In May 1935, 80 years ago now, Robert ‘Bob’ MacGregor rode his factory Rudge motorcycle to victory in the annual Scottish Six Days Trial, little did he know at the time, that he was to be the only Scotsman to have ever won the event and his ‘record’ would last well into the following century! MacGregor also won the same event three years previously when he became the first individual winner of the event. Bob was Rudge mounted for the 1932 event, although he did also ride for the Raleigh factory in reliability trials on previous occasions.
Bob lived in Killin on the shores of Loch Tay and ran a successful greengrocers business in the centre of the Perthshire village. He was well-known locally and respected as a sporting personality of his time.
MacGregor would regularly ride his machine from his home to the Coventry factory for refurbishment works and ride the machine home again, taking in a national event on the way. There were no works vans or motorhomes in those days so any travelling was done on the machine you competed on.
After his SSDT victory, Bob continued to compete as a national rider until the outbreak of the second world-war in 1939 when he was enlisted into the British Army for a specific purpose, this venture was led by Graham Walker, the father of sports commentator Murray Walker. MacGregor became a motorcycle instructor and trained many hundreds of despatch riders or ‘Don-R’s’ as they were referred to by the military. Bob delivered training for off-road riding, using his trials riding skills to great effect. It was when he was in the army that he met and struck up a friendship with Hugh Viney who was a Sergeant and would become one of the post-war winners of the SSDT when he rode for AJS. MacGregor did ride a few more SSDT’s post-war but a new breed of younger men emerged in the sport such as Artie Ratcliffe, Johnny Brittain, Jeff Smith, John Draper and of course Hugh Viney, who had won the first post-war SSDT in 1947 at his first attempt. Since 1935, there have been only two Scotsmen to secure ‘podium’ positions, Bob MacGregor and Kinlochleven’s Gary Macdonald, who came third in 2003. Macdonald is the most successful Scottish trials rider of all time, having won ten Scottish titles and a British title.
MacGregor’s name lives on in Killin, firstly as the greengrocers business still bears his name although not now under family ownership. Secondly as an annual trial is held there, run by the enthusiastic Bob MacGregor Motorcycle Club, an event conceived by the local painter, decorator and trials rider, Bobby Lafferty. The event is always over-subscribed and supported by riders from far-afield. Thirdly, there is an annual road run around the area, organised by the Cumbria Classic Club headed up by trials and scrambles rider Peter Remington from Kendal. This year, former SSDT Clerk of Course Mark Whitham will be riding a 1935 Rudge ‘Special Competition’ model in the road run, an almost identical machine to that which MacGregor won the SSDT eighty years previously.
MacGregor’s daughters regularly attend the main trial event to remember their childhood in the village and of course their father’s achievements in the sport of motorcycle trials. Gary Macdonald’s life-time ambition is to break Bob MacGregor’s SSDT record, now in its eightieth year – will he do it in 2015? We shall have to wait and see! Article Copyright: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing, John Moffat 2015 Photos by kind permission: – Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven – Trials Guru Archive – Edinburgh & District Motor Club Ltd – Archive – Mark Whitham