PETER MITCHELL – a Scottish Trials Character – 1942 – 2011.
Words: John Moffat, Isobel & Duncan Mitchell
Photos: Eric Kitchen; Jimmy Young, Armadale; Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven; Colin Bullock/CJB Photographic, Solihull; Anthony MacMillan, Fort William*; Richi Foss, Inverness; Mitchell Family Archive.
One of Scottish trials best-known characters was Peter Mitchell.
Born in the granite city of Aberdeen on 20th July 1942, he was the youngest of six children with four sisters and one brother, also a trials rider.
Elder brother Colin competed in the SSDT and many events having been demobbed from his national service in 1959 and purchased a new 350 AJS 16C from Comerfords at Thames Ditton, a machine that Peter would ride on occasion.
Peter attended school in Aberdeen, firstly at Mile End primary school and then Stonehaven’s Feteresso and Mackie Academies.
Married to Isobel, they had four children, Duncan, Derek, Stuart and daughter, Alison. His nephews were Alan and Richard, Colin’s two sons.
Isobel recalls: “Peter started scrambling as a member of Bon Accord MCC at the age of sixteen at a meeting at Findon near Aberdeen. Although I did not know him at the time, I used to go along to the scrambles to watch the racing, but never thought that on the 28th of December 1966, I would be married to him”.
Peter Mitchell scrambled a BSA Gold Star at one time, but a bad crash put him out of scrambling and he decided to concentrate his motorcycle efforts into trials, like his elder brother Colin.
Young Mitchell worked in various jobs as a builder, digger driver, lorry driver and with a demolition company. At the weekends he also worked at his brother Colin’s garage, where he would dismantle cars for parts reclamation and sales, this was before the advent of large vehicle dismantlers such as Overton Dismantlers. The beyond use parts were sent away to the scrap yards for crushing.
Dismantling work was always done on a Saturday when his four sons were also involved, by donning their boiler suits to work at removing parts from the cars. Lunch times involved a trip to the Cammachmore public house where pie, beans and chips and a few pints were called for, while the children got a game of pool and a soft drink.
Son Duncan Mitchell, also a trials rider: “We used to get to drive the cars around the fields until they broke down, crashed them, or ran out of fuel, then we used Uncle Colin’s Land Rover to recover them, syphon the petrol from the cars so we could all use our bikes to race about the fields next door”.
Peter was also a supervisor at George McGowan civil construction, operated by the brother to Rodger McGowan, who ran the Aberdeen bike shop ‘McGowan Motor Cycles’. After McGowan closed his company, Peter was made redundant and started out as self-employed, setting up a building company simply called Peter Mitchell Builders. He had the assistance from all his children on weekends and summer holidays to assist with any jobs they could undertake.
Duncan: “I remember this one time we built a wall and set the coping stones on it, then put the scratch coating on it all in one long day, Dad then said to me ‘great job let’s wash out the mixer’. He said to me to put some stones in the drum to knock off the mortar from it, so that is what I did, this was a ‘tow behind’ mixer so you can imagine where the stones came from, the wheel chocks! Well it took off down the hill and went clean through the wall, I’ve never ran so fast”.
In 1998 Peter had a heart attack and was forced to give up his company. After he had some rest and was finished all the bikes in the garage he got a job with Ready Mixed Concrete (RMC Group) at Durris Quarry where he was in charge of the batching plant. He had a good easier job there and had a shed there where he could tinker with his bikes, also had a folding seat that he could sit outside when he was not too busy.
Duncan Mitchell: “When the RMC company closed the Durris plant, Dad then got a job working driving skip lorries for a living, he was in his element here as many a good thing was discovered in a skip was what he told me. Many a tool and other things used to come home”.
Peter was a real family man; he was Grandfather to Nicole and Callum, Katy and Iona, and father-in-law to Fiona, Pauline, Willie & Jill. He was also a Step Grandfather to Leanne, Darren and Liam with Great grandchildren, Tony and Sol.
Son Stuart was not captivated by motorcycles, preferring football and golf as his sports.
Derek did both trials and motocross and also car rallying, autocross and hill climbs. He also took part at the Alford Museum popular moped race on a Yamaha DT50 and won this several times including the first year it was organised. Derek worked at Shirlaws Motorcycles for many years.
Alison was also a trials rider and rode for many years and only gave up competing to have a family and start a new business.
Duncan Mitchell still rides trials most weekends, with the moped racing at Alford in September. He also assists the Bon Accord club whenever possible, the SSDT, Loch Lomond Two Day and at club trials. He was also the Bon Accord trials and enduro convener for a number of years and also set up the 2 Day events at Ballindalloch, where the barn dances were epic many a good weekend spent there.
Peter Mitchell played Football for a local team in Cove Bay, until he got struck with the ball and punctured his lung. He was also an officer in the Boys Brigade 1st Cove Juniors.
Peter was a member of the Bon Accord MCC for over 50 years, and other various clubs through Scotland and England from Rogart in the north of Scotland to Somerset in the south of England. He took part in scrambles, grass track racing, trials, enduro and also stock car racing.
Peter loved country music and also loved to go to the speedway racing, especially Cradley Heath when on holidays in the south.
Peters motto in life was “Love me, love my bike – have bike will travel” and so the whole family joined in for many happy and enjoyable years, trekking up and down the country and making lots of friends along the way.
