Category Archives: People

Debbie Evans – Not just a Stunt Performer

Trials Guru tells the story of a trials rider turned movie stunt performer …

1978 SSDT - Debbie
Debbie Evans number 112 (Yamaha 175) at the 1978 Scottish Six Days, this is the final machine inspection in down-town Fort William parc ferme. Number 109 is Mick Wilkinson (Ossa).

Over the years there have been numerous female riders compete in the annual Scottish Six Days Trial, which had traditionally been a male dominated sport. Times have now changed with female competitors very much the norm.

Before the Second World War, there was Louie McLean, Edyth Foley and Marjorie Cottle. Post-war, the 1950’s had Mollie Briggs, Lesley Blackburn, Olga Kevelos and Gwen Wickham; the 1960’s had Jill Savage and Renee Bennett. They had one thing in common, they were all British, but in the late seventies a female rider emerged who inspired even more women to compete in trials and the ‘Scottish’ than ever before, and she was the first female rider from overseas to compete in the SSDT, an American called Debbie Evans.

Trials Guru was fortunate to catch up with Debbie, now Evans-Leavitt having married her trials riding boyfriend Lane Leavitt, during a hectic schedule in Glasgow city centre, Scotland in September 2012 when filming for ‘The Fast & the Furious 6’ an action-packed movie which was released in May 2013.

Debbie refuses to slow down in an amazingly tight schedule which took her to England, twice, Scotland and Tenerife for filming plus a short break to go home to the United States to see her first grandchild born. I still couldn’t believe that I was talking with a stunt-performing grand-mother!

Born in 1958, Debbie, originally from Lakewood, now resident in Santa Clarita, California has been in the movie business for just over thirty-three years. She has stunt-doubled for some of the world’s best known superstars including Carrie-Ann Moss in ‘Matrix Reloaded’ – 2003; Linda Hamilton in ‘The Terminator: Judgement Day’ – 1991 and many more. Have a look at the credits of some of the world’s most famous action-packed films and you will see the name ‘Debbie Evans’ appear in more than just a few. Her speciality is car and motorcycle stunt performance and she has appeared in over two-hundred movies and TV programmes which included ‘CHiPS’ & ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’.

The Scottish connection…

Debbie Evans - IL
Debbie Evans on Blackwater sections in 1978 on her 175cc TY175 Yamaha. Debbie came 109th position on 473 marks. Photo copyright: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven, Scotland.

Having followed the history of the SSDT and watched Lane in action at the Six Days, I got to know Debbie and her three time AMA National Trials Champion husband back in 2007, when I put together an audio-visual presentation of the SSDT in the February of that year for the Fort William Mountain Film Festival.

Permission was sought to use material from Debbie’s website as part of the presentation, just for a bit of extra interest for the audience, which she willingly gave.

Debbie had entered the 1978 Scottish Six Days Trial on a TY175 Yamaha supplied by Gordon Farley Motorcycles, Aldershot, Hmpshire, England and her airline ticket was paid for by Yamaha USA. Lane had also competed in previous Scottish Six Days his first being 1973, as a supported rider for both the Spanish Bultaco and laterly Montesa factories.

Sunday lunch…

Having discovered that she would be in the UK during filming for the forthcoming ‘Fast 6’ movie, Debbie sent me a message via Lane through facebook which read: “Hi John, I’m sending my wife to Scotland in a few days. Maybe you guys can get together? She may have some cool stuff for you!”

On making contact upon her arrival in England, she suggested that we meet up with her one Sunday afternoon, when she was between filming schedules in Glasgow. Part of the car chase footage was shot late at night in city-centre Glasgow, including the famous George Square area.

After a pleasant lunch in Glasgow’s Princes Square, we all go back to Debbie’s hotel and ‘Skype call’ Lane in the USA, who takes us a virtual tour around the couple’s home. Lane picks out their Scottish Six Days trophies and Debbie’s stunt trophies and awards; culminating in a quick tour of their impressive garage.

Debbie was an accomplished trials rider when she began motion picture stunt performing at the age of twenty. I asked her how she entered into the movie business.

She explained: “I wondered why so many stunts involving women were carried out by male performers dressed to look like females? I thought… hey, I could do that… I researched it further and eventually obtained the necessary regulatory permissions and began training for my new chosen career with established professional stunt performers.”

The rest is history, Evans-Leavitt is a multiple award winner obtaining seven Red Bull Stunt ‘Taurus awards’ and was inducted into the American Motorcycle Association – Motorcyclist Hall of Fame in 2003.

Unique…

Debbie is probably the only competitor world-wide who can static balance a trials motorcycle upside down with her head on the seat, the bike is not supported in any way and the only extra piece of equipment is a rubber band on the front brake lever! Eric Kitchen was on hand in 1978 to photograph this very stunt, right in the middle of the traffic roundabout at the West End of Fort William, now an iconic SSDT photo.

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Debbie performing her world famous ‘head-stand’ on the roundabout in down-town Fort William, Scotland, prior to the 1978 Scottish Six Days. Photo: Worldwide copyright, Eric Kitchen. All rights reserved.

In movies, she is best known for the 2001 award-winning scene where she doubled for actress Michelle Rodriguez in the Fast & the Furious. Debbie drove a tuned Honda Civic hatch-back under an artic semi-trailer at high speed, ending in a barrel-roll when emerging out the other side.

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“…being a stunt-woman is that you get to ride fast motorcycles and drive real cool cars” – Debbie in a classic Jaguar with son Daniel – Photo: Lane Leavitt Archive – All rights reserved.

Debbie says: “I have to keep physically fit and in shape but the real neat part about being a stunt-woman is that you get to ride fast motorcycles and drive real cool cars!”

Dreaming…

Back to that Scottish Six Days ride at Fort William in May 1978, it was for Debbie the event of her lifetime. Debbie takes up the story:

“I had harboured a secret wish to ride in the ‘Scottish’ when I was quite young. I got into trials at the age of six with the help of my father Dave Evans, who was already an established trials and enduro rider in the USA and it was he who taught me all I know about bike control. I then read all about the Scottish Six Days in the American motorcycle press. I never really thought it was possible until an Englishman called Bill Emmison of BERM Specialities, a UK company which imported US off-road products. Bill on a visit to source parts asked me what I really wanted to do and on hearing my crazy wish said he could arrange the trip to Scotland and make it all happen. I was overjoyed at the thought of actually competing in the Six Days, for me it was truly a real dream come true. I hadn’t told anyone previously, because I believed it to be too wild to ever come true!

I packed my heavy bags and took a pair of handlebars, grips, foot-pegs and my Bell helmet and spent a few days sight-seeing in London on my own, before heading north to Fort William.

Bill supplied me with some riding suits, my riding number was one-hundred and twelve and so I rode all week in the company of Mick Wilkinson and Rob Shepherd, two of the best riders in Britain at the time and guys who knew their way around Scotland. The whole experience for a nineteen year old girl was really awesome; the Scottish was a great adventure!”

She continued: “Riding over the tracks and moors with Mick as my guide was great fun, Lane told me to ‘stick to this guy like glue’, which I did! However, I probably stuck to him too well and one day when hauling across a moor, Mick suddenly pulled up, I sat and waited for a little while, then he turned around and said, ‘Debbie! Can you sort of disappear for a minute, the call of nature beckons’ – or words to that effect?”

Wilkinson…

Mick Wilkinson remembers all too well the 1978 event with Debbie Evans in tow!

Mick recounts: “Soon after the trial started, I said to Rob (Shepherd), come on Rob let’s have a bit of fun, let’s leave this American lass on’t moor. We took off at a cracking rate as we knew where we were going and after a few miles we looked round. To our surprise, there she was, slap bang on our back mudguards. We didn’t try to pull that trick again!”

After their marriage Lane and Debbie had planned to ride once more in the 1980 Scottish together, but when they discovered that she was expecting their first child, Steve, this put paid to that idea and she reluctantly but sensibly withdrew her entry. The couple had another son, Daniel born in 1994.

Pipeline portrait - IL
On the left is Alan Wright, former Suzuki team rider and Telford Show organiser. On the right, Debbie Evans-Leavitt, the American trials rider turned movie stunt perfomer. Photographed here at the Scottish Six Days Trial on Pipeline in May 1978 by Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven, Scotland. (All rights reserved.)

