Tribute to Tiger

Tiger Payne - AJS
Brian Payne on his AJS 16C in the 1964 SSDT – Photo: Brian Holder
Words: Neil Anderton

Brian ‘Tiger’ Payne was a founder member of the Yorks and Lancs Classic Bike Club in 1982 and subsequently appointed an honorary life member of Yorkshire Classic Motorcycle Club.

Tiger was always passionate about motorcycling and spent part his National service with the RAF laid up with a broken leg as a result of a motorcycle accident. He became interested in trials riding and rode his first Scott Trial in 1958, his start number was next to Arthur Lampkin. Once the flag dropped Tiger never saw Lampkin again. Tiger rode the Scott many more times, and then took up an observer’s role every year right up up to 2017 with his son John.

He rode the International Scottish Six Days trial from 1961 to 1966. Starting in Edinburgh and covering a 1000 miles in the week. 1964 brought one of the wettest trial in its long history. The second day crossed Rannoch Moor, a most inhospitable place and a little river crossing they normally splashed through was a raging torrent and impassable. Sammy Miller tried to jump it and failed landing in the water and drowning the bike. So Tiger and his mates Arthur Lampkin, Bill Wilkinkson, Blackie Holden and Ray Sayer formed a chain gang and standing waist deep in the water manhandled every bike across one by one. Ironically on the final day he broke down only a few miles from the finish in Edinburgh with a cracked piston, a huge disappointment and spoiled one of his best ever rides. Made of stern stuff, he once rode his AJS from home in Burnley up to Edinburgh, did the trial and rode home again.

In those days, socialising was a big thing at the Scottish Six Days and no opportunities were missed to enjoy themselves. Drinking and trials riding don’t go well together but even though he took the trial seriously the daily lunch stop wasn’t complete unless he could find a pub for a pint with Billy Gray and Jim Wallace his north Yorkshire Mates who were similarly minded, they were then set up for whatever the afternoon could throw at them

He was a good Pub singer and raconteur, his famous renditions of ‘Eskimo Knell’ and ‘A Fine Old English Gentleman’ would keep everybody well entertained into the small hours particularly if Dickie Davies (the competition manager from Dunlop) was there on the piano.

He loved Trail riding and often had trips with his friends Blackie Holden and George Slinger visiting his old trials stomping grounds and then trail riding in the Torridon region of the North West Highlands. Following his retirement, he used to have an annual pilgrimage to Crete where he would hire trail bikes and in lovely warm weather explore the mountainous regions of the island.

His knowledge of the Yorkshire Dales became second to none over the years. He once organised a three day off road endurance event for the Army Dispatch riders from Catterick Camp all in the Yorkshire Dales. In 2016, Tiger laid on a couple of organised runs in the Dales for the York Classic club.

He was also an active member of the New Imperial Club frequently riding with them on the organised road runs with John going along as well to help with a bike that was often a difficult and reluctant starter.

As well as being an enthusiastic observer in recent years, he put in many hours laying out our trials at Rogerham Gate the moorland venue which became synonymous with Tiger. He loved to go to the Rogerham Gate Inn after the trial to chat about the day’s events.

Although he retired from closed venue trials over ten years ago, he continued riding his favourite event the annual Beamish Trial run organised by the Vintage Motor Cycle Club. He rode this event over twenty times winning it in 2011 and finishing every time .His final Beamish was in September last year. The weather turned bad, the last hour was ridden in torrential rain. Without doubt a major personnel achievement on his old rigid and girders Triumph Tiger 80 for someone battling a debilitating illness and yet he still won a first class award.

Tiger wasn’t a one trick pony he enjoyed many things. Not confined to two wheels he once had a go partnering his friend Peter Roydhouse as passenger in his trials sidecar outfit in the Ilkley re Union trial.

Away from Motorcycling, depite never learning to swim he was a keen sailor and in his youth, a completive rower. He was also an accomplished crown green bowler.

Yorkshire Classic club trail rides in the future will be Tiger’s Legacy and Rogerham Gate will always be our Remembrance Day.

RIP Tiger, you couldn’t have achieved more.

Neil Anderton is the Yorkshire Classic Motorcycle Club President

Post script: Tiger’s AJS YNC526 ended up in the hands of Scottish Six Days assistant Clerk of Course, Alex Smith who rode the 1965 SSDT on the machine. It eventually ended up in Rogart, Sutherland owned by the local postman, John Macdonald.

John Macdonald, the local postman on his ex-‘Tiger’ Payne AJS 16C (YNC526) on ‘Sonnys’ at Rogart, Sutherland – Photo Grant Family Collection, Rogart

One thought on “Tribute to Tiger”

  1. Reg May and myself had many an hour listening to his many ditties,some rude and some like Eskimo nell,wonderful person,real gentleman, RIP

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