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24th December 2008


A Christmas Cracker
Home -> Features -> Opinions and Columns ->

Time for a little nostalgic indulgence. Take a trip back in time to the 1960s as GeofS pays homage to the bikes which could ‘Stop Anything In No Time’...

It was summer, sometime in the late 1960s, on a by-pass that led to the coast, somewhere in England’s green and pleasant land. Jimmy ‘The Triton’ Jones was doing his usual Sunday blast to meet his mates. Down the by-pass, stop at the Beehive Café for a coffee and a record on the jukebox and then a run down to the coast, or into the countryside, to another greasy spoon and a back-road blast.

Jimmy had a superb Triton, hence his nickname. T120 motor, E3134 cams, 750cc conversion etc. It was very well built, with polished alloy tanks and mudguards, a Manx seat, clip-ons and a half fairing. In short, an excellent example of perhaps the most iconic rockers’ bike ever.

Jimmy was travelling fast, well over 70, and enjoying himself. He heard a siren behind him, and quickly glanced over his shoulder. No mirrors to spoil the looks on this bike! He saw, someway behind him the unmistakable white fairing and flashing blue lights of a police Triumph Saint…

Jimmy took a chance on the bike being too far behind him for the rider to read his number plate and cracked open the throttle. He watched the chronometric speedo tick up to 100, 105, 110, 115. He had a little in hand, but it was enough to leave the Saint gasping far behind.

He didn’t slow down but kept the throttle open, as the road was virtually empty of other traffic. He only slowed when he approached the Beehive. There were a couple of dozen other bikes in front of the café, and a quick look over the shoulder showed no sign of the Saint.

He quickly pulled in and parked the hot Triton in the middle of the other bikes. He removed his distinctive blue and white jet helmet and hid it behind a nearby bush. By the time the Saint pulled in a few seconds later, Jimmy had lit a cigarette and adopted a nonchalant pose in the middle of the crowd of other riders, who closed ranks around him.

Now that's what I call a mudguard...

Harry Price, PC 4972, stepped off of the visibly steaming Saint. He lifted his goggles onto the peak of his white corker helmet, and took off his right gauntlet. He looked around the assembled bikes and their riders and passengers. They all looked alike, in blue jeans and black leather jackets, many of the jackets heavily studded and encrusted with badges.

He took out his notebook, and made as if to write in it. He stopped, and looked up. He said, to no-one in particular, ‘ If I asked had someone just ridden in here, wearing a blue and white jet helmet, you’d probably all say “no”, wouldn’t you?’

‘Don’t know what you mean mate’ came back a number of replies, and a laugh from the back.

Harry merely smiled, and said, ‘It’s OK Jimmy, I’ll get you next time, and maybe you won’t be so lucky in getting away. I’ll just remind you all that there is a 60mph limit on this by-pass. I’d like you all to remember that.’

Harry put on his glove and fired up the Saint. He got on and rode calmly and smoothly away.

It left Jimmy a little unsettled, being referred to by name. He was sure that Harry couldn’t have got his number, otherwise he’d have seen the Triton amongst the other bikes, and he was pretty sure that he hadn’t seen him amongst the crowd.

Now that's what I call a mobile phone...

Over the next year or two, Jimmy and Harry played a game of cat and mouse. Jimmy’s luck held, however, and Harry, try as he might, never managed to catch Jimmy either for speeding, or anything else.

Time passed, and Harry was coming to his retirement from the force.

On his last patrol on the faithful Saint, he pulled up at the Beehive. It wasn’t so busy these days, but there were several bikes on the forecourt, including Jimmy’s immaculate Triton. Jimmy was standing next to it. Harry dismounted and walked up to Jimmy and took off his right gauntlet. He held out his hand to Jimmy. Jimmy was slightly taken aback, but shook the proffered hand. Harry said ‘Today is my last patrol Jimmy, and the old girl’s,’ as he gestured towards the gently tinkling Saint. ‘Both of us retire today. I never caught you, and I’ll never forget either. Ride safe.’

With that Harry turned, and remounting his bike, he rode off into the gathering twilight.

Jimmy kept his gleaming Triton over the years, using it a bit less, mostly only on sunny days, or the odd summer evening run down the by-pass. The Beehive closed in the late 70s, like so many others, but in the early years of the 21st century, it was refurbished and re-opened, as a replica of its 1960’s incarnation.

Jimmy started going there again, still a few of the old rocker crowd there, not so many these days, but a good few old British bikes amongst the modern Japanese and European ones.

Police bikes on eBay...

Jimmy’s Triton was well kept, and still good for the occasional ton-plus blast. It was still the same as when he built it, and looked like new. He often reminisced with his friends about the old days, doing the ton down the by-pass and the old-style, firm but fair traffic cops like Harry Price.

It was on such a sunny summer’s evening that Jimmy had a very sobering experience.