Inspiration…

But by then, Evans had already unwittingly captivated a whole new generation of women trials riders, one of which was Lisa Bayley (then Lisa Jones) from Sutton, Surrey who herself was inspired by reading about Debbie’s 1978 ride to compete herself in the 1981 Scottish at the tender age of eighteen on a 200cc SWM modified from a 125cc by her Father, Derek Jones.

Lisa Jones 1981
Lisa Jones was so inspired by Debbie’s SSDT ride in 1978 that she trained hard and entered the 1981 event on a 200cc SWM prepared by her father Derek. – Photo: Derek Jones, Surrey, England.

Having read and been inspired by Evans, Lisa never actually met Debbie in person, although she did get to know former US National and World Champion, Bernie Schreiber during his time at Comerfords, Thames Ditton in 1979 and later, when on trips to the US riding Fantic.

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Debbie on Town Hall Brae in down-town Fort William in 1978 – Photo: Iain C Clark, Fort William, Scotland (All rights reserved)

Fitness coach Lisa commented: “I was truly inspired by Debbie Evans’ 1978 ride at the Scottish which I did twice. For me it is the most brilliant event in the world. I have run in both the New York & London Marathons in 2005 and 2006; they were far easier by a long shot than the 600 miles and 180 Scottish sections of fantastic challenging and on some-days, impossible terrain. In my lifetime I have risen to the challenge of the hardest marathon and finished New York in three hours forty-eight minutes and London in three hours thirty-eight minutes, well within a veterans’ respectable timeframe, but still the SSDT was the hardest ever human achievement and the most enjoyable I have ever undertaken.”

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Debbie in the 1978 Scottish Six Days. Photo copyright: Jimmy Young, Armadale, Scotland. (All rights reserved)

Bloodline…

Motorcycle observed trials is in Debbie’s blood, her father, Dave Evans is the guy who wheelies a Bultaco Sherpa for miles near the beginning of the Bruce Brown film ‘On Any Sunday’ the definitive bike-sport movie of all time. Her sister, Donna Evans is also a stunt performer, having worked with Debbie in a number of motion pictures.

Debbie Evans - photo - Michael Vendrel
Debbie in 1979. The top right image is Debbie doubling for Lynda Carter in the TV series, Wonder Woman – Photo copyright: Michael Vendrel, USA.

Debbie: “Being a trials rider really helped me throughout my stunt career, because you walk the section and memorise in your head many things, like when to go up or down a gear, where to brake, where to make the turn or change direction, which part is slippery and so on. The same thing applies when performing a motion picture stunt; you walk the set and plan everything, very carefully. It’s technical, just like trials. However, I knew that I would never make a living from just riding trials, at that time there were very few who were professional riders world-wide, whereas I could at movie stunt-performing. I grew up with trials riding ‘no-stop’; stop-allowed was alien to me. We do stunts no-stop too!”

Dukes of Hazard
Debbie in a scene from the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ a CBS network TV series. She doubled for the postmistress and Hazzard Gazette reporter, Miz “Emma” Tisdale who delivered parcels by motorcycle.

Debbie stayed fairly loyal to the Yamaha brand during her riding years, having gained support from the company via their USA importers and promoted the brand wherever she rode.

After a eighteen years away from the sport, Debbie made a brief return to competitive trials in 1998, when she rode in the Women’s World Trials Championships. She was now forty years of age, but came a creditable eighth place overall, riding a 250cc Gas Gas.

Today…

Debbie on Bultaco - Lane Leavitt
Debbie tries out Lane’s Bultaco for size in his office. Photo: Lane Leavitt.

Lane, now a respected stunt technician in the US movie business still has a collection of interesting Bultaco trials machines and some modern road bikes to hand, as the area in which the Leavitts live is ‘canyon country’ and a Sunday afternoon ride out with the family is very much the order of the day.

Leavitt reckons Debbie would still be riding in trials competitively today had she not suffered a very serious accident when stunt doubling for the 2008 movie “Yes Man” starring Jim Carrey in which she was hit by a car when riding a bike during a sequence which went horribly wrong.

British actress Amanda Holden was trained by Debbie and Lane to do stunts for the UK TV series ‘Amanda Holden – Fantasy Lives’ in 2010 in which Debbie and Lane both appeared.

Debbie - Dick Mann - Lane - Matchless
Debbie, Dick Mann and Lane at Dick Mann’s house discussing a Matchless build. Bike is one of Dick’s creations, a Triel (Triumph engined Ariel)

Return…

Debbie really enjoyed her film work in Glasgow; she even cultivated a Scots accent during her stay. Both she and Lane are planning a return trip to spectate at the SSDT in a few years time, once their youngest child, daughter Rebecca, graduates from high-school. It will be really nice to have the couple back at the SSDT where they have so many happy memories of competing many years ago.

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Debbie Evans-Leavitt and Trials Guru’s John Moffat taken in Glasgow, during a break from filming ‘Fast 6’ in Glasgow, September 2012. Photo: Trials Guru copyright, all rights reserved.

Both Debbie and Lane felt honoured to be asked to write a few lines each for the one-hundred years celebration book on the SSDT that the Edinburgh Club produced in 2011. Only problem was they didn’t get a copy, as the limited edition book was quickly sold out! However, after a plea, Kinlochleven trials enthusiasts David & Lorna Dougan who had a pristine copy, came to the rescue and gifted their copy to Lane and Debbie. The photo of Debbie in the book was taken by Eric Kitchen on Grey Mare’s Ridge, only half a mile from the Dougan’s home.

Finally…

Oh yes and finally, the ‘cool stuff’ she gave me as a memento of our Glasgow meeting? A commemorative tee-shirt and poster from the ‘On Any Sunday Re-union’, all signed by some of the all-time greats of USA bike-sport – now that’s what I call neat!

© – Copyright Information:

© – Words: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing, John Moffat – 2015.

© – Photographic Copyrights & acknowledgements:

– Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven, Scotland.

– Eric Kitchen, Cumbria, England.

– Lane Leavitt, California, USA.

– Michael Vendrel, USA.

– Iain C. Clark, Fort William, Scotland.

– Derek Jones, Sutton, Surrey, England.

– Jimmy Young, Armadale, Scotland.

With special thanks to John Hulme and Trial Magazine, England as part of this article appeared in Issue 41, 2013.

Great Scots – Ian Pollock

In deepest Argyll, nestling among stunning scenery and mountains, lies the town of Kinlochleven. Many books have been written about the area, one of which is ‘Children of the Dead End – The Autobiography of a Navvy’ – By Patrick McGill – this book is exactly what the title says, it’s the story of an immigrant manual worker or ‘navvy’ as they were called. This book which is rated as one of the best 100 best Scottish books of all time, describes the times when the Aluminium smelter and factory was being constructed at the end of the 1800’s. Kinlochleven flourished as a direct result of the creation of the Aluminium factory which employed around 1,000 workers and produced high quality aluminium for the world. These employees came from far afield and settled in the town, one such settler was Ian Murray Pollock, who was originally from Falkirk, Stirlingshire. Pollock had been through the second world war, having served in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders regiment in Palestine. When he was effectively demobbed from the British Army, Pollock was fortunate to secure employment with the British Aluminium Company Ltd at their Kinlochleven smelter. The ‘BA’ as it was universally known, was a major employer both there and at their Fort William operation, which exists to this day.

Pollock started his career as a ‘fitter’ but quickly progressed through the ranks to become a shift foreman at the plant.

1950 - J D Williamson - Mamore - WST
1950 – Jack Williamson from Newtongrange, Midlothian (347 AJS) on Mamore, watched by Ian Pollock (white paper in pocket) – Photo: W.S. Thomson, Fort William

Being an active young man who had forged many friendships in the locality, Pollock took an interest in the annual Scottish Six Days Trial which made use of the hills near to Kinlochleven during the ‘Sporting Holiday in the Highlands’. Pollock had amassed quite a knowledge of the local paths, bridleways and rough country high above the town. This was to eventually forge a strong bond between him and members of the Edinburgh & District Motor Club, who promoted the Scottish Six Days Trial.

Ian also became involved in local events, eventually becoming a central character in the Kinlochleven Motor Cycle Club, which he helped form.

Pollock in association with his good friend, Lithuanian refugee, Paul Kilbauskas discovered there was more land available to the SSDT than perhaps the organisers were aware of!

