Retrotrials has uploaded a nice selection of past official programmes of the Scottish Six Days Trial (SSDT) on their website.
Why not skip across and have a look?
Retrotrials has uploaded a nice selection of past official programmes of the Scottish Six Days Trial (SSDT) on their website.
Why not skip across and have a look?
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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?”
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By the time the 1964 Scottish came around, I had got over my previous year’s disaster, this time I was allocated number 210 on an AJS 350 bought from Comerfords, this time entered as a ‘privateer’ and riding for the Middlesbrough & District, my home club.
The event still started and finished in Edinburgh. On the Thursday, we went over the Corrieyarrick Pass.
I think I had been following behind Peter Gaunt and what happened next I wasn’t to find out until sometime later.
I found myself sat on a banking at the side of the Pass, which is an old General Wade military road.
I had no idea at all how I came to be sitting there.
Alan Morewood from Sheffield who became a top sidecar driver, came along on his 500 Ariel as he was number 205 that year, he stopped and asked if I was Okay? ‘Yes, fine’ I said, ‘Bye’ he said and rode off.
A couple of minutes later and Alan was back. ‘Rob, are you sure you are al-right, you look dazed?’ said Alan. ‘No problem’ I said and off he went again. Somehow I managed to get back to Fort William to finish the day’s run.
The first person I spoke to asked what I had been doing to scratch my face? Then someone said, ‘never mind his face, look at the back of his bike!’
The rear end was totally out of line. I then realised that I must have hit a pothole in the road with the front wheel over Corrieyarrick, cartwheeled and that explained my rest on the bank.
We pulled the bike back into line with a length of pipe that we found. Apart from a bit of a headache, it was back to business as usual.
Rest of the week was not as eventful and had a good old needle match with my mate Sid Lampkin who was on a factory Cotton that year. For the next year, I had bought another AJS from Comerfords, Thames Ditton built by Jock Wilson. I’ll tell you about that ride next. Bye for now! – Rob
Post Script by Rob Edwards: I’ve just been looking again at this fine Brian Holder photograph of me on the AJS on ‘Ben Nevis’ in 1964. The chap directly behind me is Mick Ward from Scarborough.
He built a bike especially for this event. He had the novel idea of taking the exhaust through the back frame loop to save a bit of weight.
However, when he got stuck, the ever helpful spectators would rush to his aid, not realising the exhaust was the rear frame loop and severely burn their hands in their quest to assist! I’m sure the A&E at Fort William were extra busy that week with burns!
I bet Mick never thought that one day Valentino Rossi would copy his helmet design! – Bye for now! – Rob
TRIALS GURU: – 1964 Scottish Six Days, this edition was won by Sammy Miller riding the much modified and much weight reduced, Ariel HT5. This would be the last time he would do so on the British four-stroke, Miller had already been secret testing the 200cc Bultaco Sherpa which he was later to develop to an increased 244cc and thus created a world beating machine with the San Adrien De Besos factory.
From the 1964 Scottish Six Days Trial Results:
No. 210. R. Edwards, Middlesbrough & Dist. M.C., A.J.S. 350 c.c. …. 124 marks S F C (Special First Class Award)
Rob’s eventful Scottish ‘Thursday’ was May 7th 1964. The route was as follows, let’s follow where Rob went that day: Start, Fort William; Inverlochy; 2 sections at Annat; Banavie; Gairlochy; 8 sections at Laggan Locks; Corrieyarrick Pass (where Rob has his big off!); Melgarve; Laggan Inn; Roy Bridge; Inverlochy – Lunch control; Glen Nevis; 4 sections at Ben Nevis; Fort William – Down Ashburn Lane; Onich; Kinlochleven; 1 section on Pollock Way; 8 sections at Leitir Bo Fionn; Down Loch Eild Path; 8 sections at Mamore; Check at top of hill; Mamore Road; 2 sections on the Town Hall Brae and Finish of day. Total Mileage 132 miles. 33 sections.
SSDT Point of interest: The number plates you see in the SSDT photos were issued to riders by the organising club. The rider paid a fee of ten shillings and forfeited the deposit if they didn’t hand the plates back at the end of the event. In 1964 the number plate official was Bob Adamson who later was to become SSDT Assistant Secretary and Secretary of the Pre’65 Scottish Trial.
Copyright: Rob Edwards/Trials Guru, Moffat Racing (c) 2014
Don Morley, Reigate, Surrey for permission to use the photograph of Peter ‘Jock’ Wilson for this article.
Edinburgh & District Motor Club Ltd for the use of 1964 programme cover.
Rob Edwards for the use of the Brian Holder photo.
Blackie Holden Junior for the photo of Blackie Holden Snr in 1964.
Mrs Ron Thomson, Inverlochy, Fort William for the photos of Ali McDonald & Ron Thomson.
To read all of Rob Edwards’ story of his life in trials, click … here
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.
Next season, Allie bought the ex- Jimmy Hutchings Triumph Tiger Cub and had it reduced in capacity by the factory at Meriden, near Coventry 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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
Article: Copyright – John Moffat -2005
For more on Scottish Six Days Trial click: Here
The 1987 Honda (HRC) RTL250S (actual capacity 270cc) of Eddy Lejeune (Belgium) seen in the paddock at the 1987 Scottish Six Days Trial in Fort William. The machine was maintained by mechanic and enduro competitor, Derrick Edmondston. The machine differed in many respects from the production version having a much more voluminous exhaust and single spar downtube frame and was also fitted with an oil-cooler. Lejeune came home in 3rd position on this machine losing 82 marks. The machine was registered in the UK by Honda Britain. Photo copyright: Donald Young, Stonehaven, Scotland UK.