Tribute: Allie ‘Beag’ Cameron – the quiet man from Fort William

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Allie ‘Beag’ Cameron 1940 – 1998 – Photo: Jimmy Young, Armadale

Alexander John Cameron, known to the townsfolk of his native Fort William as ‘Allie Beag’ or just ‘The Beag’, this Gaelic nickname means ‘Wee Allie’.

At the Parade Garage in Fort William, where he served his apprenticeship as a mechanic, there were two ‘Allies’ so there had to be a distinction and it stuck with him for the rest of his life. Allie was originally inspired by watching the Scottish Six Days and ventured into trials at eighteen years of age, when he could afford a James Commando in 1958. This beginner bike soon made way for a brand new 20TA Greeves, purchased from Duncan’s of Brechin a year later.

Allie progressed to a 250 DOT in 1961, which, he rode for only one year. Next season, Allie bought the ex- Jimmy Hutchins Tiger Cub and had it reduced in capacity by the factory at Meridan with the intention of winning the 150cc cup at the Scottish, which he did. Henry Vale, the competitions manager at Triumphs had a Terrier 150cc barrel fitted to reduce the capacity accordingly. That particular Cub had a twenty-one inch front wheel and a widened swinging arm to accommodate a full four-inch section trials tyre at the rear.

Allie Beag1

A smiling Allie gets ready for an event at Todholes Farm, Fintry in 1963 – Photo: Jack Williamson, Rosewell.

His Scottish 150cc capacity win on the Triumph soon attracted the attention of the Greeves factory at Thundersley, Essex and Allie received factory support in the shape of a 149cc bike (XWC 264) for the 1963 Scottish.

Cameron lifted the cup a second time for the loss of 120 marks with his closest rival being Gordon Farley, on a Triumph supported by Jock Hitchcock, who dropped 174 marks. Greeves were happy with the result and used it to best effect in their adverts in the motorcycle press for many months later.

1963 Allie Cameron Achintee

On his special Greeves 149 (XWC264) winning the 150cc cup at the Scottish for his employers, Greeves Motorcycles of Thundersley, Essex; seen here on Achintee in the 1963 Scottish Six Days Trial. Photo: Mrs Florence Cameron, Fort William.

The same year Allie was runner up in the Scottish Trials championship, two points behind Jackie Williamson. By 1967,  ‘Beag’ had two special firsts, four first class and four capacity class wins to his credit in six rides in the Scottish Six Days Trial.

Allie was offered a job as mechanic in the competitions department at Thundersley, preparing the factory trials and scrambles machinery for the works riders. He also prepared many of the special ISDT machines including those supplied to Thames Ditton dealers Comerfords. Allie worked in company with John Pease on the ISDT bikes.

1965 Allie Cameron

An accomplished mechanic, Allie fettles his 150cc Greeves factory machine at Gorgie Market in May 1965 (NEV5C). He won the 150cc cup on 169 marks. Photo: Mrs Florence Cameron, Fort William.

Pease who as well as working at the factory was selected on many occasions as a British Trophy team member. The duo fabricated the special engine cradles to carry centre stands, rock guards and the various brackets to carry headlamps, number plates and compressed air bottles for tyre inflation.

Allie became friends with Don ‘D.R.’ Smith who came up to the factory once a week for testing and development discussions. ‘Beag’ would go practising at Kelvedon Hatch near Brentwood with Smith who was one of Britain’s top trials riders, by then, European Champion.

1968 LEP Allie Cameron

Allie Cameron on Loch Eild Path in the 1968 Scottish on his factory Greeves (XHK14F). Allie won the Henderson Challenge Trophy for the best performance by a member of the promoting club. – Photo: Alistair MacMillan / West Highland News Agency, Fort William (with permission of current copyright holder: Anthony MacMillan, Fort William – All rights reserved)

‘Beag’ knew all the ‘works boys’ and was highly regarded as not only an excellent spanner-man but as a handy rider in the Wessex Centre ACU. He spannered for Bryan Goss and many of the other factory motocross riders.

In 1971, Allie decided to return home to Fort William and took up a position with the area’s largest employer, The British Aluminium Company (‘BA’ for short). He wasn’t home long when he received a call from Jim Sandiford offering him a job at Sandiford’s Montesa import business. Allie thought long and hard but decided to stay at the BA.

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1971 SSDT – Allie ‘Beag’ Cameron (247 Montesa Cota) on Loch Eild Path. Allie took home the ‘Henderson Challenge Trophy’ for the second best performance by a member of the promoting club, and was 24th position in the trial with a special first class award on 126 marks. – Photo: Ian Robertson, Midlothian

Having been diagnosed as having Hodgkin’s disease, the Beag had to restrict his trials riding but never lost his enthusiasm for motorcycling. He rode up until the late 1970’s and was a willing observer at both the annual Ian Pollock Memorial Trial and Pre-65 Scottish.

Sadly, Allie died in the November of 1998. His funeral at the Duncansburgh Church, Fort William was filled to overflowing, such was the popularity of the little man known affectionately as ‘The Beag’ to the towns-folk.  Many modern day competitors and “old hands” converged on the Fort to pay their last respects.

Allie Beag

Allie Beag at home in Fort William in 1996 with the trophies he won during an accomplished career in trials. Photo: John Moffat

Article: Copyright – John Moffat -2005

Photos:

  • Jimmy Young, Armadale
  • Alistair MacMillan / West Highland News Agency, Fort William (with permission of current copyright holder: Anthony MacMillan, Fort William – All rights reserved)
  • Mrs. Florence Cameron, Fort William
  • John Moffat / Trials Guru
  • Jack Williamson, Rosewell

For more on Scottish Six Days Trial click: Here

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