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1959 Scottish Six Days Trial – Paul Kilbauskas with his 500 Royal Enfield – Photo: John Davies

The SSDT up until the late 1960’s, made extensive use of main and secondary roads, proper foot and bridle paths, sheep paths but very little open moorland. It wasn’t until Jimmy Mulvie became Clerk of Course that the SSDT made use of open moorland stretches.

It was Pollock and Kilbauskas that investigated the possibility of going out over the hills from Kinlochleven back over to the Fort William area other than by the original Mamore Road, which is the water bound surface that is still used by the SSDT and Pre’65 trials to this day. It stretches from Mamore Lodge across to Blarmafoldach, just outside Fort William and links into the Achintore Road.

Pollock and Kilbauskas were both energetic men, they liked the outdoors and they both jointly and severally, explored the many trails, paths and rocky burns and outcrops that littered the hills high above Kinlochleven. They also knew all the local keepers, shepherds and landowners, so permission was never a problem. Many of the hills surrounding the town had been purchased from estates at the end of the 19th century primarily for the water rights. This enabled the factory to operate and ensure plentiful supply of water via the Blackwater area, high above Kinlochleven. Pollock and Kilbauskas were trusted individuals and it helped the SSDT greatly by having reliable people such as Pollock and Kilbauskas on hand.

These explorations bore fruit aplenty, for the Pollock/Kilbauskas venture yielded many new sections in the form of ‘Loch Eild Path’; ‘Mamore’; ‘German Camp’; ‘Leitir Bo Fionn’; ‘Grey Mare’s Ridge’ and of course ‘Brump Brae’, later to be renamed ‘Pollock Hill’.

In the period 1955 through to 1959, Ian was listed in the official programmes of the SSDT as an observer, but Pollock was much more than that, he was the journeyman who discovered many of the iconic hills that would eventually unearth the most famous of them all, ‘Pipeline’ probably the most famous motorcycle trial section of all time! Alex Smith, from Bathgate, a former assistant Clerk of Course confirms that ‘Pipeline’ was first used as an observed section in the 1967 SSDT.

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Jack Williamson (250cc Greeves) awaits the signal to start in the 1963 Spring Trial at Kinlochleven. Ian Pollock was a driving force in this event which was re-named in his honour after his death.

‘Pipeline’ is just a couple of miles out of the town and is the subject of many of the most stunning motorcycle trials photos to come from the cameras of Nick Nichols, Eric Kitchen and photographers of their age.

Pollock was an enthusiastic observer at the SSDT and when Johnny Brittain won the 1957 Scottish, his photo adorned the cover of the following year’s programme, the observer in the background watching intently being Ian Pollock. The original photo used on the 1958 SSDT programme front cover was a ‘Motor Cycling’ print which is now the property of Mortons Motorcycle Media, Hornchurch, but a personal copy still hangs in Pollock’s daughter Pamela’s home in Glencoe.

1958 SSDT
The 1958 SSDT Official Programme, with 1957 winner Johnny Brittain (Royal Enfield) being watched by Ian Pollock. The section is at the top of Loch Eild Path, one of the hills discovered by Pollock himself.

By 1962, Pollock was now listed as an Assistant Clerk of the Course and was held in high esteem by his peers and by the ‘Clerk’ himself, the late George Baird who described Ian as ‘our man on the spot’ in the official programme.

Paul Kilbauskas:

Paul Kilbauskas was also a ‘Tunnel Tiger’ who worked on the many hydro-electric schemes in the Scottish Highlands, he was an explosives handler during his time on these massive projects. He concentrated more on riding the Six Days on Matchless, Royal Enfield and BSA machinery, always a 500cc machine. He helped find a sizeable part of the route was in effect a ‘displaced person’ who had to flee his native Lithuania in 1947. His first port of call was Market Harborough in Leicestershire. Paul eventually settled in Kinlochleven, worked at the Aluminium factory for a period where he met and eventually married his sweetheart, Rose who also worked at the BA factory and was originally from the Orkney Islands. They had two daughters, Marina and Rachel. There is now a Paul Kilbauskas award in the SSDT in remembrance of the one-time course plotter and explorer for the event.

Paul Kilbauskas 1
The late Paul Kilbauskas, a native of Lithuania who made the Scottish Highlands his home. A life member of Inverness & District Motorcycle Club.

‘Mambrec’ was yet another of the sections discovered by Ian Pollock, a section that has been used in the Pre’65 Scottish Trial many times. Pollock was fortunate to strike up a good friendship with Johnny Graham who also became Clerk of Course SSDT. Graham would leave a trials motorcycle at Ian’s home to give him something to explore with. One such machine was the ex-works 350cc Matchless registered ‘OLH722’ of Ted Usher and another was the ex-factory BSA of Brian Martin registered ‘BSA350’.

Lochaber April Trial 1959
The Lochaber Spring Trial in 1959. Taken at Kinlochleven near the war memorial. From Left: Bobby Macleod (Francis Barnett); Ali McDonald (Ariel); Hugh McDonald (Royal Enfield); Ian Pollock (standing); Paul Kilbauskas (Royal Enfield); Tommy McNab (BSA – ex-works BSA 350) and Billy MacLeod (Ariel). The trial in modern times is known as The Ian Pollock Memorial Trial.

Pollock would regularly fire these ‘loan bikes’ up and take them up onto the Dam Road and into the hills to see what he could find.

In 1963 the SSDT committee honoured Ian by calling one of the sections ‘Pollock Way’, this was just off one of the many paths near the River Leven, that Ian and Paul Kilbauskas discovered on their explorations.

When the Lochaber and District Club was founded, they enlisted Ian’s help to organise their ‘Spring Trial’. This particular event was eventually re-named as The Ian Pollock Trial in his honour and is regarded as one of the best one-day trials in the Scottish trial calendar to this day.

Ian Pollock is survived by his only daughter, Pamela who married local man and trials rider, John MacGregor, they live in Glencoe and regularly watch the Pre’65 Scottish Two-Day Trial.

POLLOCK SHIELD 2008
Pamela MacGregor (nee Pollock) presents the Ian Pollock Memorial trophy to local rider, ten times Scottish trials champion, Gary Macdonald in 2008. – Photo copyright and courtesy of: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image, Fort William.

John MacGregor was at one time himself an Assistant Clerk of Course SSDT and Pre’65 Scottish in its formative years.

So next time you climb up the ‘Dam Road’ to watch riders in either the SSDT or Pre’65 Scottish trials, spare a thought for the man who discovered many of these sections – Ian Murray Pollock.

More on Kinlochleven:

Kinlochleven in Scots Gaelic is Ceann Loch Liobhann, it was the first village in Scotland to have electric street lighting because of the electric power generated by the British Aluminium Company smelter. It used hydro or water power which was pioneered at Foyers in 1895 on the south side of Loch Ness, not far from Inverness. Kinlochleven was actually formed from two small villages, Kinlochmore (Large head of the loch) and Kinlochbeg (Small head of the loch). Kinlochmore on the north and Kinlochbeg on the south of the River Leven that runs into Loch Leven of which Kinlochleven sits at the head of.

The British Aluminium Company became part of Alcan, the Canadian based aluminium producer which laterly became Rio Tinto Alcan, part of the multi-national Rio Tinto company, which employs local personnel at their Fort William smelter operation. Rio Tinto (Alcan) is the world’s leading aluminium mining and producer. Rio Tinto Alcan can trace its roots back to Alcoa founded in 1928.

High quality, pure Aluminium was first produced at Kinlochleven at the ‘wee factory’ which was a temporary establishment high up in the hills on the Blackwater path. The ‘wee or temporary factory’ opened in 1907 with the main factory opening in Kinlochleven in 1909. The Blackwater dam or reservoir was formed purely to hold water reserves for the British Aluminium Company by flooding a sparsely populated valley high above the town, effectively trapping many of the River Leven’s tributaries and led down to the power house by six pipes, which are of course visible and beside the famous ‘Pipeline’ SSDT section group.

Trials Guru is indebted to Pamela and John MacGregor of Glencoe, Argyll for information supplied which made this article possible.

Text Copyright: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing, John Moffat – 2015

Photo Copyright: Iain Ferguson – ‘The Write Image’, Fort William – All Rights Reserved.

Photo of Paul Kilbauskas, by kind permission of Ms. Marina Kilbauskas.

Special thanks to: Alex Smith, former SSDT Assistant Clerk of Course and former Chairman, Pre’65 Scottish Trial.

