Words: John Hulme and Pictures: John Hulme + Iain Lawrie.
In 1996 Sammy Miller MBE took over the run-down premises of an old farm and converted the barns into a modern, prestigious building with picturesque surroundings. It is now accepted as housing one of the finest collections of fully restored motorcycles in the world, including factory racers and exotic prototypes. At the end of 2004 permission was granted for an extension to the museum which now allows it to house over 400 exhibits.
In autumn 2010 Trial Magazine called in to view this tribute to one man’s love of motorcycles.
Welcomed by the warm hand of Sammy Miller himself the moment you walk inside the fabulous buildings, he immediately breaks into a documented history of the museum and its contents, the enthusiasm bouncing out from this motorcycle legend. Sammy’s life has always been dedicated to motorcycles. As a boy he followed motorcycle racing in Ulster and then went on to compete and win his first race in 1953. After a well documented period on the Road Racing Grand Prix circuits he moved into trials and went on to develop the world famous Ariel trials machine GOV 132 before moving on to Bultaco and creating the modern trials scene in 1965, and then on to Honda in 1970 to design the world championship winning trials machine. He is still active today and still competes when possible as well as demonstrating some of his prize collection.
Unlike most other museums this is more than a static collection to be dusted and polished at regular intervals and displayed like butterflies with pins through them. This is a live museum, for whenever the opportunity presents itself these machines are run in classic bike events of one kind or another. Many of the racing machines are still fully competitive and capable of giving a good account of themselves in high-speed parades. Like any good museum the contents are changing constantly. Virtually every new acquisition represents a full-scale renovation with the attendant difficulty in finding missing parts or replacements to exchange for those that are badly worn. Apart from the motorcycles on display you will also see many interesting artefacts, all of which represent a link with motorcycling of a bygone era.
The Off-Road section, for me, was incredible as one of the machines in the collection was something that has been on my mind many times in the past. George Sartin of Talon products’ fame many years ago started to develop his own trials machine; he made a prototype which then just disappeared off the face of the earth and there it was, immaculately restored in the museum. There are the awesome Jawa ISDT machines from the mid-seventies, and another particular machine which caught my eye was the long track championship winning machine of the late Simon Wigg, current trials star Alexz Wigg’s uncle.
Always one to bring something new to the museum, Sammy had just acquired the famous 1961 SSDT-winning AJS ridden by Gordon Jackson when he recorded the famous single mark victory.
The machine was in a sad state of affairs but Miller restored it, quite rightly, to its original condition.
The museum houses the finest collection of fully restored motorcycles in Europe, including factory racers and exotic prototypes, plus memorabilia spanning seven decades of motorcycling for sport and for pleasure. There are over 400 rare and classic motorcycles on display in four galleries.
During all this he has still found the time to restore many rare and exotic machines to concourse condition and perfect working order. These he kept as a private collection until 1980 when he opened up a museum so that the public could have a chance to see and hear them. He even took some abroad to many locations, including Australia and New Zealand, so that they could be seen by as many people as possible.
He has now placed the entire collection into a Trust to enable it to be kept together for future generations to experience and admire. There is no one more dedicated to motorcycling than Sam. He spends ten hours a day seven days a week working, promoting or restoring motorcycles and still finds time to compete (and win) races today.
Sammy Miller was awarded an MBE for Services to Motorcycle Heritage in the 2009 New Year’s Honours List. The museum is open pretty much all year round and for me is a must to visit if you have not done so already. For more information please visit: Tel: 01425 620 777 – Web: www.sammymiller.co.uk – Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sammy Miller MBE – Achievements
11 times successive British Champion.
Twice European Trials Champion – the forerunner to the World Championship.
13 times successive Hurst Cup winner.
18 times successive Walter Rusk Trial winner.
5 times winner of the famous Scottish Six Day Trial.
7 times winner of the World’s most arduous trial the Scott Trial on the harsh and unforgiving Yorkshire moors.
Winner of over 1482 Trials events.
9 Gold medals at International Six Day Trials.
Irish Motocross Champion.
Irish Sand Racing Champion.
Winner of most Irish Road races, including winning the North West 200 and the Leinster 200 three years in succession.
Third in the World Grand Prix Championships on a works Mondial
Sponsor of the British Classic Trial Championships.
Still rides today at retirement age and wins Trials and competes in classic road race events throughout Europe and as far away as New Zealand.