Category Archives: Obituaries

John Little, Scotland’s Enduro Supremo

JOHN LITTLE 13th May 1935 – 8th September 2019

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of John Little, former trials and enduro rider who had suffered two dibilitating strokes recently and slipped away peacefully on Sunday, 8th September 2019, aged 84 years.

John was originally from Edinburgh, but made his home at Elgin, Moray in the 1980s with his wife Eileen.

John Little on his 1966 Bultaco Sherpa seen here in the 1967 White Heather on ‘Sonny’s’ at Rogart – Photo: Grant Family Collection, Rogart

Father of top Scottish enduro rider Derek Little, John or Johnny as he was also known was a prime mover in the Grampian MCC and Elgin Enduro clubs with his friend Gilbert Rae. He was a passionate supporter of both trials and enduros.

27E - 1995 - ISDE - Poland - Group DL - MT - Richard Reid - Graeme Farish
1995 ISDE Poland – John Little was an enthusiastic supporter of the ISDE squad for many years.

He rode in the 1973 International Six Days Trial in the USA at Dalton, Massachusetts on a 169cc Greeves Pathfinder enduro, then switching to Laverda for the 1974 ISDT and finally Husqvarna machinery. John was a regular competitor in the Welsh Three Day Trial.

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John Little on his Husqvarna at a Borders Enduro – Photo: Jimmy Young

He was life-long friends with Jimmy Ballantyne who also died earlier this year.

John Little - Jimmy Ballantyne
An early 1960s photo of John Little (left) and Jimmy Ballantyne (right) taken in Edinburgh. Machine is a DMW.

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John Little and Jimmy Ballantyne at the ISDDT ReUnion at Carlisle – Photo: Campbell Chatham

After retiring from active competition, Little took up support work for the Scottish ACU ISDE teams along with friend Ballantyne.

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John Little (Husqvarna) – Photo: Jimmy Young

John Little also served on the SACU Enduro committee and was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award by the SACU management some years ago.

My beautiful picture
John Little was a keen trials rider, seen here on his Bultaco Sherpa (FFS169D) on Sciberscross in the 1967 White Heather Trial – Photo: Grant Family Collection

Trials Guru’s John Moffat said: “I have known John Little for well over 50 years. He was one of those people who rode competitively for many years, but put more into the sport than he took out. He worked tirelessly for the sport and encouraged many riders to take up enduro racing, that included myself. It was Johnny that insisted that I try my hand at enduros and I was grateful for his encouragement. I spent time in his company in 1976 at the ISDT in Austria and it was then as an 18 year old that I realised how helpful he was in supporting the Scottish ACU riders in that event. He had the ability to talk to anyone, of any age and his enthusiasm was infectious. He told me many times that motorcycling was a ‘disease’, to which there is no cure.

John was a true enthusiast, he rode trials, enduros and road bikes, he restored and prepared machines to a very high standard. There are many stories I could tell which involved Johnny, but this, for me, isn’t the time. I will miss his enthusiasm, I will miss his friendship. Johnny Little was one of the good guys.”

John’s funeral will be held on Friday 13th September 2019 at 2.30pm at William Watson Funeral Directors, 17 Blackfriars Road, Elgin, IV30 1TY – all welcome to attend.

Our sincere condolences go to the Little family at this difficult time.

John Little (2)

Peter ‘Jock’ Wilson dies

It is with sadness that we announce the death of Peter Cameron ‘Jock’ Wilson of Tolworth, Surrey, formerly of Comerfords and Bultaco UK, Portsmouth Road, Thames Ditton and latterly director of SWM UK. He was 85 years of age.

Jock Wilson - 1966 - Comerford BSA 441 - Photo - Don Morley
Jock on the 441 BSA prepared at Comerfords in 1966 – Photo: Don Morley

Jock was born and brought up in Glen Lyon, Perthshire and moved south when he joined the army to do his national service based at Aldershot.

Jock was a former Trials and ISDT competitor and went on to manage the Scottish ACU ISDT Vase teams and then the Great Britain ISDT Trophy teams for the ACU.

Details of Jock Wilson’s funeral arrangements are cremation on Tuesday, 10th September at Randalls Park Crematorium, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 OAG at 14.45pm.

Trials Guru send heartfelt condolences to his widow Patricia, son Gordon and the Wilson family. His son Andrew died some years ago.

A full article on Jock Wilson is available on this website: HERE

Peter Stirland, Royal Enfield factory rider dies

Peter Thomas Stirland (22nd April 1935 – 2nd August 2019)

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of former James, Royal Enfield & Greeves factory trials rider, Peter Stirland of Hungerford.

Peter’s death has occurred in the same year as Johnny Brittain who also rode for the Reddich manufacturer when the UK dominated the trials market with machinery and factory riders.

Prior to Royal Enfield, Stirland rode for James in 1954 and then after the Enfield years, he switched back to two-stroke power, riding for Greeves in 1964 on their TFS machines.

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Peter Stirland on his factory Royal Enfield on Achintee/Ben Nevis in the 1958 Scottish Six Days Trial – Photo: Ray Biddle

Stirland was not only an accomplished trials rider, he also represented Great Britain in the International Six Days Trial on many occasions.

Jeff Smith - Peter Stirland
Jeff Smith (Left) on his wedding day with best man, Peter Stirland (right) at St Mary’s Church in Prestbury, Gloucestershire on July 6th, 1957 – Photo Courtesy of Jeff Smith.