Thanks to the Edinburgh & District Motor Club Ltd – For use of the cover of the 1958 SSDT official programme.

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Renee Bennett – East London’s Lady Trials Rider

Renee Bennett – By her daughter Julie Powell:

Cover photo - Renee Bennett

My mum was a name known to all in the motorcycle trials world, she was born in East London’s Canning Town.

From humble beginnings she emerged as Britain’s best known lady rider in a career spanning a quarter of a century.

Renee in Action!

Renee’s interest in trials riding began watching father ‘Wag‘, an East London nickname for ‘Charles‘, riding motorcycles around the docks near his cycle and motorcycle shop. Renee’s parents were hard working East Londoners. They opened their first shop in the late 1920’s in Victoria Dock Road.

The popular shop hired and sold cycles, and the name Wag Bennett has been carried through to successive generations.

All during World War II, Wag and Esther Bennett remained in Canning Town, running their shop, keeping the dockworkers going with cycles and motorcycles, and staying open late til 11.00am waiting for the last shift of workmen to pass the shop.

Renee stunt doubling
Renee stunt doubling

Renee stood on a box at the counter, testing bulbs and batteries and giving the customers their change, by candlelight. She recalls she was about 4 or 5 years old.

In 1939, Wag was picked for the British ISDT Team, held that year in Nazi Germany.  He shook hands with Hitler, unaware of the gathering storm then, quite suddenly, the team was ordered to leave Germany immediately WWII had begun!

The old shop was a target in the blitz being so near the docks, and eventually took a bomb, as did every other shop and house around it. Almost blown to smithereens, the bedroom ceiling was somehow held together with cycles magazines and newspapers. The whole shop was supported by a few wooden beams, keeping it standing.

PICTURE OF MUM ON GREEVES

Buckets were strategically placed on the bed to catch water, which poured in every time it rained.  As a child, this was normal daily life for Renee and her brother, Wag jnr.

At night, they watched the ‘doodlebugs’ the V1 flying bomb, on their way to decimate the London docks and surrounding area.

Standing outside the shop every night, one of these unmanned rockets, would suddenly stop, drop, hit it’s target and blow the shop windows out.

During these blitzes, the family would hastily run to the nearest underground station or the Anderson shelter behind the shop, where they would remain until an ‘All Clear’ siren sounded.

Getting through the war was a daily struggle for survival.  The harshness of life though at least prepared Renee for the tough sport of motorcycle trials that was to come.

After the war, Wag sold Ariel motorcycles;  strong serviceable machines they were used thoughout the war, by soldiers and civilians alike.  He worked all hours repairing and selling them to the dockers and factory workers.

Renee left school at 15, and went into the family business.  It was now well known, a beacon for all the major British bikes:  AJS, Matchless, Ariel, BSA, Triumph, Panther, James, Velocette, Frances Barnett, NSU ‘Quickly’ to name but a few.

Around this time, Renee began riding in earnest on a James Captain 198cc, but at only 7 stone and of slender build the skill of trials riding was not easy to master.

In her own words: “Why I never got killed I’ll never know, I was useless!

Wag Bennett jnr. also worked in the shop, but diversified into bodybuilding.  He would train every night in the hope of becoming Mr Britain.  He eventually opened his own gymnasium training some of the greatest names in bodybuilding including Arnold Schwarzenneggar, who lived with him and wife Dianne for a few years. Wag was instrumental in teaching Arnie to pose to music.  He won every title in Wag’s shows and soon became a household name.  Arnie remained a lifelong friend of the family and invited Wag & Dianne to his Hollywood wedding to Maria Shriver.

In the mid-50s Renee met husband Howard Powell through her brother’s bodybuilding connections. Howard won many titles throughout the UK including Mr. South East Britain and Mr. Navy.

They married and in 1956 I came along.  Renee juggled motherhood with helping Howard run their  motorcycle shop in London’s East Ham, the first of five.

Determined to follow in the footsteps of her father, a factory supported rider for Matchless, Renee rode daily on wasteland nearby, and competed every Sunday in Kent and Surrey in timed trials along with husband Howard, also an avid trials rider.

By this time, and winning several awards in open-to-centre trials, Renee was riding a Greeves 250cc slimline, alloy frame, perfect for her.  They were made by a small factory at Thundersley, Benfleet, Essex.

Renee was ready for the challenging Scottish Six Day event, following in her father’s footsteps.

Renee’s entered the Scottish Six Day Trial in 1961. The first of many.

She finished the event, earning her an award and a myriad of bruises all over her body!

The Welsh Three Day Trial featured prominently in Renee’s riding career as she says:  “My favourite, fast and furious!”  Renee rode a Bultaco 250cc with a Wasp frame for that event.

Her son, my brother, Charles was born in 1964.

But that wasn’t all, she was much in demand as a motorcycle stunt double, known by all in the film and TV business as The Girl On A Motorcycle.  Renee also enjoyed a successful modelling career, advertising everything from make-up to Ovaltine.

Renee in black leathers

In the early 1970s, Renee switched to riding a Bultaco Sherpa 250cc, which she still has today along with her Greeves, Bultaco Enduro (used in the Welsh Three-Day) and the much-loved James 198cc.

In 1973, Renee competed in the Scottish Six Day Trials on the Bultaco.  The 6th so far.

At around here, she converted one of her East London shops into a motorcycle competition centre.  “Renee Bennett’s East London Sportman’s Centre”, which became a beacon from as far afield as Europe and the USA. Customers visiting the shop immediately asked for ‘Renee Bennett!’

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Renee and Howard became known for sponsoring many up and coming young trials riders in the 80s, kitting them out with helmet and suits, their own name signwritten on the petrol tank, and cheques sent when they had won the event.

Renee’s competitive spirit continued well into the 1980s.  She ran a popular trial of her own:  The Renee Bennett Sunbeam Novice Trial, which became a much awaited event each year.  Every finisher received a scrolled certificate, adorned with red ribbon.  It is still talked about today in vintage trials circles!

Howard, being into health and fitness since his time as a bodybuilder, set up a gymnasium above one of the shops. They trained daily, and Renee found the toning and strengthening a big help when dragging her bike out of the mud!

Howard, who sadly passed away in 2003,  was a talented amateur film maker, often being invited to the premieres of the top films of the day.  He counted among his friends actors and top stunt men from all the Bond films.

Renee recalls meeting the movie stars of the day like Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, who was over from the states for the ISDT in 1964.

Now a grandmother but still with an interest in motorcycles, Renee continues to run her busy motorcycle shop in East Ham, the first one she and Howard acquired some 58 years ago.

As if that is not enough, she is very ‘hands on’ in her property renovating company assisted by son Charles.

Grandchildren have come along, my daughter Sophie, nearly 16 and a three-times published author! Oliver nearly 12, and young Charles, 22, who runs his own foreign exchange business.

Film on Renee Bennett by British Pathe on YouTube: HERE

Renee’s mother died only recently in 2012, aged 103!   Father Wag died in 1989.   As Renee says:  “Perhaps I’ll live to be a ripe old age… see you around!”

This recent comment on a trials forum site sums up the amazing Renee Bennett : “Well.. Renee Bennett,. what can I say..!  I think my old man had a fancy for her!  I remember her riding the SSDT on a Bultaco in 1973.  All the lads were fighting over themselves to help her when she got into difficulty.  Her shop was called ‘Renee Bennett’s East London Sportsman’s Centre’.  – Anyone know who wrote that?

Julie Powell

Rene Bennett photographed in 2013
Renee Bennett photographed in 2013 by daughter Julie Powell

Article Copyright: Trials Guru/Julie Powell

Photos: Julie Powell

Renee Bennett in Spanish! – Todotrial website Article:

Javier Cruz from Madrid has taken the Renee Bennett story to Spain, read about it: HERE

Website: www.reneebennett.co.uk/

Great Scots – Ron Thomson – Fort William

Ron Thomson with the only C15 BSA to finish in the 1959 SSDT. All the works bikes retired that year. Photo taken at Gorgie Market, Edinburgh. Photo Courtesy of Mrs. Ron Thomson
Ron Thomson with his C15 BSA at the ‘weigh-in’ of the 1959 SSDT at Gorgie Market, Edinburgh. Photo Courtesy of Mrs. Helen Thomson

Ron Thomson originally from St Andrews, Fife moved to Fort William in the late 1950’s. Ron was a dispatch rider during national service in Egypt and a member of the services club, the Bar-None MCC. On being de-mobbed, Ron joined the local Kirkcaldy & District club. Ron takes up the story: “In my day trials bikes were measured by the hundredweight, not by the cubic capacity! I had a Gold Star, which was dubbed the ‘Stone-Crusher’. So called because no section was ever the same after we had gone through. As for the Scottish Six Days, we used to gear the bikes up, my Trophy Triumph was good for 90 plus mph on the road, the reason for the hurry was that we used to be more interested in the ‘Seven Nights’ than the Six Days!” says Ron.

