The J. N. Clarkson Journals

J N Clarkson 1953 - Matchless  - Devils Staircase - Ray Biddle
John N. Clarkson from Skirling, Biggar, seen here on his Matchless on Devil’s Staircase in 1953 – Photo: Ray Biddle, Birmingham

We are always looking for something different from the world of trials and we have discovered an absolute jem.

By kind permission of Mrs. Ishbel Clarkson, we have been granted access to a journal kept by the late John Noble Clarkson, formerly of Skirling, Biggar. Clarkson’s journal gives us a unique insight into how trials events were organised in the late 40s and early 50s in Scotland.

J N Clarkson 1955 (3)
John Clarkson in the 1955 SSDT on the famous Devil’s Staircase section on his Matchless – Photo courtesy: Ian Robertson

Mr. Clarkson was a keen Scottish trials rider and was Assistant Clerk of the Course of the Scottish Six Days Trial for many years. He was also Secretary of the Edinburgh St. George Motor Club (‘The Ace o’ Clubs’ was its motto). Motorcycles and Jowett cars was his passion and he was also secretary of the Scottish section of the Jowett Owners Club for many years, owning various models including a Jupiter and Javelin.

So without photos, here are the extracts from John’s journals dating back to the late 1940s:

The Edinburgh Evening News Trial – 1946

Best Performance: Tommy Milton (Melville) – 500 Ariel

Second Best Performance: W.J. Millar (Ed. St. George) – 350 BSA

3 – George Millar (Ed. St. George) – 500 Ariel; 4 – J Munroe (Ed.St. George) – 350 P&M

5 – T.S. Merylees (Ed. St. George) – 350 Levis; 6 – G.R. Lawson (Ed. St. George) – 350 AJS

7 – W. McLeod (Edin. Southern) – 350 Levis; 8 – R. McLeod (Ed. Southern) – 500 BSA

9 – Jock Hurst (Ed. Southern) – 350 Triumph; 10 – P.A. Gower – 348 Raleigh

11 – T. Robertson (Ed. Southern) – 350 Ariel; 12 – R. Neilson (Ed. Southern) – 350 Norton

13 – Left Blank (Unlucky); 14 – R.T. Sinton – 500 Ariel

15 – J. Summing ( Ed. Southern) – 500 Triumph; 16 – T. L Anderson (Ed. Southern) 350 Triumph

17 – J.H. Forman (Ed. St. George) – 350 Matchless; 18 – J. Robertson (Ed. St. George) – 350 BSA

19 – D. Turner (Melville) – 350 BSA; 20 – J. McCarrol  – 350 BSA

21 – R. Forsyth – 350 Ariel; 22 – J. Lazarus (Glasgow Lion) – 500 Levis

23 – L.H. King (Ed. St George) – 500 Royal Enfield; 24 – A.J. Ross (Falkirk & Dist) – 250 Triumph

1962 SSDT - DB
J.E.Graham (left) and John N. Clarkson (centre) take a break from route marking the SSDT around 1962.

Edinburgh Evening News Trial 18th August 1951:

Course: Starting from Dechmont Filling Station on the Edinburgh – Glasgow road, the first sections encountered were ‘Silvermines’ (East to West) and down to ‘North Gully’, then on to ‘Candie House’ and a tight hair-pin on the coal bing near Candie House. From there over to ‘Muckraw’ and ‘Kyber Pass’ and back to ‘Silvermines’. Standard machines are allowed a bonus of 8 marks. Of an entry of 63 riders, 52 finiahed, 5 retired and 6 were non-starters.

The results were as follows:

News Trophy, Best Performance: T. Arnott Moffat (Ed. Southern – 350 AJS) – 15 Marks Lost (Special Test: 33 seconds).

Rossleigh Trophy, Second Best performance: Carrick Watson (Lanarkshire) – 15 marks lost (Special Test: 17 seconds).

Alexander Trophy: Best Edinburgh St. George member: R.W. McKendrick – 17.

Hamilton Trophy: Best perf. by rider in first trial: W. Manuel – 47.

Team award: Edinburgh St. George No.2 – R.W. McKendrick; N. Sutherland & D. Hutchison.

First Class Awards: T.A. Moffat; C. Watson; R.W. McKendrick; W.J.Rutherford; E. Duthie; R.S. Thomson; N. Sutherland; J.E. Graham; S.S. Ferguson; E. Fisher; D. Hutchison; C. Tosh; G.W.M. Marshall.

Second Class Awards: A.J. Williamson; E.E. MacRae; D.R.W. McDonald; H. Dickson; J. Pryde; G.D. Hunter; W. McKendrick; J.C. Stewart; W. Manuel; F.D. Kerr.

One Day Trial – 23rd August 1951:

Course: Starting at Lamancha Filling Station, the course innediately took to the hills by Ruddenlees and Wester Deanhouses, then along the old drove road to Noblehouse, along the main road to Romanno Mains and over the hill to Flemington.

From Flemington, over the hill to the Cloich via Courhope and on to the same track for a second time and finished at Flemington. Observed sections were at: Wester Deanshouses, Whiteknowe Gully, a hair-pin at Flemington and a lovely section at Flemington behind the log-shed and sections at Courhope and the Cloich. The special test was the fastest time over a short stretch of track above Flemington. Out of 64 entries, 51 finished the course, 5 retired  and 8 were non-starters.


Best Performance: P.S. Armstrong (Newcastle) – 18

Best 500cc: R. Neilson (Ed. Southern) – 19

Best 350cc: G.Smith (Ed. Southern) – 20

Best 250cc: J.W. Ellis (Lanarkshire) – 24

Best 150cc: G. A. Johnston (Ed. St. George) – 35

Team Award: Tie – Edinburgh St. George No.1 – 83 ( Special Test 36 secs.) – J.N. Clarkson; L.H. King; W.J.Millar.

Edinburgh Southern – 83 (Special Test 36 secs.) – G. Smith; J.D. Williamson; J. Hutchings

Best Non-Expert: S. Ferguson (Ed. St. George) -22

john clarkson - 1962 ssdt - mamore - ray foulds
John Clarkson (500 Royal Enfield) tackles ‘Mamore’ in the 1962 SSDT – Photo: Ray Foulds, Glasgow

Much more to come shortly.

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