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June 2019 Club News

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Memories of the IOM and the TT

by David Main

Blown engine - sidecar race 1965 IOM TT.
During the 1960’s myself, my brother and others from the Cotswold section of the VMCC visited the Island.
Sometimes camping, sometimes bed and breakfast.

We would ride up from Cheltenham about 150 miles to Liverpool to catch the ferry to Douglas. It was not possible to book a passage, one just had to queue on the dockside, very little shelter and almost nothing available in the way of refreshments.

The IOM Steam Packet Company had a few very old ships – I remember the King Orry and Mona’s Isle. No ride on and off! The motorbikes were winched on with rudimentary tackle and we always feared for their safety.  They were all stashed around the deck (from memory).  There was little comfort on board and crossing the Irish Sea was usually rough.

Today modern ferries do it in 3-4 hours but then it was more like 6 to 8 hours. The old “tubs” used to roll terribly. I recall one year that my brother had left very early in the morning on his 1924 350 lightweight Sunbeam with acetylene lighting. He was stopped by a lonely “bobby” doing his rounds who wouldn’t believe that Robert was on his way to Liverpool.

An annual event when visiting the Island was to watch the old movie  “No Limit” with George Formby.  The film got shorter every year as the celluloid strip wore out.  It has since been digitised for the TT Centenary and is now available on a DVD. I do have a copy if anyone would like to borrow it. Black and white and somewhat dated but it does show the TT Course and a number of bikes, especially several Velos. Good for a laugh.

Photographers capturing the action at Ballaugh Bridge, 1965.
I remember one year when camping with the Vincent and Steib that the weather was not too kind and I didn’t appreciate camp cooking so went across the road to a Café. I was ‘sent to Coventry’ for not entering  into the spirit of motorcycling! Another time we were out late at night returning to Digs with the 1918 4 HP Douglas and Sidecar – again acetylene lighting which kept going out due to the rain. We had to go up a sharp steep hill in Douglas but the belt would not drive in the wet. Guess who had to get out and push!

Camping at the IOM TT in 1965, the bikes are 250cc Royal Enfield, 1928 Douglas, 1936 Manx Norton and Chater-Lea sidecar outfit.Another time I had my 1936 Chater-Lea with Box AA (Automobile Association) sidecar. A very slow and underpowered 545 CC side valve (fixed head) engine. Already on low compression, the AA fitted extra low comp pistons so that their scouts (Road Patrol Officers) would not  travel too fast!

Great photo of David riding the Chater-Lea outfit at the IOM in 1965. The RAC used them until 1936 in the UK, this was one of the last of them.
I was proceeding along the Promenade in Douglas when there was an awesome grinding noise and I came to an abrupt stop in the middle of the road. The 3 speed Albion gears had split and deposited a huge dollop of mixed grease and oil on the bitumen. I had nothing to clear up the mess and to this day wonder who might have come to grief as a result.

The number of bikes on the Island was amazing. I recall seeing a very rare Vauxhall 4 cyl at one time.  The Manx people made us most welcome at a time when motorcyclists were not popular on the mainland. I am told there were more pedestrian accidents after the TT when the bicycle races were on as folk didn’t hear them coming!

Laxey Water Wheel was awesome but not in working order in my time. I believe it is now fully restored. I often wonder if the giant cuckoo clock is still in the pub at Tholt-y-Will.

Bob Main on his 1918 4hp 600cc Douglas, Geoff Preece, and David Main on his 1929 KN Velocette.
They are good memories and happy times despite breakdowns. I recommend anybody to go. It is a unique experience to see courageous riders racing on public roads.

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