How Did It All Start?
Way back in 1982 Carol said to me ....
"Why don’t you get the old Norton out and do it up for some shows and runs?" That sounded like a good idea to me so at the weekend I dug the old thing out from the back of the garage took off all the blankets and started wielding the spanners. It took about 6 hours and a trip to the supermarket for some boxes to completely strip it and label them.
By mid-1983 the frame had been welded and sprayed, so I took some photos and, as you do, I took them into work at Westlands to bore the pants off my friends. One of those friends was a Dave Partridge who was into Riley Cars. He saw them and suggested I pop up to the fitting shop and see a chap called Len Crane who also had a Norton. On meeting Len for the first time, it was apparent that he was not too sure about this wild haired bloke who wanted to know about his Norton. Dave eventually convinced Len that I was okay and with that I showed him the pictures of my Norton which broke the ice.
I was also friendly with Keith Jackson who worked in the machine shop. Keith had formally worked at the AJS/Matchless works in Plumstead before moving down to the West Country. I used to pop over to see Keith quite often and chat about bikes and racing in particular.
After a while and after many trips between the fitting shop and machine shop, (I did work as well!!); plus a few words from supervisors for yapping, Len, Keith and I decided to ask a couple more people with similar interests and maybe meet up once a month socially to chat/watch a bike video/or go for a ride. We were thinking about half a dozen of us. Well we all asked a couple of people and soon had a dozen. Then it started. I was getting phone calls and people calling round because they'd heard we were starting up a bike club. We three had a chat and decided to go to a pub and start from there. When the number got to 30, we realized we’d have to think again and hire a venue. I had made some little invite slips up and handed them around. This brought in more and more.
I had a word with Cyril Hayward the manager of the Westland Sports Club about hiring a room there. He was a bit hesitant about a bunch of "bikers" coming there, but allowed us to hire the old skittle alley and so a date was set. In the weeks leading up to the meeting Cyril contacted me on many occasions to question me and express his concerns about all these bikers coming. Would there be trouble? Would they be rowdy? Then on the day of the meeting he rang me to get assurance that the "bikers" would not be revving their bikes and doing wheelies around the car park.
So to the night of 17th January 1984. We arrived at the skittle alley to be greeted by the lovely Joan (I used to go to school with her) who was to be our barmaid. She seemed very relaxed and wished us well. She told me that Cyril had been sharing his worries with her as well, but she assured him that all would be well.
People started to arrive and in total there were 92 who turned up! To say we were stunned would be an understatement!
At approximately 8pm the meeting started with a very nervous me welcoming everybody.
We had given everyone a sheet (see below) to make suggestions as to what they would like to do. There were many thoughts and ideas and plenty of discussions about what we should do and after about three hours and with the meeting coming to a close, we decided with a few other people to form a committee and meet the following week.
A few days after that first meeting, we got together and formed a committee, (see insert). We decided to call the club, The Westland British and Classic Motorcycle Club after many discussions about how "Classic" should be defined on the night and the fact that many people who would like to join, didn't have a British bike. The main aim was to encourage friendship with other motorcyclists through their interest and not whether they owned a bike or not.
The first Committee
We did also decide to make an appearance at the forthcoming Bristol Classic Bike Show with a “club" stand the following month.
And so to our first big event, 25 & 26th February 1984, The Bristol Classic Bike Show. When we first decided to attend we didn't know what we were going to do or how we would get there. After a few chats we found club member Gordon Mitchell and he offered to let us put all our bikes and equipment (coffee maker and toaster) in his van. Gordon's bike wasn't ready at that time, but he wanted to help. So, we took Len
Crane's Norton Inter, Mark Hestletine's Vincent Rapide and 1929 Raleigh, Les Sayers BSA M20 ex WD outfit and my old Norton. Keith Jackson had some superb models he had made so they joined us. Phil Mather arranged some show screens from the exhibition department along with some railings and plinths for Keith's models.
After a few meetings, we asked club members for suggestions for a club logo and this is our club logo designed by Gerry Chedzoy in 1984 which was chosen.
It has attracted many comments over the years and even one lady used it as a decoration in Honiton Lace.
Our first club run was well supported with a 35 mile route around the villages and countryside of West Somerset. We also attended many school fetes and meetings around our area and found such a lot of interest in the bikes and people’s memories triggered with sayings like, "I remember riding to work on one of those” or “I did all my courting on one like that!", which resulted in more members joining us.
Clive Cooper joined us after a few months and in the August he organised the first Three Moors Run which ran through Datrmoor, Bodmin Moor and Exmoor around 300 miles in that first year, we stopped every 40 - 50 miles and lunch was at the Jamaica Inn.
We decide to take a few bikes to the International classic Bike show in Manchester in the November. We borrowed a trailer from Westland Engineers (now Garador) and set off with 7 bikes and of course Keith's models. It was a brilliant show, but we noticed that there were only displays of bikes. An idea was already forming in our heads for the following year!
The membership had settled to 63 by the end of our first year and there were plenty of ideas and suggestions for future events. Carol even baked an anniversary cake for our first birthday.
More to follow soon. Tony