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16th September 2011


VMCC Founders Day, 2011
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What might happen if you crossed a classic bike show with an old-style public school open day? Richard Jones imagines the outcome...

For those of you brought up with Frank Richards' Billy Bunter books or Anthony Buckeridge's Jennings the concept of Founders' Day will be very familiar. For the rest of you, who are either far too young or didn't enjoy these now politically incorrect books, you will need to imagine a minor public school, perhaps called Greybury Court, set in middle England at some point in the late 1950s. The world is still black and white, Watch With Mother is on the television (providing you give the set time to warm up) and politicians not only wore ties but also hats. The building which houses the school dates from the 17th century and is set in its own rolling parkland, surrounded by stout fencing to keep the boys from escaping the benefits of the English Public School System - Latin, cold showers and corporal punishment.

It is the dog days of the summer term - that period between the end of examinations and the start of summer holidays. Pupils, staff and parents are gathered to celebrate the school's Victorian founder who acquired the building with the profits of his factories and started an establishment to provide boys with the education he hadn't received from the university of life. Prizes are awarded to boys who have succeeded academically or in the field of sport; parents have picnics and are assured by be-gowned masters that their little dears are all doing very well; examples of the boys' work is exhibited to demonstrate that the school fees are well spent. There's a game of cricket being played on Big Side (a field) between the First XI and the Old Boys XI and you can hear the distant sound of leather on willow (I wonder what happened to young Willow?)

VMCC Founders' Day held in July at Stanford Hall does bear some resemblance to this period scene. The event is organised annually by the Taverners section of the VMCC, which has the distinction of being the only non-geographically named section (apart from the Racing Section ) within the Club. The name arises from the time in the late 1950s when the motorcyclists of the Leicester Vintage Club split away from the four wheel enthusiasts and established their own new club in the Newarke Tavern in Leicester.

Stanford Hall is a beautiful late 17th century William & Mary house set in rolling parkland, although the fences are not as stout as at Greybury Court. People gather to celebrate the world of classic and vintage motorcycles, with a Road Racing Machines theme for 2011, in glorious sunshine. Prizes are awarded for outstanding and different examples of machinery and whilst there isn't a cricket match, owners and riders do get the opportunity to ride around an arena to display their machines in motion, albeit not necessarily for long or using the engine.

Picnics were being consumed although there was also a plentiful supply of burgers and other forms of 21st century provender. The entry fee was only £6 and I have to say we definitely received our money's worth.

Headless crowd in background look on with interest... Edwardian Hells Angels' Machine of Choice

If this machine were at the Greybury Founders' Day then it would have been built by the physics master with the help of hordes of enthusiastic boys in what little spare time they had, some who are still recovering from burns in the school infirmary. Instead I believe the Haleson steam motorcycle is owned by Mr Alan Emuss of Staffordshire and dates from the period between 1903 -1914 when these machines were being manufactured. However I have been unable to confirm this and I would be extremely interested to hear more of the Haleson if anyone has details. On the day the Haleson, despite a great deal of attention and tinkering, refused to play and was last seen leaving the arena with its owner to be displayed in static glory.

Headless man rides on... A Matchless ride

This young gentleman bravely rode two of his machines around the arena, seen here on his 593cc 1930 V4 OHC Matchless which sported 26 bhp and cost £75 when new. I say 'bravely' as the master of ceremonies made some uncalled comments in respect of the robustness of the saddle springs. The Latin master at Greybury was renowned for his cutting remarks - a man whose bite was inestimably worse than his bark.

Nice hat... Pedal power is always an alternative

This 1910 Royal Enfield 297cc V twin was delivered to H H Lewton of Wotton under Edge in the May of the year it was manufactured. It passed through a series of owners, was restored between 1982 and 1984 and was ridden by Reg Eyre in the 1996 Pioneer and Banbury runs. The present owner, Mr Tony Lockwood, bought it in 2010 and also completed the same two runs in 2011. Unfortunately it currently has trouble with some of its bearings - I know the feeling - so Tony decided discretion was the better part of valour and pedalled around the arena.

Nice hat... Ride 'Em Cowboy

The avant-garde Art master at Greybury Court was always known for being innovative in both his dress and approach to life. He would indeed have had one of those new-fangled Japanese machines although, as we all knew in the Common Room, they would never catch on. This gentleman's Honda was in excellent condition and made a pleasant contrast to the British machinery in the arena.

Nice concentration...

The headmaster at Greybury also rode a Rudge - a stern man but always fair and, apparently, in his day a bit of a racer although he would never admit it now.

Classic Hondas on Right Now......

Nice hat, part II... Style and charm - the trike is also eye catching

This charming lady rode a Skootamota bringing a moment of feminine style to the otherwise male dominated proceedings. The Skootamota was designed by Grenville Bradshaw and manufactured between 1919 - 1922 by Gilbert Campling Ltd on the Isle of Wight. The 123cc single cylinder engine was mounted above the back wheel and final drive was by chain. I can only assume that rider knew this screed would be a period piece and dressed accordingly - perspicacity as well as elegance.

I bet Matron would have something to say about what these two are wearing...

...I mean neither of them have polished their shoes, for a start. The AJS 7R boys in full flight

The school AJS 7R Owners Society is chaired by the History master and the boys are strictly monitored as there is a tendency to go charging around the rugby pitch in the style of Mr Stanley Woods or that newcomer Mr John Surtees. This gentleman and his co-rider were extremely well behaved and displayed none of the behaviour we have come to expect from the Lower Sixth…

You can almost *taste* the crowd's interest...

That's Robbie Williams wearing Hi-Viz in the back ground. He's let himself go. Rotary Nortons going around - as they do

A father and son team winning this year's Westworth cup for engineering excellence by producing two of the most attractive rotary Nortons seen on Big Side for many a year!

Can't tell boys from girls these days... What happened to the school dress code

However all good things eventually come to an end; as the boys were sent to do "prep", masters disappeared to the common room for a well-earned sherry and half an hour with the Times crossword. Parents walked through the lengthening shadows to collect their cars,

I see a photo like this, and I want to know what colour the vehicle was... Young Morgan's parents ride home

...and it became obvious that Morris-Minor junior had once again sold Morris-Minor senior's Velocette to an auto jumble trader.

Bring back colour, that's what I say.. Boys will be boys

Roll on next year - perhaps they'll have a cricket match too?

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There are more photos from Founders Day on the school Flickr site

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