening having a meal and talking trials with Johnny for around four hours at a stretch, then continued on my homeward journey, arriving at my house around one in the morning!
Johnny was my mentor when I became involved with the Scottish ACU. It was he who invited me to join their trials committee as one of the members, Jim McMeechan had died a few months earlier and Johnny had thought I would make a worthy replacement, so I was co-opted on.
When it came to the politics, Johnny advised me to say little in public and begged me to stay off internet forums as he believed they did more harm than good. “Only discuss it at committee John” he would say. “And bloody well don’t respond to these forums, it just makes things worse, stick to the rules and you won’t go far wrong”.
I wish I had listened more to the wise man, Mr. Davies, he made a lot of sense. If Johnny could help, he did. The trials world was much richer, when John Davies was around! It was one of my most privileged times when I was asked to speak at Johnny’s funeral in 2006. – John Moffat
Copyright: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing, John Moffat 2015
Photos: Mrs Peggy Davies, North Queensferry
Jim Young, Armadale.