Jack Williamson was Scottish Trials Champion in 1962,1963 and 1964 and was a regular competitor in the annual Scottish Six Days Trial. In the 1958 event, Jack rode a 500cc Ariel HT5 registered OSG443, an Edinburgh BC registration. The photo appeared on facebook recently which sparked off an interest in the machines history. The bike had been undergoing some restoration work at Loch Ness Restorations at Dochfour just outside of Inverness. The next to current owner, Terry Fullarton contacted Jack as the current owner, Phil Marshall wanted to know more about the bike’s history.
The bike had at one time been the property of former Scottish Scrambles Champion, George Hodge of Abington, Lanarkshire and he used it regularly in the late 1960’s to check his flock of sheep on his hill farm for many years before selling the Ariel.
Williamson used the bike in the 1958 Scottish and at this year’s Pre-65 Scottish at Kinlochleven, Jack was re-united with the Ariel 56 years after he rode the SSDT on the machine.
Former Greeves works rider, Bill Wilkinson, the last British rider to win the SSDT on a British built bike (1969) was on hand to witness the re-union of bike and rider.
Jack was delighted to be acquainted once more with his old trials iron and took it for a short ride around the old Aluminium factory grounds. In the meantime, The Guru has suggested that George Hodge be contacted as he will be instrumental in filling in the gaps of the machines history.
More on Jack Williamson:
Jack was brought up in Newtongrange, Midlothian and worked in the family business as a TV and radio mechanic.
His first trials machine was a 350cc Matchless demobbed from the War department and converted for off road use. However young Williamson fettled the bike so well that he didn’t want to use it, so he sold it for a profit and purchased a genuine “comp” model in 1948, the year he started competing. His mentors were Tommy “Tuck” Robertson and Jimmy Hutchins, both respected trials and scrambles riders of the post-war era.
Jackie was a natural rider but he took competition seriously enough to practice every day, at lunchtime he would spend an hour on the “pit bing” of the Lady Victoria mine. As the years progressed, Jack became a local sporting personality in that mining town and occasionally a bus was hired to take his supporters to watch Jackie ride in a trial or scramble far a field.
By 1951, Jack had won the Scottish Experts Trial, which at that time was a qualifying event for the British Experts.
Jack’s successes were constantly reported in the Edinburgh Evening News and in 1964 the paper did a feature on him by then, had won most of Scotland’s national fixtures and was three times Scottish Trials Champion, 1962,1963 and 1964.
The amassed collection of trophies accompanying the article was quite breathtaking, fortunately his awards are preserved and we can show Jack in a recent photograph with them laid out with a magnificent shot of him in the 1963 SSDT on ‘Grey Mare’s Ridge’ as a centre-piece.
In the 1963 season detailed below, Jack achieved the following results in that year’s events, 250cc Greeves mounted, it gives a fascinating insight into a rider’s year in trials competition. The events marked (TC) denote a championship round:
January 27, Dundee – (Trial cancelled because of Snow)
February 17, Stevenston – Runner-Up
February 24, Perth – (Trial cancelled)
March 3, Edinburgh Southern Coronation Trial (TC) – 1st Equal
March 10, Montrose (TC) – 5th
March 17, Falkirk John Bull (TC) – Runner-up
March 24, Dunfermline – 7th
March 31, Lanarkshire Valente Trial (TC) – 5th
April 7, Kirkcaldy – Runner-up
April 14, Lochaber Spring Trial (TC) – Winner
April 21, Dundee – 3rd
May 6 to 11, Scottish Six Days – 36th & Best Scot, Best E&D member
May 19, Kinross – 4th
May 25 & 26, Lion Two-Day Trial – 3rd
June 9, Edinburgh St. George, Colonial Trial – Winner
July 28 Edinburgh St. George News Trial – (Restricted to Non Experts & Novice riders only – no entry)
August 18, Mercury Trial – (On holiday, no entry)
August 25, Lion Trial – (On holiday, no entry)
August 31 – September 1, Highland MCC Two-Day – Runner-up
September 8, Edinburgh St. George Mirylees Trial – (Unwell, no entry)
September 15, Loch Lomond – (Unwell, no entry)
September 22, Edinburgh Southern Scottish Experts – (Trial cancelled)
September 29, Perth (TC) – 3rd
October 1, CSMA Trial – Winner
October 13, Stevenston Ayrshire Trial (TC) – Runner-up
October 20, Dunfermline Campbell Trial – Winner
November 3, Kirkcaldy George Scott Memorial trial (TC) – 4th
November 17, Edinburgh St. George Plaza Trial (TC) – 12th
November 24, Glasgow Lion Trial – Winner
Overall, Jack won that year’s 9 round Scottish Trials Championship.