Ron on his BSA C15T in the 1959 Scottish on Glenogle section on May 4th. One of the first day hills as he made his way homeward to Fort William from the Edinburgh start. On the right is Dunfermline rider Maurice Duffin. Photo: Mrs. Peggy Davies.
Ron on his BSA C15T in the 1959 Scottish on Glenogle section on May 4th. One of the first day hills as he made his way homeward to Fort William from the Edinburgh start. On the second right is Dunfermline rider the late Maurice Duffin. Photo: Mrs. Peggy Davies.

That particular Goldie, as Ron had one or two, registered PFS 916 had a neat conversion, featured in the first 1958 SSDT report in The Motor Cycle. In an attempt to reduce weight, Thomson used the gearbox as an oil reservoir for the motor thus obviating the need for an oil tank. The very machine on which Ron won the over 350 award at the 1969 Scottish which was to be his last ride in the Highland classic. That Gold Star was sold via Ernie Page’s shop in Polwarth Terrace and was passed through many ‘hands’ eventually ending up with Billy Maxwell in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

1964 SSDT on Mamore. Ron Thomson on his BSA Gold Star PFS916 - 'The Stone-Crusher'. Photo courtesy of Mrs Ron Thomson, Fort William.
1964 SSDT on Mamore. Ron Thomson on his BSA Gold Star PFS916 – ‘The Stone-Crusher’. Photo courtesy of Mrs Helen Thomson, Fort William.

Ron loved riding the Scottish Six Days which was in effect a local event for him as he lived in Inverlochy at that time. Ron said: “…well it was more the seven nights I was most interested in to be truthful, we used to get up to all sorts of fun”.

Ron knew an observer called Tommy Millar from Airdrie, a man who never had a complaint registered against him in over 25 years of observing- what was the reason? “I just gie a’ the laddies a clean”, he told Ron.

Ron said: “I’ve no doubt that the kids today on their water cooled pogo sticks in their go faster trendy bin liner suits will enjoy themselves just as much as we did, but still I think had greater fun in the golden years”.

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At the end of the 1953 Scottish Six Days, Ray Biddle took this photo of the Kirkcaldy & District riders From left: Peter Victory (197 James); Dave Birrell (490 Norton); Jack Duncan (Montrose, 197 Francis Barnett); Dr. J.G. Stewart (197cc Sun); Johnny Birrell (348cc BSA) & Ron Thomson (343cc Triumph)

Ron had a reputation as the man to approach if you wanted your bike fettled for the Scottish. He worked for a spell at the Brechin dealership, Duncan’s.

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Ron prepares to start his BSA Gold Star at the beginning of the 1963 Scottish in Edinburgh’s Gorgie Market. Photo Courtesy of Jimmy Young, Armadale.

At one stage Ron, when still an active rider, prepared about a dozen Lochaber members bikes for the Highland classic.

“I couldn’t concentrate on my own ride for this one or that one coming up and saying, here! Listen to this – do you think it’s all right – will it last the week with this rattle or that rattle?”

Tyndrum, on the final day of the 1964 SSDT. Photo cortesy of Mrs. Ron Thomson, Fort William.
Tyndrum, on the final day of the 1964 SSDT. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Helen Thomson, Fort William.

John Moffat has a vivid personal recollection of the 1967 Scottish Experts held at Achallader Farm, Bridge of Orchy: “Ron Thomson was on his Gold Star, having ridden down from Fort William, a distance of some 35 miles in company with the late Ali McDonald on a 500cc Ariel. Post-trial, Ron stopped for a blether with a group of his old chums, I happened to be an interested bystander, listening in to the “banter”. Ali McDonald had decided to get home before dark and left immediately after signing off at the finish. The bold Ron then decided after quarter of an hour had elapsed to set off in pursuit of his pal, McDonald. Ron set sail from the farm, which, is about a mile from the main A82 trunk road. Within a few moments the assembled gathering could see Ron and the Goldie passing over the steel bridge which spans the River Orchy and up the “Black Mount”, overhauling several cars during his ascent, the big Goldie on full song. The exhaust note ever fading, disappearing from view as he crested the summit and onward to the Fort. What a great sight to behold.”

Alister McDonald was a greta friend of Ron Thomson. here we see Ali on his Ariel HT5 on Town Hall Brae (Rocky Brae) in Fort William in the 1964 SSDT. Photo Courtesy of Mrs Ron Thomson, Fort William.
Alister McDonald was a great friend of Ron Thomson. Here we see Ali on his Ariel HT5 on Town Hall Brae (Rocky Brae) in Fort William in the 1964 SSDT. Photo Courtesy of Mrs Helen Thomson, Fort William.

Known as a ‘big bike’ man, Ron also rode the “tiddlers” as well. In 1959 he chose the brand new C15T BSA 250cc unit construction single for the Scottish Six Days. In fact, out of eight C15’s entered, Ron was the only one to get to the finish and that included factory bikes as well!

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Watched by Jeff Smith in the duffle-coat, Ron Thomson on the only C15T BSA to finish in the 1959 Scottish. All the works bikes had retired from the event. This section was at Achintee farm on the slopes of Ben Nevis Photo courtesy of Mrs. Helen Thomson, Fort William.

Back in 1955 he rode a Villiers powered 197cc DMW and a year later rode a similarly powered Welsh built 197cc H.J.H.

In the 1953 Scottish, Ron rode a self-built ex-WD 343cc Triumph, the following year he rode a 347cc Matchless G3LC.

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Ron Thomson on his new for that year 347cc Matchless G3LC in the 1954 Scottish on Creag An Eilein on the Rothiemurchus Estate, near Aviemore. Photo: Ray Biddle, Birmingham.

Ron S. Thomson passed away on 20th January 2007, never being a regular church attender, there was a humanist service held for him in the Crematorium at Inverness. Ron left the trials community of the Lochaber Club and the towns-people of Fort William with great memories of a true character of the sport of trials.

Ron Thomson in 1964 at Achintee Farm on his 500cc BSA Gold Star. Photo Courtesy Mrs Ron Thomson, Fort William.
Ron Thomson in 1964 at Achintee Farm on his 499cc BSA Gold Star. Photo Courtesy Mrs Helen Thomson, Fort William.

Trials Guru on Ron Thomson: Ron Thomson was a well liked individual who moved from his native St. Andrews to work at the British Aluminium works at Fort William. The reason was simple, so that he would live in God’s trials country! He set up business initially in a shed in his back garden fixing motorcycles and lawn-mowers for local people.

His business grew and he obtained premises at the Industrial Estate at Caol a few miles from Fort William on the A830. Many of the younger riders in the town benefited from Ron’s knowledge, which included Hugh and Alister McDonald, Alastair Macgillivray. Gary MacLennan and Rodger Mount.

Friends of Ron Thomson, Hugh McDonald Senior and Junior. Hugh Snr is on Ron thomson's BSA Gold Star and Hugh Jnr on the special bike built for him by Ron Thomson. Photo courtesy of Alister McDonald, Fort William.
Friends of Ron Thomson, Hugh McDonald Senior and Junior. Hugh Snr is on Ron Thomson’s BSA Gold Star and Hugh Jnr on the special bike built for him by Ron Thomson. Photo courtesy of Alister McDonald, Fort William.

His business was called R.S. Thomson (Inverlochy) Ltd. He ran a repair shop and MOT test centre for motorcycles. He was agent for chain-saws and garden equipment and employed Cameron ‘Cammy’ Kennedy for many years.

Ron gets his 250cc BSA C15T examined and security marked at Gorgie Market in May 1959. On Ron's left is Davie Miller, one of the course markers of the SSDT. Photo cortesy of Mrs. Helen Thomson.
Ron gets his 250cc BSA C15T examined and security marked at Gorgie Market in May 1959. On Ron’s left is Davie Miller, one of the course markers of the SSDT. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Helen Thomson.

