My Dad first got me interested in motorcycles, or motorbikes if you want to be all new fangled, from my early teens I think. We had an old 50cc Suzuki and an NSU Quickly (it wasn’t) moped that we rode around our garden and woodland. Dad used to take us to motorcycle trials all over Northumberland.
I think Dad had around 40 bikes, none restored but he always meant to do them. Many of them would stir the soul of enthusiasts these days; Norton, Vincent, Triumph, Sunbeam, Scott, Matchless and others.
I later progressed to a 125cc Gaunt Suzuki then a 125cc Alta Suzuki, both from Peter Quinn in Gateshead. There was a trials school at Hedley Drift near Stocksfield; I attended that and had a lot of fun. When Dad went to motorcycle trials on his Bultaco 325cc Sherpa, my brother and I would take our bikes and ride around; some of the parts between ‘sections’ seemed worse than the sections themselves.
We used to holiday in Palnackie at a farm called South Glen. The farmer and his wife, Ackie and Helen Bell, became great family friends…I still see Helen to this day. We used to take our bikes up on holiday and ride around the hillside near the farm; we never damaged anything on the farm.
At 16 I took two crash damaged Suzuki AP50s from Jimmy Hardy’s garage in Crawcrook and made them into one, like new bike…it had only 1,500 miles on the clock. I had no keys for it so I gingerly contacted the previous owner of the main bike I’d used. She still had the keys and sent them to me…I rewarded her with a big box of chocolates. Next was a visit from the local CID to make sure the bike was as it should be and not a ringer…it had been originally written off. I spent ages chatting with them about the work I’d done on the bike.
We even appeared on BBC’s Swap Shop with the bikes, back in the mid 1970s. I remember Madeleine Stringer was Miss UK and was also on the show that day. I still have the signed photo somewhere…Google says it was 1977.
Once 17 came along, I got a car…and motorcycles took a back seat as life moved along.