SSDT Stalwart Alex Smith passes

It is with regret that Trials Guru has to announce the passing of Edinburgh & District, Dunfermline & District, Scottish Six Days and Pre’65 Scottish stalwart, Alex Smith after a long and brave battle with cancer.

A Smith - 1965
Alex Smith aboard the ex-Tiger Payne 350 AJS at the White Heather Trial in 1965 – Photo Grant Collection, Rogart

Alex Smith was a personal friend of Trials Guru’s John Moffat who said:

“Alex was known to me from an early age as he was a ‘Bathgate Bairn’ raised in Bathgate, West Lothian and was also a keen trials rider who lived in Colinshiel Street and rode a variety of machines from around 1961 to 1975. I used to take hand written messages to his mother’s house from SSDT Clerk of the Course, Geoff Smith in Edinburgh, relayed through my Father’s telephone as the Smiths didn’t have a phone in their house up until around 1970.”

John Graham; Willie Pitblado; Tommy Ritchie; Eric MacNamara & Alex Smith on route marking duties at the SSDT in 1972

Alex Smith was an Assistant Clerk of Course of the SSDT and Clerk of Course for the Pre’65 Scottish Trial and, at one time, a member of the SACU Trials committee in the 1990s.

He once owned the ex-Brian ‘Tiger’ Payne 350 AJS (YNC526) on which he rode the 1963 SSDT. The machine was later owned by Rogart man John MacDonald, the local postman. In his riding days, Smith rode Triumph Tiger Cub, AJS, Cotton, Bultaco, Montesa and Ossa machinery. He also maintained many of the machines that were used to route mark the SSDT.

Alex served his time with the National Coal Board and later worked life with Wimpey Construction as a Quantity Surveyor/Engineer and was meticulous about records and recording data, a skill that would come in useful when assisting at the SSDT and as clerk of course of the Pre’65 Scottish at which he excelled.

Fifty years ago, Alex was one of the SSDT team, led by Clerk of Course Johnny Graham, who constructed the famous ‘catch net’ up the Blackwater (Ciaran Path) high above Kinlochleven in 1969, which over the years has saved many a wayward trials and mountain bike from falling 100 feet into the river below.

Blackwater Path catchnet - JJM
The Blackwater (or Ciaran Path) ‘catch-net’, constructed by members of the Scottish Six Days Trial committee in the late 1960s. – Photo Jock McComisky

He was accompanied by Willie Pitblado, Tommy Ritchie, and Eric MacNamara to construct the catch net with scaffold poles, cement and plastic safety netting and it is still there to this day.

Building the famous Blackwater Path (Ciaran Path) ‘catch-net’ in 1969 are from left: Alex Smith (Bathgate); Eric MacNamara (Edinburgh); Willie Pitblado (Dunfermline) & Tommy Ritchie (Edinburgh) – Photo: Johnny Graham, Bonnyrigg (Johnny Graham was a former clerks of course SSDT)

In the 1960s, Alex and his friends Willie Pitblado and John Davies set up a bike breaking business in Fife which eventually became Willie Pitblado’s Motorcycle Spares Scotland business in Golf Drum Street in Dunfermline.

Alex Smith was also great friends with Jock McComisky and took delight in telling people that he (Alex) was the ‘brains’ and Jock was the ‘brawn’! Of course it was all in friendly terms and good banter.

A Smith - Jock McComisky - Dam Road
Jock McComisky (left) and Alex Smith were good friends for many years. Seen here during an early Pre’65 Scottish on the Dam Road above Kinlochleven.

Alex Smith was an true enthusiast of the sport and enjoyed many trips up to his beloved Rogart to meet up with the Grant twins and Willie Pitblado for runs over the hills and not only plotting but attempting sections, as well as participating in the White Heather trials that were run in Sutherland in the 1960s and 1970s. His wife Bett (Hopkins) died a few years ago.

Alex Smith - Montesa - Rogart
Alex Smith on his 247cc Montesa on ‘Kerrow’ section at Rogart in a White Heather Trial organised by the Sutherland Car & Motor Cycle Club in the late 1960s.

Moffat added: “From a personal perspective, I always enjoyed thoroughly my conversations with Alex over the years as he had a great knowledge of the sport and the SSDT in particular.

He will be sorely missed by those who knew him in Scotland and further afield in the sport.”

Alex Smith’s funeral has been arranged for Thursday, 25th July 2019 at Mortonhall Crematorium, 30B Howden Hall Road, Edinburgh EH16 6TX at 14.30.


4 thoughts on “SSDT Stalwart Alex Smith passes”

  1. Very sorry to hear of Alex’s passing, he always had time for a chat, and was a font of knowledge.

  2. Alec Smith was a very lovely man with a sharp wit. Very omnipresent in my childhood, and enjoyed his stories and conversations with my Father and his trials friends. Rest in Peace.

  3. It is with great sadness that many of us here in the far South West of England learn of the passing of Alex. He was, to us, a very good and well respected friend, one who helped or pointed us in the right direction on so many occasions.
    Typical good gestures from Alex, who I haven’t seen in person for a “year or two”, are how he mailed to me a copies of the Pre ’65 Scottish programme from Kinlochleven on the Friday of each trial (including this year) – simply the programme and the words “Best wishes”. A truly kind and thoughtful man who will be remembered by me and many more down here in darkest Devon & Cornwall as Mr. Pre ’65 Scottish.
    Following such a long illness which was diagnosed not long after the death of his beloved wife, Bet, we can only hope and trust that they are now re-united and resting in peace forever.

  4. My great friend met him in 1963 and learnt to drive with him at one time going to the Ulster Gp I was driving I said to Alex I hope my driving is not worrying you he said a dont thing you are trying to kill yer sell so yell no be trying kill me.over the years I work with Alex at the SSDT &the pre 65 I never fell without with him we would say well I think the cards would be better there for the observer.when we layed out sections.I would say ok a great friend over the years. I have had many years enjoying trials with Alex Scotland England Ireland when they made him they chuck the mould away RIP my good friend.I hope the Big Guy Up There sends my Entry Back for a few more years .Jock McComisky.

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