Tom the TT Man

Tom Walker – TT Leathers and more!

tom-walker

Former White Helmet team member, Tom Walker in 2012

Trials Guru has been chatting to a Scot who became a well known face in many motorcycle shops during the mid 1970s when employed as a sales representative for the Barnard Castle based trials and motocross clothing manufacturer, TT Leathers International.

It was TT Leathers that pioneered coloured apparel for the sport of trials in 1973 with their RUFRYDA equivalent to the world famous Barbour and Belstaff suits. Whilst these were all of a similar design, TT Leathers introduced both a green and red base colour alternative to the traditional black waxed cotton of the rival producers.

Subsequently they introduced their Vystram two piece suits and one piece summer trials suits from 1975.

jan-1979-whitburn-bultaco-199a

The TT Leathers Vystram trials suit from 1977 brought colour to the sport – Photo: Trials Guru/Moffat Racing

Tom Walker was originally from Ayrshire and joined the British Army, he takes up the story…

Walker: “I met Jim Aird at a motor cycle show in London while I was in the Army and at the time was part of the famous Royal Signals ‘White Helmets’ motor cycle display team. Jim was by then with TT Leathers and also a professional Motocross rider from Kirkcaldy in Scotland. He was a Scottish champion and was making a name for himself having raced CZ and AJS machines for the CZ importers and the AJS factory.

We built up a friendship and I invited Jim across to Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire where the Display Team was based and did much off road riding to train new potential riders for the forthcoming season. Jim came to the gym and cross country riding to strengthen his skills for the forthcoming racing season.

tom-walker-jimmy-aird-catterick-1971

Tom Walker (left) and Jim Aird on Army issue BSA B40 models in 1971 at Catterick. Aird was riding for AJS at this point in time. – Photo courtesy Tom Walker, Harrogate.

A couple of years later, I left the White Helmets team and was in the driver training wing at Catterick and got selected for the British Army Enduro team when I rode in the ISDT, continuing my friendship with Jim and also the boss of TT Leathers, Len Thwaites”.

Len and Jim asked Tom if he would like to work for TT leathers as their first sales representative. After a great deal of thought, he decide to do join the company as his next Army posting was a two year tour of duty in Northern Ireland.

Tom: “Taking my family there, I was never comfortable with, so I decided to leave the Army and join TT Leathers. During this period of contact with Jim, the White Helmets purchased lots of riding gear from the company, such as the ‘RUFRYDA; brand trials clothing, a new invention for off road riding which was very bright and colourful but very hot when wearing it”.

k-hall78-pipeline

K. Hall (Montesa) on Pipeline during the 1978 Scottish Six Days, wearing a TT Leathers Summer Trials one piece suit – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Walker continued: “During my time I also met a Scot called Stan Young and another called John Little who also rode in the ISDT for Scotland, I also met the SACU secretary, Arnott Moffat who was quite involved with the Scottish ISDT effort at that time. I kept up my association with Stan and John and some eight years later when I moved from TT leathers to increase my position in the motorcycle trade”.

jimmy-aird

Jimmy Aird was a multiple Scottish Motocross (Scrambles) Champion before joining Len Thwaites at TT Leathers in 1970. He rode the factory AJS Stormer models and for Alan Clews’ CCM factory. He now is MD of Scott Leathers.

“Many more years on, I became Managing Director of a German shop chain who wanted to set up in the UK, called Heine Gericke. I took the job and developed the company and when I opened the Edinburgh shop in Queens Street. Stan became the shop manager and was for many years a great enduro rider and just a really nice guy”.

“Jim Aird and myself continued in the industry and I also assisted Jim develop his company with Euro Helmets, the AGV importer and we created the brand ‘SCOTT Leathers’ from there it has gone on to be one of the best racing suit manufacturers around”.

“Jim of course is still heading up SCOTT Leathers from Barnard Castle. Len Thwaites is now retired and lives in New Zealand and I am potentially retired and live in Harrogate, North Yorkshire but still active in the motor cycle industry and enjoyed every minute of this fantastic industry”.

When in the White Helmets Display Team, Tom was a Lance Corporal. He was brought up in New Cumnock, Ayrshire. He joined the Royal Signals in 1964 as a driver and served in Herford and Bielefeld, in Germany. His duties as a driver took him all over Europe, often carrying VIPs. He joined the ‘White Helmets’ team in November 1969. Always keen on sports and being a Scot, fond of football.

Copyright: Trials Guru 2016

Images:

  • Courtesy of Tom Walker, Harrogate.
  • Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven
  • Scott Leathers, Barnard Castle

 

3 thoughts on “Tom the TT Man

  1. Tom and Jimmy were wonderful sportsmen and supplied many, many riders with their quality products. I was proud and honoured to wear their TT leathers suits, during my road racing career. They were among the first people to produce bright/safe riding gear for all modes of Motorcycle Sport. Thank you fellas for your great service all those years ago. Tommy Robb.

  2. An interesting article from Tom Walker
    I had the great pleasure of ‘having a go’ on one of their bikes – a big 4 stroke, after their display at the Old Meadowbank Statium in Edinburgh – home of the Monarchs Speedway Team – probably 1967. This pre-dates Tom’s time in the team. Although I was already riding trials, I was completely unknown to them. This is something that would never happen in this day and age!
    Addendum : For those unaware, it’s sadly the late Stan Young. Stan was fatally injured on 18th November 2008 out riding on his Enduro bike, alone in the French/Italian border in the Alps. Unfortunately, it was two days later before he was found. He was a great guy.

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