Stirland was the proprietor of Peter Stirland Ltd in Hungerford, Berkshire which was a main Ford car dealership which he founded in 1958 and has been a family owned business to the current day.

Jeff Smith - Peter Stirland - 2018
Jeff Smith (left) with daughter Chris (centre) and Peter Stirland (right) in 2018. Peter was Jeff and Irene Smith’s best man. Photo courtesy of Chris Smith, Wisconsin, USA.

Trials Guru sends sincere condolences to the Stirland family at this difficult time. Peter’s memorial service was held at St. John’s Church, Stockcross, Newbury on Friday 23rd August, 2019.


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.

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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.”

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.

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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.

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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.


Scott Trial supporter dies

Councillor John Blackie, the official starter of the Scott Trial for many years has died today, Saturday 13th July 2019.

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He had battled with cancer for some years and passed away in the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton. His family were at his bedside when he died.

He was a well-known figure on the start field on the Saturday morning and undertook his duties of flagging away every single rider with great gusto and enthusiasm.

His presence will be missed at the annual time and observation event, organised by the Richmond Motor Club (Yorkshire) Ltd on behalf of the Yorkshire Centre ACU.

Whilst not a direct organiser of the Scott Trial, John was nonetheless part of the valuable support the event received locally. Councillor Blackie saw the benefits of having such a prestigeous trial in the Dales each year and within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and he was instrumental in assisting the Richmond club gain the necessary planning consent to run it.

Trials Guru’s John Moffat said: “Councillor Blackie was a great guy. I always took time to interview him when I was start field commentator up until 2018 at the Scott Trial. He was a champion of all things Yorkshire and was a campaigner for trade and tourism in the Yorkshire Dales, the Scott Trial was part of that thinking. His presence at the Scott Trial I’m sure will be sorely missed as he was a great supporter and strong ally of the event”.

Trials Guru conveys sincere condolences to Councillor Blackie’s family at this difficult time.



Bob Gollner

6th July 2019

It is with regret that we announce the passing of Bob Gollner after a long illness on 23rd May, 2019.

Bob Gollner - Hants GN 1960 - Francis Custard Photo
Bob Gollner (500 Matchless) at the Hants Grand National in 1960 – Photo: Ron Custard (courtesy of Francis Custard)

Gollner was a well-known trials and scrambles competitor and motorcycle dealer who had his shop, Bob Gollner Ltd at Denmead, Portsmouth, Hampshire. He was a member of the Waterlooville Motorcycle Club.

Gollner Yamaha 1971 2
Frame builder, Mick Whitlock (left) discusses the lightweight 100cc Gollner Yamaha in 1971 with Bob Gollner (right)

Gollner was behind the 1966 Cheetah which used 37A Villiers and Triumph Cub motors until supplies ceased in 1968. He then created the 1968 Gollner BSA Bantam, the 1971 Gollner Yamaha and subsequently Gollner Kawasaki trials machines based on the KT250 model.

He was a close friend of Comerford’s Reg May.

Talmag Trial left to right: Reg May (Norton 500T); John May (350 AJS) & Bob Gollner on WJJ580 – Photo courtesy of John May

In 1988, being a Honda trials appointed dealer, Bob also converted TLR200 and TLR250 Honda trials models to monoshock specification, a machine that is now highly sought after because of it’s rarity.

Trials Guru extends sincere condolences to the Gollner family.


Death of Marland Whaley

Marland L. Whaley (3rd July 1958 – 27 June 2019)

It is with great sadness that we report the sudden passing of five time American trials champion, Marland Whaley, aged 60 years.

The former Honda and Montesa factory rider was 9th in the 1979 World Trials Championship, his highest placing in the series.

Born in San Diego, California on 3rd July 1958, he won the ‘Trial De Espania’ in the USA which eventually brought him to the attention of the mighty Honda concern for which he campaigned their experimental RTL series four-stroke machines.

Whaley was AMA national champion 1975-77 on Honda and 1979-80 on Montesa.

Marland Whaley (Honda) in the 1977 Scottish Six Days Trial – Photo: Iain Lawrie

After retiring from motorcycle trials, he took up cross country mountain bike riding, a sport in which he also excelled.

It is believed he suffered a cardiac arrest at his home in Montana.

1979 World Trials Champion, and fellow American, Bernie Schreiber told Trials Guru: “I was stunned when I heard the sad news about Marland Whaley. He was such a great competitor and talented trials rider. We rode and competed together all over the world and always held high the American flag. My deepest condolences to his family. Marland will be missed. R.I.P. Champ“.

Trials Guru extends sincere condolences to the Whaley family at this difficult time.

Mrs Dawn Whaley issued this statement on 7th July 2019: “I just wanted to give you an update and let you know we will be having a memorial service for Marland on August 24, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. We will have the service at Red Barn Bicycles, 399 McCarthy Loop, Hamilton MT. If you can attend, please message me through Facebook Messenger, as we need to get an idea of how many people will be in attendance as to make arrangements for food, chairs, etc. Guys, please wear shorts in honor of Marland, we want everyone to be comfortable. Thank you to everyone for your kind words of Marland and words of encouragement for me. I really appreciate your prayers as well, that is what is truly helping me to get through each day.


The power plant of the factory Honda ridden by Marland Whaley when he rode for Honda USA – Photo courtesy of Jean Caillou, France