Moi and I had attended junior school together and had become friends, but as I had moved on to high school to waste more of everyone’s time two years before Moi, we had sort of drifted into our separate worlds. Moi was in the clever class, and they were discouraged from mingling with the lower orders where I belonged.
However, after I had been released from school in 1962, and before we left Golcar when my parents bought their chippy, Moi had visited her friend and clever classmate who happened to live next door to me on many occasions with the hope of catching my eye. But apparently, I was never in; off with my mates no doubt.
Reunited by babysitting
I had been babysitting for my sister Rhondda for quite some time, but I was now a greasy biker with mates and bikes, drinking and biking, tinkering with bikes, generally having a great time – and have I mentioned biking? And so it was becoming difficult to tie me down to babysitting anymore. However, Rhondda came up with a cunning plan. She asked her mate Carol if her sister Moira would be brave enough to accompany me on a particular Friday night as an incentive. This was of course the very same Moi of my previous life.
We both remember the moment I picked her up from her home on Bolster Moor. Her dad answered the door and eyed me up and down – heaven knows what the poor chap thought. He asked me to wait at the door. I was in my favourite biker’s lumber jacket and tight jeans, leaning against the outside doorframe trying to look my coolest. Moi then appeared along the corridor in a vision of loveliness.
They had just completed a contest at their place of work for Miss Heathhouse Mill 1965, a far cry from Miss World perhaps but just as creepy. Moi came second behind the girl who was the personal secretary of the owner of the mill, the senior judge. Who’d have thought it?
All the babysitting duties were carried out that night without a problem and a very nice time was had by all. Rhondda had again hidden the biscuits but she was rubbish at this secrecy thing, and just to show my appreciation, and allowing Rhondda to also show her appreciation for the free babysitting, Moi and I thought it right and proper to eat them all – which was why Rhondda hid them in the first place. And so it went on.
An invitation bravely accepted
Us biking mates had arranged to attend the Oliver’s Mount race circuit in Scarborough a week later, so I asked Moi if she was willing to test her bravery even further and be my pillion passenger. Although she had never ridden on the back of a bike before that babysitting evening, she seemed to look forward to the opportunity of clinging onto my virile and manly body and so took little persuading. Arrangements were made for helmet and jacket and off we went.
Oliver’s Mount just outside Scarborough was never my favourite circuit. I felt that there were few places for the spectators to get a good view, but it was the closest to Huddersfield and many of my heroes raced there, among them Mike Hailwood, John Cooper, Phil Read, Bill Ivy, Jim Redman and John Surtees. So this more than made up for the lack of viewing points.
Named after Oliver Cromwell, it is the only public road race circuit in England but is little more than an undulating twisty service road. It was opened as a race circuit in 1946 as a way of welcoming back the military after WW2 and cashing in on the positive feelings following six years of hostilities. It’s 2.43 miles long and most of it is so narrow that overtaking even on a push bike is challenging. But it was very popular in the 60s.
A carefree time – if you were young
So off me and about eight other biker mates and their present companions went to the ‘Cock O’ The North’ meeting on Saturday 5 June 1965. This was one of the not to be missed meetings on the biking race calendar at that time.
We didn’t have a care in the world. Our parents blamed everything on ‘The Bomb’: climate change, the lack of reliable drinking water during the summer – or was it too much rain? I forget now – electricity power cuts, workers’ strikes and stillborn spring lambs were all blamed on the hydrogen bomb. Dozens were being tested during the 50s and 60s, mainly by the US and the USSR. But that was for fuddy-duddies to worry about; we couldn’t have cared less. We had biking and having a great time to think about.
Moi gets the hang of it
I gave Moi careful instruction on the techniques of pillion riding: “Stay sat behind me when leaning around the bends and cling on tightly. Try to relax and enjoy the experience as much as possible”. All went well until we came to the first roundabout. I leaned left to enter the roundabout but Moi had forgotten the instructions and stayed upright, I had to lean the bike further to compensate the balance, at which point Moi then remembered the technique and belatedly followed me down just as I was trying to lift the bike upright to negotiate the roundabout itself. We passed each other on the way …
Then Moi remembered that she should be behind me and dragged herself up right just as I was trying to lean left to negotiate the exit – and we passed each other again. Luckily there was a straight bit of road for us to sort out the seesaw pendulum effect of two people going in opposite directions all the way round a roundabout. My mate Tony who was riding just behind us later described it as two reeds swaying in the breeze in opposite directions and said that he was sure we were heading for the tarmac.
But all was well with the world. We got to Scarborough and home again without further mishap and in fact that was the one and only time Moi got it wrong.
Marriage and motorcycling adventures
Over the following 18 months we had what could be described as an adventurous relationship until the run-up to our marriage on Boxing Day 26 December 1966, which gave us both an overnight opportunity to grow up. Our adventures then confined themselves to building a stable relationship, saving for a mortgage and, if the Gods would permit, starting a family. However, we continued motorcycling until Rachel was born two and a half years later.
We have travelled thousands of miles since and the only time I fell off with someone on the back was half a mile from home about a month after we were married, and Moi was not to blame in the slightest. It was a classic encounter with a car driver who didn’t see a bike coming and pulled out from a side street.
It was a glancing blow and I tried to recover the situation but couldn’t. The bike took me down and I head-butted the road, where I lay unconscious with blood coming from head and facial cuts and abrasions. Moi had got away with a bruised knee. Strangely enough, Moi got more compensation from the insurance for her bruised knee than I received for my head wounds and concussion. Presumably, the reasoning behind this was that Moi was a 17-year-old girl and my injuries were in a part of my body where any damage would not be noticeable.
One of Moi’s claims to fame is that she was nearly run down by Mike Hailwood while she was wondering aimlessly around Oliver’s Mount paddock following his lap of honour after winning yet another race. He was world champion at the time and I for one would have been so proud if he had left tyre-marks up her jacket, without hurting her of course. I would have framed the jacket.