John Dickinson, formerly Editor of T&MX News: “I was minding my own business one day at home when I looked out of my window and suddenly there was Peter Mitchell and family walking outside my house, he had called into Kendal on holiday, knowing I lived there and began searching for me just to say hello”.
Duncan: “In 2009 we had a great holiday, we flew to Birmingham, hired a car and went to Cardiff to the world speed way cup and also visited the Sammy Miller Museum which was a place my Dad wanted to visit for a long time. We then watched the speedway racing at Eastbourne and then on to a meeting at Wolverhampton before handing back the hired car with over 1,000 miles on it”.
“We had a great holiday, but little did we know what laid ahead of us. Sadly in the following April, Dad was diagnosed with cancer the week before we were heading up to Fort William. He rode the Pre-65 trial at Kinlochleven, but sadly this would be his last. He loved the area and loved the events there, after a long battle, he passed away on the 13th February 2011”.
Trials Guru’s John Moffat: “I was extremely privileged to be invited by the Mitchell family to speak at Peter’s funeral in 2011. I had known of Peter and his brother Colin before I started riding trials in 1974. Peter was a great character, he always greeted you with a broad smile and was always keen to chat about the sport whenever he met you. Never a shrinking violet, he was a hard rider, but had a heart of gold. The kind of guy that you could rely upon”.
Peter took part in many events and won many trophies over the years. He was Best up to 250cc in the SSDT, best Scottish rider in the Pre’65, Best over 350cc in the Pre’65 trial.
Peter had ridden the Pre-65, then the SSDT, followed by the Lochaber Invaders trial which was the equivalent to nine one-day trials on the trot.
Duncan: “He was proud to show me the way around the hills of the SSDT course, not many people get the chance to do things like this with their fathers. I was so proud to have known this man for the time I did, I have so many experiences and great fun with him. He was to me a great man, missed by us all”.
Peter also was one of a few that rode all of the Loch Lomond Dan Stewart Two-Day Trial up to the events’ 25 years celebration. It is believed that it was Ian Abbot and Peter were the only two to have ridden them all.
He annually rode the Forfar & Perth & District Club’s Aberfeldy Two-Day trial and along with a few others received a long-time rider award, this was a special motorcycle trophy made by a local artist, constructed from spark plugs, gears and bolts.
In 2008, Peter received a life time achievers award for services to motorcycle sport from the Scottish ACU.
When undergoing treatment for cancer, Peter had numerous chemotherapy sessions but he still managed to ride the Scottish AMCA Over-40 series and finished the season by winning the championship. Sadly, he died while he was a reigning champion and never got the chance to defend this title.
Peter Mitchell’s career highlights:
Pre 65 Scottish: 1989-2010
Started the event as number 1 in 1994
Best finish was 4th overall in 1995
Started the trial as number 1 in 1998.
Peter rode for the Aberdeen based Yamscot team in 1978 won the ‘Eigg Cup’ for best performance on a motorcycle under 250cc, riding a TY 175 Yamaha, he rode with Jock Fraser and John Winthrop.
Peter rode a variety of machines in the SSDT, Yamaha TY 175, TY 250, Beamish Suzuki, Bultaco, Fantic, Yamaha TY 250R Mono, TYZ, Gas Gas, and completed his last SSDT on a TYZ model Yamaha.
In 1994 Peter was in the winning team which were awarded the ‘Jackie Williamson’ trophy for the best Scottish team with Duncan Mitchell and Neil McGregor for the Bon Accord club, this was the first time the trophy was presented.
On the lighter side, Peter raced in the ‘Team Kwackersaki’ for McGowan Motorcycles with son Duncan from 1991 -1995 where they won the Scottish moped racing crown on several occasions.
Peter Mitchell Memorial Trophy:
After his death, Isobel Mitchell approached the Inverness based welder/fabricator and artisan, Richi Foss to commission a special trophy in Peter’s memory. It was to be presented to the Edinburgh & District Motor Club Pre’65 committee for the oldest finisher award at the annual Pre’65 Scottish Trial.
Foss undertook the commission and the first winner was none other than seven times TT winner, Mick Grant. Foss was delighted to hear that news, being a motorcyclist himself.
If you look at the Peter Mitchell trophy you will see that the rider is climbing his machine over a large granite out-crop, this is significant, as it represents the granite from Peter’s homeland of Aberdeen and also that he was always regarded as a ‘hard rider’.
Being an artisan, Foss contacted a ‘person’ who knew Peter Mitchell well and questioned him closely about Peter’s life and his career as a trials rider. Foss took all this information he had gleaned from the fellow enthusiast and thought about it long and hard before forming his ideas as to how the trophy would look. He also studied some photos of Mitchell in action, noticing that he rarely rode with a crash helmet with a peak fitted for example.
Foss wanted to capture the ‘spirit’ of Peter Mitchell in the finished article. This he achieved and the trophy was greeted with great pleasure by the Mitchell family when it was handed over to them by its’ creator.
Richi Foss has achieved the impossible when you realise that the wheels carry no visible spokes as they are spinning too fast for the eye to see, thus giving the piece the impression of ‘motion’.
More on Foss Fabrication’s work: HERE
Trials Guru is indebted to the Mitchell family for their assistance in compiling this tribute to a true character and sportsman of Scottish motorcycle trials.
* Alistair MacMillan / West Highland News Agency, Fort William (with permission of current copyright holder: Anthony MacMillan, Fort William – All rights reserved)
Article copyright: Trials Guru/Moffat Racing 2016
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