Jack competed predominantly in Trials but also was a successful scrambler and grass tracker. He even had a go at road racing, encouraged by the late Davie Lamb, Jack changed the handlebars and gearing on his trials A.J.S and raced at the Kirkcaldy Club’s Beveridge Park.
It was Jackie’s rides in the Scottish Six Days that are probably most memorable for Scottish trials fans. He rode the SSDT 25 times over a period from 1948 to 1975 and only failed to finish once due to mechanical failure when riding a 350cc Matchless.
He was best Scotsman in the SSDT on no fewer than six occasions and best Edinburgh and District club member on more occasions than he cares to remember. Jackie rode a vast array of different machines in his career and always moved with the times.
He commenced on a string of AJS, then Matchless, Ariel and BSA four stroke machines. When two-stroke dominance came in he switched to Dot; DMW; Greeves on which he had his three championship titles; Bultaco, Montesa and Ossa. He never owned a Norton but borrowed one from his friend Bobby Neilson to ride in a couple of trials after setting his AJS on fire when it fell over at a Perth event!
By 1968, the SACU had laid plans to field the British Vase team for the 44th International Six Days Trial to be held at Garmisch Partenkirchen, Bavaria in the following year. Jack was selected as one of the Scottish squad by Team Manager, George Baird.
Jackie was 38 years of age but still a fast rider on the rough and had a great depth of experience. Unfortunately the Montesa Scorpion he used broke its gear change selector spring and that put an end to his efforts. His career as a sporting rider was refreshed in the form of what we now call enduros.
And In 1972 Jack, riding a 250cc Ossa finished with a bronze medal and was the sole surviving private British entrant and was awarded the Arthur Prince trophy by the ACU for his efforts.
Jack’s final attempt at the ISDT was in the 1974 event at Camerino, Italy in which he crashed at high speed on a tarmac section suffering concussion, a broken nose and other injuries that would eventually signal the finale to his active riding career, which spanned 27 years, effectively three generations of competitors. Jack had ridden with grandfathers, fathers and sons!
Finally, our article on Jack finishes with a song! Written by enthusiast Harry H. Cook and entitled “Song of the Edinburgh Southern Motor Club, to the tune of Feet Up performed by Guy Mitchell:
“Feet Up, Keep ’em on the footrest,
That’s how to win.
Feet Up, Keep ’em on the footrests,
When the front wheels in.
Ain’t seen a trial like this before,
So darned easy, gonna win some more,
Feet up, keep ’em on the footrests, That’s how to win.
Now I’ve been known to scramble,
And even win a Cup,
And there’s the time I had a spill,
And landed down side up.
And though my bike is not spring heeled,
Gonna beat them all without a fall,
‘Cos I want that shield.
Feet up, keep ’em on the footrests,
Take the section clean,
Feet up, keep ’em on the footrests at berdeen.
Williamson, Hutch and Neilson too,Go to it boys, it’s up to you.
So Feet up, keep ’em on the footrests,
That’s how to win”
© – Article Copyright: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing, John Moffat – 2014
The BSA that got away – POL540G
As mentioned in the Jackie Williamson article above, the Scottish ACU had been granted Vase B team status by the ACU for the 1969 International Six Days Trial at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The SACU is not directly recognised by the FIM as the ACU is their representative at council for the UK as a whole.
