‘Great Scots’ – Tommy Robertson

Continuing our series of articles of Scottish off-road personalities ‘Great Scots’, we now are pleased to bring you the story of Tommy Robertson.

Tommy Robertson on Inshriach in the 1953 SSDT

Tommy Robertson (200 DMW) on Inshriach (also known as Creag An Eilein) in the 1953 Scottish Six Days Trial. A section that Robertson himself helped discover and was put in the event.

Tommy Robertson is a well-known name known to many of our more senior competitors in Scotland.

He was a time-served joiner by trade and worked most of his life with D. B. Gunn (Builders) Ltd of Edinburgh, which was established in 1949, rising to ‘foreman joiner’ with the firm.

He was a life-long member of the Edinburgh Southern MC, a club that was established in 1924 and met in ‘The Southern’ bar, a public-house in 26 South Clerk Street in Edinburgh’s South-Side, hence the name.

Tommy on his AJS 350 16MC at a trial near WesBathgate, West Lothian around 1951

Tommy Robertson on his AJS 350 16MC at a trial at Westfield near Bathgate, West Lothian around 1951.

Tommy was not only  a keen trials rider and no slouch on a scrambles machine either as he was runner up in the Scottish Championships in 1954 to Ludo More. He also rode in road hill-climbs which were popular just after the war.

Tommy Robertson on his Triumph Twin at the Bo'ness Hill Climb on 9th August 1947

Tommy Robertson on his Triumph Twin at the Bo’ness Hill Climb on 9th August 1947, the helmet is the Edinburgh Southern MC which was worn by club members in ‘speed’ events.

Thomas Robertson served in the British Army during the Second World War in India and Burma, but it was never a subject that he could be drawn on to discuss in conversation, this may have been due to the senseless atrocities that occurred on the so called ‘Burma Railway’.

Tommy Robertson on Kinloch Rannoch in the 1953 Scottish on his Edgar Brothers supplied 200 DMW

Tommy Robertson on Kinloch Rannoch in the 1953 Scottish on his Edgar Brothers supplied 200 DMW

Robertson’s peers were many of the best Scottish riders of the era, Geoff Smith; Jimmy Hutchins, Jackie Williamson to name but three.

A life-long sporting motorcyclist, Tommy’s favourite event was without question the Scottish Six Days Trial and indeed Tommy was a club scout, who investigated sections for the Edinburgh & District organising club.

Tommy on his AJS in the 1950 Scottish Six Days on his AJS. This is 'Kinloch Hourn', no longer used a long climb into the hill from Loch Hourn.

Tommy on his 350 AJS in the 1951 Scottish Six Days on his AJS. This is ‘Kinloch Hourn’, no longer used, it was a long climb into the hills from Loch Hourn down in the valley. A breath-taking photograph.

In the 1970’s Tommy Robertson was the ‘number-plate official’ for the event, He issued the riders’ metal number plates at the weigh-in at Gorgie Market and took them from the riders at Blackford Hill, returning their deposit at the event finish, up to 1976 when the event moved to Fort William the year after and riders had to make their own numbers.

Arthur lampkin gets his 250 BSA 'weighed in' at the 1961 SSDT. Tommy Robertson is on second right examining paperwork

Arthur Lampkin gets his 250 BSA ‘weighed in’ at the 1961 SSDT. Tommy Robertson is on second from the right, looking down examining paperwork.

Tommy was also a machine examiner, who painted the daubs of special paint on the sealed items for the SSDT at the Gorgie Weigh-in.

In fact Robertson was one of a team of section scout riders who discovered and reconnoitered ‘Inshriach’ , also later known as Creag An Eilein near Aviemore on the Rothiemurchus Estate which was used from 1953 to 1967 before National Park status for the area forbade it’s future use.

Tommy served for many years on the management committee of the Scottish ACU and being a tradesman, in those days who had no pay when off work due to a sporting injury, was the prime-mover to get rider’s insurance cover as part of their entry fee established with the then specialist motor-sport insurers brokers CT Bowring & Muir-Beddall.

Tommy and his wife, Mary had a son, Ian Thomas who also rode in trials, and was also a member of the Edinburgh Southern MC, like his father before him. The family home was at Bonnyrigg, near to Edinburgh in Midlothian.

Tommy Robertson was a very quiet, reserved individual with a commanding knowledge of the sport in Scotland. It is safe to say, when Tommy Robertson spoke, people listened to him carefully. One of the old-school competitors and officials who said little, but knew a great deal!

Tommy at home on his vintage AJS in the 1980's, the bike still owned by his son Ian.

Tommy at home on his vintage AJS in the 1980’s, the bike still owned by his son Ian.

Trials Guru wrote: Many riders were encouraged to join the Southern and take up either scrambles or trials and in fact my late father T. Arnott Moffat was one of them.

© – All text copyright: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing, John Moffat 2015.

Trials Guru would like to thank Ian T. Robertson, Lasswade for the use of the photographs accompanying this article.

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