It was quite usual to swing in past Ron’s workshop for a great natter about the old days. But as sure as guns you were never there long until another enthusiast also had the same idea! How Ron got any work done heaven knows. He was a good builder of wheels, which itself is a bit of a ‘black-art’.

When Ron passed away after a short illness the business folded and Cammy took up employment with The Hire Centre in Fort William. Ron’s friends were not only Scots riders of his era like Jack Williamson; Arnott Moffat; Tommy Robertson; Johnny Clarkson and Bob Paterson, he also enjoyed the friendship of Gordon Blakeway; Ralph Venables; Peter Stirland and some of the best known riders of his era.

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24th June 1962 – From Left: Bobby Neilson; Billy MacLeod: David Stodart; Hugh McDonald; John Noble: Jack Williamson & Ron Thomson. A joint effort of Edinburgh Southern & Lochaber Clubs to ride up Ben Nevis

They all knew Ron Thomson!

This article was put together from notes John Moffat made during an interview he had with Ron at his workshops at Caol some years ago and personal recollections by Moffat himself of Ron Thomson pieced together over many years knowing Ron Thomson.

Ron Thomson in the Scottish Six Days Trial

Year                Riding Number         Club                            Make & CC of machine

1953                179                              Kirkcaldy                    Triumph 343

1954                148                              Kirkcaldy                    Matchless 500

1955                20                                Kirkcaldy                    DMW 197

1956                24                                Kirkcaldy                    DMW 197

1957                12                                Kirkcaldy                    DMW 197 (could be HJH)

1958                140                              Kirkcaldy                    Triumph 498 (Twin)

1959                74                                Edinburgh & Dist       BSA 250

1961                171                              Lochaber                     BSA 350

1962                191                              Lochaber                     BSA 348

1964                177                              Lochaber                     BSA 500

1969                195                              (not in prog.)               BSA 500

Post Script: Added 01/02/2015: This story was spotted by Ron Thomson’s Grand-nephew, Ron Fisher who lives in Canada. It brought back happy memories of a visit to Scotland back in 1997 and indeed Trials Guru has been able to put Ron Fisher and Mrs. Helen Thomson in contact as a result of the article you see above.

Copyright: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing / John Moffat – 2014

With special thanks to Mrs. Helen Thomson of Inverlochy, Fort William for the photographs which accompany this article.

Post script to Ron Thomson’s story…

We have been contacted by former Scottish Speedway professional, John Wilson who now lives in Spain. John owned the ex-Ali McDonald Ariel MDB590 and he has kindly let us see photos of the restored machine. He sold it shortly before emigrating to Spain some years ago.

1964 - Ali McDonald on MDB590 on Grey Mare's  Ridge Photo: Holder and Osborn
1964 – Ali McDonald on MDB590 on Grey Mare’s Ridge Photo: Holder and Osborn
Ariel 1
The ex-Ali McDonald Ariel HT5 (MDB590) nestles inside John Wilson’s den. His speedway memorabilia is in the background. Photo: John Wilson.

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A proud John Wilson shows off his Ariel. Photo: Chris Wilson.
A proud John Wilson shows off his Ariel. Photo: Chris Wilson.

Great Scots – Jack Williamson – Newtongrange

Jack Williamson was Scottish Trials Champion in 1962, 1963 and 1964 and was a regular competitor in the annual Scottish Six Days Trial. In the 1958 event, Jack rode a 500cc Ariel HT5 registered OSG443, an Edinburgh BC registration. The photo appeared on facebook recently which sparked off an interest in the machines history. The bike had been undergoing some restoration work at Loch Ness Restorations at Dochfour just outside of Inverness. The next to current owner, Terry Fullarton contacted Jack as the current owner, Phil Marshall wanted to know more about the bike’s history.

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Jack Williamson (Newtongrange) on ‘Glen Ogle’ section on the first day of the 1958 Scottish Six Days Trial on OSG443 Ariel HT5

The bike had at one time been the property of former Scottish Scrambles Champion, George Hodge of Abington, Lanarkshire and he used it regularly in the late 1960’s to check his flock of sheep on his hill farm for many years before selling the Ariel.

Williamson used the bike in the 1958 Scottish and at this year’s Pre-65 Scottish at Kinlochleven, Jack was re-united with the Ariel 56 years after he rode the SSDT on the machine.

Former Greeves works rider, Bill Wilkinson, the last British rider to win the SSDT on a British built bike (1969) was on hand to witness the re-union of bike and rider.

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Bill Wilkinson (left) checks over the details of the Ariel with Jack Williamson (seated)

Jack was delighted to be acquainted once more with his old trials iron and took it for a short ride around the old Aluminium factory grounds. In the meantime, The Guru has suggested that George Hodge be contacted as he will be instrumental in filling in the gaps of the machines history.

JDW - 2014 OSG443
Jack Williamson re-enacts his left hand turn, 56 years after the photo taken at Glen Ogle

More on Jack Williamson:

Jack was brought up in Newtongrange, Midlothian and worked in the family business as a TV and radio mechanic.

J Williamson and Son - Newtongrange 1971
Jack Williamson (left) with his father John Williamson in 1971 at the family business in Newtongrange, Midlothian, Scotland.

His first trials machine was a 350cc Matchless demobbed from the War department and converted for off road use. However young Williamson fettled the bike so well that he didn’t want to use it, so he sold it for a profit and purchased a genuine “comp” model in 1948, the year he started competing. His mentors were Tommy “Tuck” Robertson and Jimmy Hutchins, both respected trials and scrambles riders of the post-war era.

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Bobby Neilson (350 Ariel) and Jackie Williamson (500 Ariel) at a trial around 1959

Jackie was a natural rider but he took competition seriously enough to practice every day, at lunchtime he would spend an hour on the “pit bing” of the Lady Victoria mine. As the years progressed, Jack became a local sporting personality in that mining town and occasionally a bus was hired to take his supporters to watch Jackie ride in a trial or scramble far a field.

By 1951, Jack had won the Scottish Experts Trial, which at that time was a qualifying event for the British Experts.

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In 1961, Jackie Williamson (left) rode a 250cc Dot at the Manx Two Day Trial, here in company with local friend Bobby Neilson (350 Ariel)

Jack’s successes were constantly reported in the Edinburgh Evening News and in 1964 the paper did a feature on him by then, had won most of Scotland’s national fixtures and was three times Scottish Trials Champion, 1962, 1963 and 1964.

The amassed collection of trophies accompanying the article was quite breathtaking, fortunately his awards are preserved and we can show Jack in a recent photograph with them laid out with a magnificent shot of him in the 1963 SSDT on ‘Grey Mare’s Ridge’ as a centre-piece.

J D Williamson - Trophies
Jack Williamson with his array of trophies won during his riding career. The large photo of Jack in the SSDT in the centre is now looked after by Trials Guru.

1963, a good year!

In the 1963 season detailed below, Jack achieved the following results in that year’s events, 250cc Greeves mounted, it gives a fascinating insight into a rider’s year in trials competition. The events marked (TC) denote a championship round:

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Jack Williamson (250cc Greeves) awaits the signal to start in the 1963 Spring Trial at Kinlochleven. Ian Pollock on the right was a driving force in this event which was re-named in his honour after his death.

1963:

January 27, Dundee – (Trial cancelled because of Snow)

February 17, Stevenston – Runner-Up

February 24, Perth – (Trial cancelled)

March 3, Edinburgh Southern Coronation Trial (TC) – 1st Equal

March 10, Montrose (TC) – 5th

March 17, Falkirk John Bull (TC) – Runner-up

March 24, Dunfermline – 7th

March 31, Lanarkshire Valente Trial (TC) – 5th

April 7, Kirkcaldy – Runner-up

April 14, Lochaber Spring Trial (TC) – Winner

April 21, Dundee – 3rd

May 6 to 11, Scottish Six Days – 36th & Best Scot, Best E&D member

May 19, Kinross – 4th

May 25 & 26, Lion Two-Day Trial – 3rd

June 9, Edinburgh St. George, Colonial Trial – Winner

July 28 Edinburgh St. George News Trial – (Restricted to Non Experts & Novice riders only – no entry)

August 18, Mercury Trial – (On holiday, no entry)

August 25, Lion Trial – (On holiday, no entry)

August 31 – September 1, Highland MCC Two-Day – Runner-up

September 8, Edinburgh St. George Mirylees Trial – (Unwell, no entry)

September 15, Loch Lomond – (Unwell, no entry)

September 22, Edinburgh Southern Scottish Experts – (Trial cancelled)

September 29, Perth (TC) – 3rd

October 1, CSMA Trial – Winner

October 13, Stevenston Ayrshire Trial (TC) – Runner-up

October 20, Dunfermline Campbell Trial – Winner

November 3, Kirkcaldy George Scott Memorial trial (TC) – 4th

November 17, Edinburgh St. George Plaza Trial (TC) – 12th

November 24, Glasgow Lion Trial – Winner

Overall, Jack won that year’s 9 round Scottish Trials Championship.