The SACU managed to negotiate some machinery from manufacturers, being Dalesman in Otley, Yorkshire for two 125cc Puch engine bikes and BSA for two 250cc Starfires.
The Daleman Puchs were funded by Jim Birrell of Markinch, Fife. Birrell was a haulage contractor and President of the SACU. These bikes were registered by Ernie Page of Page Motors Ltd, Polwarth Crescent, Edinburgh in August 1969 as PSG564H (ridden by Ian D.B. Miller) & PSG565H (ridden by Ernie Page – riding number 162).
The BSAs were supplied by the factory at Small Heath in Birmingham and had been used as marshal’s machines during the 1969 Milk Race which took place throughout the UK and funded by the Milk Marketing Board which was won by Dutchman, Fedor Den Hertog. The event is now known as the Tour of Britain.
SACU secretary & Treasurer, T. A. Moffat volunteered to collect the BSA Starfires from the factory, a round trip of some 600 miles from his home in Bathgate, West Lothian. Moffat had connections in the road haulage industry and British Road Services agreed to ship the Dalesman machines from Otley to their depot at Guildiehaugh, Bathgate for a nominal charge.
Miller and Page collected their machines from Moffat’s home and they set about preparing and running in their mounts for the September event, the machines proved to be too high-geared for the gruelling event. Page’s machine expired mid-week with clutch problems, caused by constantly slipping the clutch to maintain speed on the steep going. Miller also retired on day one with chain adjuster problems and a wayward back wheel.
The BSA B25 Starfires, registered by BSA Motorcycles Ltd on 12 March 1969 were to be ridden by Jimmy Ballantyne, a tax inspector from Newbridge who had ridden the 1968 ISDT at San Pellegrino in Italy, he was allocated POL541G and Jackie Williamson was allocated POL540G. However, Williamson was unhappy at having to convert a road machine into a Six Days trial machine in a short space of time. With a busy business to run in Newtongrange, Williamson went out and bought the Montesa King Scorpion as mentioned in his article. The BSA was subsequently returned to Moffat, unused.
Ballantyne persevered with the BSA and replaced the front forks and wheel with a complete Ceriani unit from his 250cc Greeves scrambler, and the fuel tank sourced from Edinburgh dealers, Edgar Brothers stock of AJS parts. He fitted an AJS Y4 motocross fibreglass unit which was lighter than the steel BSA component. He also had a compartment inserted into the rear of the twin-seat to carry tools and small spare parts.
Unfortunately his preparations were to be in vain, he suffered electrical problems in the event and the machine cut-out completely in a long forestry stage. It refused to start until, in a try-all effort, he switched the headlight on and the bike started. He tried to make up lost time, almost an hour when he was negotiating a long bend when he came face to face with a forestry forwarder machine which had been allowed into the forest thinking that all the riders had been through. Ballantyne threw the bike to the ground in an effort to avoid the huge machine, but suffered two broken legs in the process and the BSA went under the wheels, crushing it badly.
The only survivor from the Scottish squad was Derek Edgar (125cc Puch) who had ridden the 1968 event in Italy and having gained valuable experience, went on to win a silver medal for his efforts.
Post event, BSA insisted that the two machines were returned, POL541G was crated up with Ballantyne’s parts being removed and returned to him and the original front wheel, forks and fuel tank placed in the crate with the remains of the badly damaged Starfire. Williamson’s machine, POL540G was returned on the same lorry to Small Heath, arranged by Moffat.
Happily the ‘unused’ BSA was eventually sold by the factory and to our knowledge still exists as a letter was spotted some years ago in Old Bike mart magazine. The owner was seeking details of the BSA which of course had been registered by the factory and supplied to the Milk Race organisers and ‘Moffat of Bathgate’.
Williamson’s rejection was the effective saving of POL540G, the BSA Starfire, intact and the bike lives on to this day almost 50 years later!
© – BSA POL540G Article Copyright: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing, John Moffat – 2016