He had gone to the Beehive for a coffee with his mates, just like in the 60’. One of his friends brought him back to the 21st century however, by saying; ‘Do you remember Harry Price, the traffic cop on the Saint?’ ‘Well, I heard that he died last week, and his funeral was today.’

Jimmy remembered the handshake all those years ago, and was a little thoughtful when he left the café.

Once on the road, and realising that for once, the by-pass was almost empty, he couldn’t resist a sudden urge. He opened up the Triton, which responded eagerly in the evening sunshine. He watched the speedo as it reached the ton, then, he heard a siren behind him. Cursing inwardly, he looked in the mirror, the only thing he had added to the bike in nearly 40 years, it was easier than looking round behind him these days…

He couldn’t believe what he was seeing, a white-faired Saint was coming up fast behind him, the rider’s face frame by a corker helmet and Mk8 goggles. He was wearing a 1960’s police uniform.

Jimmy’s first instinct was to tug the throttle wide open. No Saint had ever caught his Triton, and none would now!

The Triton’s speedo began to climb. 105, 110, 115, past 115, creeping towards 120. She’d never done much better than 115 before, but in the mirror, the Saint was surely gaining, the rider crouching slightly behind the tall screen. The police rider’s gesture was unmistakable. Pull over.

Jimmy couldn’t believe that any Saint could match his Triton, let alone better her, but this one was definitely gaining. Jimmy had no option but to pull over. The Triton was simply flat out, there was nothing left in reserve.

He pulled into a handy lay-by. The Saint pulled up alongside. Jimmy was already trembling as he recognised the rider’s face. It was undeniably Harry Price, not looking a day older than when he shook Jimmy’s hand nearly 40 years before. Even the collar number, 4972, was the same.

Jimmy was near to fainting as the goggles lifted, and the right hand gauntlet came off. Jimmy knew those gestures and his heart was beating fit to burst out of his chest. A familiar voice asked for his details, and started writing a ticket.

In a daze, Jimmy heard the words of the old style caution, ‘Do you wish to say anything? You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so, but whatever you do say will be put into writing and may be given in evidence.’ Jimmy’s trembling hand took the folded over piece of paper from the officer’s hand, as if in a dream.

His hand was shaking too much to open it as the officer remounted the Saint, and with a single strong kick fired it up and rode calmly and smoothly away into the rapidly descending twilight.

Jimmy sat on his bike, waiting for the shaking to stop. He pulled himself together and opened the ticket. It was blank, except for one word, and a signature. The word simply said ‘GOTCHA!’ and was signed ‘H. Price, PC 4972.

It was all Jimmy could do to continue his short (and slow!) ride home.

He helped himself to a very large neat brandy, and slumped into an armchair, where he sat for quite sometime.

Now that's what I call a gauntlet...

A couple of days later, he was reading the local newspaper when his eyes were drawn to an article header. ‘FULL CEREMONIAL TURNOUT AS CHIEF CONSTABLE AND MEMBERS OF THE FORCE ACCOMPANY EX-COLLEAGUE ON HIS FINAL PATROL’

Jimmy read on: ‘The funeral of well-known and liked ex-PC Harry Price took place today. The cortege was led by Harry’s son, Harry jnr, himself a serving motorcycle patrol officer. Harry jnr. led the parade on a beautifully restored Triumph Saint police motorbike. The bike was in fact the very bike that Harry snr. rode right up to his retirement in the early 1970s.

‘A few years ago, it seems, inspired by listening to his dad’s stories of chasing the ton-up boys along the by-pass, and of one in particular, Harry jnr located the bike lying at the back of a local private garage, after a long search. He lovingly rebuilt the bike, which his dad was able to ride a couple of more times before he died.

‘Harry says the bike is exactly as it was in the 1960s, with everything working as it should, the only difference being in the engine. Apparently, Harry snr. always wanted a bit more go, but was not allowed to touch the engine whilst the bike was in police service, so had to be content with its standard performance. When his son rebuilt it, it was rebuilt to what he describes as ‘full Thruxton specification, and bored from 650 to 750cc’ This it seems, makes the bike much faster.

‘The Chief Constable, who was tutored as a young PC by Harry snr, and remained a close friend, gave permission for young Harry to wear his father’s old uniform and numbers to ride the bike on the day of the funeral, and for the younger Harry to perform a patrol of his father’s old beat, which included the Beehive café on the Welford by-pass, on the Saint.

‘Our reporter spoke to Harry afterwards, who said that the bike performed exceptionally well and that he even had the chance to stop and speak with one of his dad’s old “clients” from the 60s. He said “Dad would have been very proud of that.” He would not be drawn any further on what exactly he meant by that comment. We leave it to the reader’s imagination. Maybe the “old client” would get in touch with this paper and fill us in?’

If you were Jimmy, would you?

Now that's what I call too little, too late...

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