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Mr Robinson's Memorial Ride

Dave Stevenson

18th October 1998

Last year our preparations for the Dukeries Autumn Event took place in the most glorious Indian summer, which broke on the night before the ride to leave Raymond Robinson's last ride with us shrouded in thick fog.  1998 saw a complete reversal with Saturday's hanging up of signs hampered by heavy rain and freezing, gale-force winds.  The storm blew itself out in the night, however, and as I headed off to repair the ravaged route markers, a clear sky laced with high, thin cloud arched over a lightly frosted earth.  As the sun rose the ground warmed up and left us with a truly lovely autumn motor cycling day-a first for the Dukeries Section.

Twenty-two club eligible machines arrived at the starting point, the second pleasant surprise of the day.  Highest points for style of entry went to Dave Hutton who arrived on his Fordson tractor, which he had driven over from Huddersfield.  NACC marques represented were: Honda, Raleigh, Mobylette, Bown, Puch, Batavus, Mini-Motor, Aquilotto, BSA, NSU, Francis Barnett, New Huson and HEC.  There were two cyclemotors, three autocycles, and seventeen mopeds.  Non-eligible machines were an MZ 250, a Dot and a BSA Gold Flash outfit.  This provided a little unexpected entertainment to the participants and, I have to admit, its rider when, accelerating up the rather steep hill out of the Hemmingfield Club, it cocked its sidecar wheel provocatively some two or three feet above the ground like a desperate dog searching for a lamp post.

The long convoy of bikes departed at 11 o'clock on the 12-mile outward leg to Cusworth Hall.  The first few miles were very impressive with a long string of whirring and popping machines leaving a trail of blue sweet-scented smoke across the yellow and green autumn landscape.  One of the more "unusual" of the entrants, Russell Hart's Hogg, a modified Honda Vision, was one of two machines tackling the hills with a pillion.  Hogg is distinguished by a number of features, not the least impressive of which is a pig's head with flashing eyes which looks like it was cloned by Frank Brzeski in his school lab.  Frank was there in person but, when somebody asked me "Is the end-to-end man here?", I momentarily thought that they were referring to Phil.  Don't ask me why (because the incident is still sub judice).  Actually Mr Nuttall was extremely well-behaved.  It makes such a difference when Linda doesn't give him that second Weetabix.  By the time the Hall was reached the field had stretched with the usual minor breakdowns and because the Maths Adviser was under dire threats of eternal torment if she seized the rebuilt Bown 50.  This was on its first run since its breakdown at Alston on the Coast to Coast in June.  With the usual planning and foresight for which the Dukeries team is renowned, it had been completed with a new piston and rebore the previous lunchtime.

Our entry to Cusworth Hall through a narrow arched gatehouse and down a short drive to the rear courtyard was impressive.  The bikes were lined up under the Georgian splendour of a double staircase while riders drank coffee and hot chocolate in the stable-cafe.  Delays here ensured a staggered re-start on the northerly 16-mile return route.  This was more rural than the run out had been, with the narrow streets of the lovely stone-built Hooton Pagnall providing some genuine English picturesque.  The views from the end of the slow climb towards the most easterly point at Houghton Common, where a permanent road-sign warns of the dangers of "ice for 2 miles", offered a misty blue vision of the Pennine foothills, among which, rather less picturesquely, lurk Barnsley, Rotherham and the unfortunately-named Penistone.

A rather more serious breakdown occurred in Great Houghton when Louise had to abandon Mike Gott to await a rescue.  The organisers were desperately hoping that he would not admit to any of the curious locals that he had been (a) born in Lincolnshire or (b) now lived in Lancashire.  Mike rose to the occasion, however, and gracefully admitting to a connection with Cleethorpes (which, and this illustrates how desperately depressed this part of South Yorkshire has become, counts as a holiday resort round here) was able to borrow a spanner off a Yorkshireman(!) and reactivate his machine.  The impressive guile, cunning and acumen displayed by Mike marked a welcome return to form after a serious bike accident that has kept him and Louise away from our events for 18 months.  It was good to see them back.  A number of members lost the way back despite the signs (sigh) but eventually the entire party entered the Club for a buffet lunch.  This was slightly sparser than planned due to the unexpectedly large turnout but seemed to prove satisfactory.

And then it was the prize-giving.  Had there been an award for furthest travelled it would undoubtedly have gone to Dave White and his wife who had come up from the Midlands.  But there wasn't.  Had there been a prize for leaving your butcher's bike at home and coming on your MZ then Nigel Pearson would have been a dead cert.  Sadly, this too did not come to pass.  The biggest surprise of the prize-giving, however, was that neither Phil "Stick your cross down there guv'nor and I'll let you have a look in me holdall" Nuttall nor Barbara "Let me add that up for you, Big Boy" Smith, erstwhile organisers of these fiascos, won anything at all.  Instead, in what appeared for once to be a completely fair result, Frank Brzeski was voted Best Cyclemotor for his BSA Winged Wheel, Mick Gott received Best Moped for his beautifully restored Raleigh RM4 and Gordon Hindley received Best Autocycle for his pre-war 80cc Levis-engined HEC.  Each took home an inscribed bottle of Chateau Pipi.

Our thanks to Gerry Steer for initiating the event, Brian Crane for acting as back-up, Daves Jackson and Hutton with Gerry (again) for putting on a display of stationary engines (and the tractor), the usual Dukeries tribe for the organisational bits, those who brought autojumbling thingummies, and all those who came along, but most of all thanks to the weatherman.  Have a good six months in that freezing cold shed and we look forward to seeing the whole cast of thousands again in April.

First published, December 1998

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