Jack competed predominantly in Trials but also was a successful scrambler and grass tracker. He even had a go at road racing, encouraged by the late Davie Lamb, Jack changed the handlebars and gearing on his trials A.J.S and raced at the Kirkcaldy Club’s Beveridge Park.

It was Jackie’s rides in the Scottish Six Days that are probably most memorable for Scottish trials fans. He rode the SSDT 25 times over a period from 1948 to 1975 and only failed to finish once due to mechanical failure when riding a 350cc Matchless.

He was best Scotsman in the SSDT on no fewer than six occasions and best Edinburgh and District club member on more occasions than he cares to remember. Jackie rode a vast array of different machines in his career and always moved with the times.

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Jackie Williamson on his 350 BSA Gold Star, KSF544 supplied by Alexanders of Edinburgh, the machine had the special ‘Daytona’ style frame. Seen here on Blackford Hill, Edinburgh near to the finish of the 1953 Scottish – Photo: Ray Biddle, print supplied to Trials Guru by J.D. Williamson

He commenced on a string of AJS, then Matchless, Ariel and BSA four stroke machines. When two-stroke dominance came in he switched to Dot; DMW; Greeves on which he had his three championship titles; Bultaco, Montesa and Ossa. He never owned a Norton but borrowed one from his friend Bobby Neilson to ride in a couple of trials after setting his AJS on fire when it fell over at a Perth event!

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Another shot of Jackie Williamson taken by Ray Biddle, Birmingham from the 1953 Scottish on his BSA Gold Star on ‘Conduit’ above Kinlochleven – Print supplied from J.D. Williamson’s private collection.

By 1968, the SACU had laid plans to field the British Vase team for the 44th International Six Days Trial to be held at Garmisch Partenkirchen, Bavaria in the following year. Jack was selected as one of the Scottish squad by Team Manager, George Baird.

Jackie was 38 years of age but still a fast rider on the rough and had a great depth of experience. Unfortunately the Montesa Scorpion he used broke its gear change selector spring and that put an end to his efforts.  His career as a sporting rider was refreshed in the form of what we now call enduros.

And In 1972 Jack, riding a 250cc Ossa finished with a bronze medal and was the sole surviving private British entrant and was awarded the Arthur Prince trophy by the ACU for his efforts.

ISDT Team 1974
1974 ISDT Left to Right: George baird, team Manager; Allan Forbes; Jimmy Ballantyne; Jack Williamson; Ian Millar; Stan Young; George Bryce, Fitness Coach. Photo taken at Meadowbank Sports Stadium, Edinburgh.

Jack’s final attempt at the ISDT was in the 1974 event at Camerino, Italy in which he crashed at high speed on a tarmac section suffering concussion, a broken nose and other injuries that would eventually signal the finale to his active riding career, which spanned 27 years, effectively three generations of competitors. Jack had ridden with grandfathers, fathers and sons!

Finally, our article on Jack finishes with a song! Written by enthusiast Harry H. Cook and entitled “Song of the Edinburgh Southern Motor Club, to the tune of Feet Up performed by Guy Mitchell:

“Feet Up, Keep ’em on the footrest, 

That’s how to win.

Feet Up, Keep ’em on the footrests,

When the front wheels in.

Ain’t seen a trial like this before,

So darned easy, gonna win some more,

Feet up, keep ’em on the footrests, That’s how to win.

Now I’ve been known to scramble,

And even win a Cup,

And there’s the time I had a spill,

And landed down side up.

And though my bike is not spring heeled,

Gonna beat them all without a fall,

‘Cos I want that shield.

Feet up, keep ’em on the footrests,

Take the section clean,

Feet up, keep ’em on the footrests at berdeen.

Williamson, Hutch and Neilson too,Go to it boys, it’s up to you.

So Feet up, keep ’em on the footrests,

That’s how to win

© – Article Copyright: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing, John Moffat – 2014

The BSA that got away – POL540G

As mentioned in the Jackie Williamson article above, the Scottish ACU had been granted Vase B team status by the ACU for the 1969 International Six Days Trial at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The SACU is not directly recognised by the FIM as the ACU is their representative at council for the UK as a whole.

The SACU managed to negotiate some machinery from manufacturers, being Dalesman in Otley, Yorkshire for two 125cc Puch engine bikes and BSA for two 250cc Starfires.

The Daleman Puchs were funded by Jim Birrell of Markinch, Fife. Birrell was a haulage contractor and President of the SACU. These bikes were registered by Ernie Page of Page Motors Ltd, Polwarth Crescent, Edinburgh in August 1969 as PSG564H (ridden by Ian D.B. Miller) & PSG565H (ridden by Ernie Page – riding number 162).

The BSAs were supplied by the factory at Small Heath in Birmingham and had been used as marshal’s machines during the 1969 Milk Race which took place throughout the UK and funded by the Milk Marketing Board which was won by Dutchman, Fedor Den Hertog. The event is now known as the Tour of Britain.

SACU secretary & Treasurer, T. A. Moffat volunteered to collect the BSA Starfires from the factory, a round trip of some 600 miles from his home in Bathgate, West Lothian. Moffat had connections in the road haulage industry and British Road Services agreed to ship the Dalesman machines from Otley to their depot at Guildiehaugh, Bathgate for a nominal charge.

Miller and Page collected their machines from Moffat’s home and they set about preparing and running in their mounts for the September event, the machines proved to be too high-geared for the gruelling event. Page’s machine expired mid-week with clutch problems, caused by constantly slipping the clutch to maintain speed on the steep going. Miller also retired on day one with chain adjuster problems and a wayward back wheel.

The BSA B25 Starfires, registered by BSA Motorcycles Ltd on 12 March 1969 were to be ridden by Jimmy Ballantyne, a tax inspector from Newbridge who had ridden the 1968 ISDT at San Pellegrino in Italy, he was allocated POL541G and Jackie Williamson was allocated POL540G. However, Williamson was unhappy at having to convert a road machine into a Six Days trial machine in a short space of time. With a busy business to run in Newtongrange, Williamson went out and bought the Montesa King Scorpion as mentioned in his article. The BSA was subsequently returned to Moffat, unused.

Ballantyne persevered with the BSA and replaced the front forks and wheel with a complete Ceriani unit from his 250cc Greeves scrambler, and the fuel tank sourced from Edinburgh dealers, Edgar Brothers stock of AJS parts. He fitted an AJS Y4 motocross fibreglass unit which was lighter than the steel BSA component. He also had a compartment inserted into the rear of the twin-seat to carry tools and small spare parts.

Unfortunately his preparations were to be in vain, he suffered electrical problems in the event and the machine cut-out completely in a long forestry stage. It refused to start until, in a try-all effort, he switched the headlight on and the bike started. He tried to make up lost time, almost an hour when he was negotiating a long bend when he came face to face with a forestry forwarder machine which had been allowed into the forest thinking that all the riders had been through. Ballantyne threw the bike to the ground in an effort to avoid the huge machine, but suffered two broken legs in the process and the BSA went under the wheels, crushing it badly.

The only survivor from the Scottish squad was Derek Edgar (125cc Puch) who had ridden the 1968 event in Italy and having gained valuable experience, went on to win a silver medal for his efforts.

Post event, BSA insisted that the two machines were returned, POL541G was crated up with Ballantyne’s parts being removed and returned to him and the original front wheel, forks and fuel tank placed in the crate with the remains of the badly damaged Starfire. Williamson’s machine, POL540G was returned on the same lorry to Small Heath, arranged by Moffat.
Happily the ‘unused’ BSA was eventually sold by the factory and to our knowledge still exists as a letter was spotted some years ago in Old Bike mart magazine. The owner was seeking details of the BSA which of course had been registered by the factory and supplied to the Milk Race organisers and ‘Moffat of Bathgate’.

