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12th August 2004

Huge Old Houses and Old Bikes

Glamis Castle and Duff House each play host to a vintage vehicle rally in the summer months. BikerBabe went along to both and met the 'ultimate 1930s tourer'...

Scotland is home to hundreds of stately homes, castles, and motorcycles. So what better combination than a vintage or classic rally held in the grounds of one of these amazing historical venues? That's obviously what Lord Strathmore of Glamis Castle thought when he gave the thumbs up to the Strathmore Vintage Vehicle Federation 30 years ago. The 'extravaganza', as it is billed, is a two-day event bringing together old, ancient and practically prehistoric machines from both the car and motorcycle worlds.

Glamis is easy to find (even I only missed the turning once), from the north, follow the A90 down to Forfar, turn left, follow the A94 and then take a right, into the castle grounds. Once there, the grandeur of it all hits home; long sweeping drive, bordered on both sides with manicured lawns, then round the corner and wallop! The Big House. Regular visitors to the rally told me that it used to be held in the back garden, comparable to your average football pitch, but this year they decided to move it to the front lawn. Someone whispered something about some archaeological 'things' being found, but don't take that as Gospel.

Talk about stating the Bleedin' Obvious...

I was accompanied by message board regular, Fido. One of the stewards instructed us to park under the trees, out of the way! We paid the rather steep £7 entry, picked up a programme and, bypassing the bouncy castles, headed straight to the bike section. Arranged in the far corner in the shade of some big old trees were two rows of gleaming metal.

Consulting the programme I noted one or two familiar names; Sid Leitch and his infamous AJS Golden Streak. For those of you in the far south, where news might not have reached yet, this is a bike which started out as common or garden sidevalve model, but then Sid altered a few bits and pieces, waved a few spanners at it, and hey presto, it was transformed into an OHV. Sid's ambition was to 'create the ultimate 1930's tourer', and why not? To me, that's what it's all about, this motorcycling lark. It's all very well and good riding a fine old bike, but to be able to turn it into something unique like this would be the best thing in the world.

Sid Leitch and his infamous AJS Golden Streak. Probably.

Another name I vaguely recognised was a chap I'd seen at the Scottish Motorcycle Show at the beginning of the year. Only this time, Mr Stewart was exhibiting his 1961 Matchless trials bike, not the 1922 Carfield Baby K that I'd fallen in love with before.

Disappointingly, there were few owners to be found, so while Fido blatantly ignored the rules and wandered into the enclosed display area, I hovered around the outside, trying to get someone's, anyone's attention. Finally a couple of guys wandered over. One was Steve Crichton, who couldn't help but grin when he said he had had won the Regularity Test on his 1927 AJS Big Port. Nothing strange there you may think, but Steve told me he rides the bike everywhere and in all weathers. Fellow motorcyclists have apparently found this to be a somewhat unusual habit…

It was good to see the family element at the event, someone even younger than me keen to pursue this mad (not to mention expensive) hobby of ours when we're all old and deaf. I managed to get a snapshot of a kid on his grandfather's Norton Model 50. According to the literature, it was a basketcase but now fully restored to factory sheen, and the lad was dead keen to inherit it.

Overall it was a good day out, I think Fido enjoyed it, either that or he enjoyed making me wander round the autojumble in the boiling hot sun! Mad dogs and motorcyclists go out in the midday sun.

From one posh pile to another, some hundred miles up the road to Banff, on the fine north-east coast. To be honest, the coast and the weather were the only things that were fine. I'd heard a whisper that the Duff House rally was going to be poorly attended by two wheelers, seeing as it's primarily a vintage car event, and sadly, it was.

A bonny blue 1962 Ariel Leader.

There were only two bikes entered in the programme; a 1926 Triumph Model P and a bonny blue 1962 Ariel Leader, but then local enthusiast Vic Greig turned up with a handful from his own shed, including a '69 Suzuki TC200 Invader which he's owned for about ten years, a BSA Bantam Super D7 (have I got that right?) [probably. TP] and a rather delicate looking 1938 ladies Sunbeam. This all-original bike, if I can call it that, has an interesting history with it - it was sold to Vic's teacher, a Miss Webster at MacDuff school, from new I think, by a firm called Watkinsons of MacDuff, then sometime later it was unearthed in a local secondhand shop.

Another local lad, Doug arrived with his mad 49cc Di Blasi driven 'thing'. I'm not sure if it was a motorbike or scooter, but I'm sure I'll be corrected next time I see him! Steve (I met him at Glamis, but he's from Fife) turned up on his BSA too - he was just passing. There's not a lot more to tell really, apart from to say that it was organised by the Banff Rotary Club, and I had a good chat with the immediate Past President, Harry Nash, who used to run a Bantam and was thinking of getting back into bikes. This year, proceeds from the weekend are going to be used to support the Africa Mercy Appeal, which will help save lives in many developing countries by providing mercy ships fully equipped with hospital facilities.

Good luck Banff Rotary, and let's hope some more motorcyclists can help support them next year. I would but I don't think the Cub will be finished by then…

Been anywhere nice?


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