Williamson’s rejection was the effective saving of POL540G, the BSA Starfire, intact and the bike lives on to this day almost 50 years later!

© – BSA POL540G Article Copyright: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing, John Moffat – 2016

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Tribute: Allie ‘Beag’ Cameron – the quiet man from Fort William

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Allie ‘Beag’ Cameron 1940 – 1998 – Photo: Jimmy Young, Armadale

Alexander John Cameron, known to the townsfolk of his native Fort William as ‘Allie Beag’ or just ‘The Beag’, this Gaelic nickname means ‘Wee Allie’.

At the Parade Garage in Fort William, where he served his apprenticeship as a mechanic, there were two ‘Allies’ so there had to be a distinction and it stuck with him for the rest of his life. Allie was originally inspired by watching the Scottish Six Days and ventured into trials at eighteen years of age, when he could afford a James Commando in 1958. This beginner bike soon made way for a brand new 20TA Greeves, purchased from Duncan’s of Brechin a year later.

Allie progressed to a 250 DOT in 1961, which, he rode for only one year.

A J Cameron - Triumph
Allie Cameron on the 150cc Triumph Cub in the 1962 SSDT on Tyndrum – Photo: Ian T. Robertson

Next season, Allie bought the ex- Jimmy Hutchins Tiger Cub and had it reduced in capacity by the factory at Meridan with the intention of winning the 150cc cup at the Scottish, which he did. Henry Vale, the competitions manager at Triumphs had a Terrier 150cc barrel fitted to reduce the capacity accordingly. That particular Cub had a twenty-one inch front wheel and a widened swinging arm to accommodate a full four-inch section trials tyre at the rear.

Allie Beag1
A smiling Allie gets ready for an event at Todholes Farm, Fintry in 1963 – Photo: Jack Williamson, Rosewell.

His Scottish 150cc capacity win on the Triumph soon attracted the attention of the Greeves factory at Thundersley, Essex and Allie received factory support in the shape of a 149cc bike (XWC 264) for the 1963 Scottish.

Cameron lifted the cup a second time for the loss of 120 marks with his closest rival being Gordon Farley, on a Triumph supported by Jock Hitchcock, who dropped 174 marks. Greeves were happy with the result and used it to best effect in their adverts in the motorcycle press for many months later.

1963 Allie Cameron Achintee
On his special Greeves 149 (XWC264) winning the 150cc cup at the Scottish for his employers, Greeves Motorcycles of Thundersley, Essex; seen here on Achintee in the 1963 Scottish Six Days Trial. Photo: Mrs Florence Cameron, Fort William.

The same year Allie was runner up in the Scottish Trials championship, two points behind Jackie Williamson. By 1967,  ‘Beag’ had two special firsts, four first class and four capacity class wins to his credit in six rides in the Scottish Six Days Trial.

Allie was offered a job as mechanic in the competitions department at Thundersley, preparing the factory trials and scrambles machinery for the works riders. He also prepared many of the special ISDT machines including those supplied to Thames Ditton dealers Comerfords. Allie worked in company with John Pease on the ISDT bikes.

1965 Allie Cameron
An accomplished mechanic, Allie fettles his 150cc Greeves factory machine at Gorgie Market in May 1965 (NEV5C). He won the 150cc cup on 169 marks. Photo: Mrs Florence Cameron, Fort William.

Pease who as well as working at the factory was selected on many occasions as a British Trophy team member. The duo fabricated the special engine cradles to carry centre stands, rock guards and the various brackets to carry headlamps, number plates and compressed air bottles for tyre inflation.

Allie became friends with Don ‘D.R.’ Smith who came up to the factory once a week for testing and development discussions. ‘Beag’ would go practising at Kelvedon Hatch near Brentwood with Smith who was one of Britain’s top trials riders, by then, European Champion.

1968 LEP Allie Cameron
Allie Cameron on Loch Eild Path in the 1968 Scottish on his factory Greeves (XHK14F). Allie won the Henderson Challenge Trophy for the best performance by a member of the promoting club. – Photo: Alistair MacMillan / West Highland News Agency, Fort William (with permission of current copyright holder: Anthony MacMillan, Fort William – All rights reserved)

‘Beag’ knew all the ‘works boys’ and was highly regarded as not only an excellent spanner-man but as a handy rider in the Wessex Centre ACU. He spannered for Bryan Goss and many of the other factory motocross riders.

In 1971, Allie decided to return home to Fort William and took up a position with the area’s largest employer, The British Aluminium Company (‘BA’ for short). He wasn’t home long when he received a call from Jim Sandiford offering him a job at Sandiford’s Montesa import business. Allie thought long and hard but decided to stay at the BA.

767-red
1971 SSDT – Allie ‘Beag’ Cameron (247 Montesa Cota) on Loch Eild Path. Allie took home the ‘Henderson Challenge Trophy’ for the second best performance by a member of the promoting club, and was 24th position in the trial with a special first class award on 126 marks. – Photo: Ian Robertson, Midlothian

Having been diagnosed as having Hodgkin’s disease, the Beag had to restrict his trials riding but never lost his enthusiasm for motorcycling. He rode up until the late 1970’s and was a willing observer at both the annual Ian Pollock Memorial Trial and Pre-65 Scottish.

Sadly, Allie died in the November of 1998. His funeral at the Duncansburgh Church, Fort William was filled to overflowing, such was the popularity of the little man known affectionately as ‘The Beag’ to the towns-folk.  Many modern day competitors and “old hands” converged on the Fort to pay their last respects.

Allie Beag
Allie Beag at home in Fort William in 1996 with the trophies he won during an accomplished career in trials. Photo: John Moffat

Article: Copyright – John Moffat -2005

Photos:

  • Jimmy Young, Armadale
  • Alistair MacMillan / West Highland News Agency, Fort William (with permission of current copyright holder: Anthony MacMillan, Fort William – All rights reserved)
  • Mrs. Florence Cameron, Fort William
  • John Moffat / Trials Guru
  • Jack Williamson, Rosewell

For more on Scottish Six Days Trial click: Here

Tribute to: DAVID PAGE – Scotland

DAVID PAGE - Scotland
David Page (Yamaha) taking part in the 1992 World Trials Championship UK round at Glen Nevis, Fort William – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

DAVID PAGE – Eldest son of Ernie & Elizabeth Page; Ernie being a former Scottish Scrambles Champion and motorcycle dealer from Edinburgh, Scotland. David started out competitively on a Montesa Cota 49 with a Yamaha TY80 motor installed.

Page_racing_MonYam_1985
David Page with his Monyam which was built by his father, Ernie Page – Photo: Page Family Archive

He was quite small for his age as a child, but soon mastered the art of trials at an early age. He became unbeatable in Scottish Youth events. David progressed to an experimental 80cc Fantic provided by Roy Carey Of South Essex Leisure, the Fantic importers.

David Page Fantic Jpeg
David Page on the pre-production Fantic 80 which he developed with his father Ernie – Photo: Page Family Archive

This machine went into production using much of David and Ernie’s feedback to the Fantic factory. David then started to ride in adult trials on the Yamaha TY250R on which he made a name for himself, winning the 1992 Scottish Trials Championship.

Cleveland 1992 - David Page
The Cleveland Trial in 1992 David on the TY250R Yamaha – Photo: Page Family Archive

He was without doubt in the league of Jarvis and Colley and was a young man to watch as he was a natural rider.

David Page - TYZ British Champs 1993
David Page on the Hamilton Yamaha TYZ in the British Championships in 1993 – Photo: Page Family Archive

Sadly, when on a trip to an Italian world round with his father, David started to feel ill and was rushed home to Edinburgh to be diagnosed with the adult form of Leukemia to which he succumbed in late 1993.

The trials world and his family were cruelly robbed of a highly talented competitor and an exceptionally polite young man who is missed by those who knew him, to this day. His funeral and subsequent burial at Hillend Cemetery, Dalgety Bay was attended by a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the trials world.

A cortege of trials riders and their bikes, escorted the funeral procession all the way from Bathgate, West Lothian to Dalgety Bay in Fife.

April 1992 - World Champs - Jordi Tarres - David Page
April 1992, David Page with World Trials Champion, Jordi Tarres – Photo: Page Family Archive

To read more about David Page and his father, Ernie, this has been achieved in the book, ‘Motorcycle Competition: Scotland 1975-2005’ by John Moffat

Available: HERE