As a post script to the BSA that Alf rode story, we have great pleasure in disclosing that the machine will have its original registration number returned.
Registered in Dundee in 1959 as JTS139, the number was sold separately from the bike and after negotiations between the owner of the machine and the owner of the registration a deal was done and the BSA had its identity returned. A true happy ending!
Extract from Jeff Smith – Trials Expert, Motocross Maestro (Copyright Motorsport Publications)
The Birmingham Small Arms Company developed a unit construction single cylinder model to be universally known as the C15, which went into production in September 1958.
Having acquired Triumph in 1951 , the C15 was derived from the smaller capacity 199cc Triumph Tiger Cub, BSA was quick to capitalise on the UK trials market by having a C15’T’ model for sale to competition riders for the 1959 season and also a C15’S’ model for scrambling.
The 249cc C15T was supplied with a chromed and painted blue steel fuel tank, full width wheel hubs and lighting kit. Later, many riders fitted Triumph Cub wheels and brakes to reduce weight and a ‘Lyta’ aluminium alloy fuel tank made by Hitchisson of Vauxhall Bridge, London.
The 1959 ‘Golden Jubilee’ Scottish Six Days Trial had a number of the new C15T models entered in the highland classic, but it was not all to be plain sailing as all the factory entered machines were to expire during the week. All save for one, the privately entered C15T of Fort William man Ron Thomson, whose machine was supplied by Duncan’s Motorcycles of Brechin, Angus, near Dundee. It was registered JTS139 and it survived the rigours of the SSDT whereas the factory bikes of Jeff Smith et al did not!
Chris Smith, daughter of Jeff Smith has allowed us to quote directly from the most excellent biography written by Ian Berry: ‘Jeff Smith – Trials Master, Motocross Maestro’: “In the meantime BSA who had decided to field a team of four riders all mounted on C15T machines, suffered unprecedented humiliation in the Scottish Six Days Trial in early May. Poor John Draper did not even make it to the first section before his bike seized and Jeff, Tom Ellis and Arthur Lampkin soon followed suit, all eliminated by failure of the distributor drive. So with three days gone, all four of the factories entries were out of the trial.” (Copyright Motorsport Publications)
Thomson was by 1959 a veteran of the SSDT having ridden on Matchless, BSA, Triumph and an H.J.H, a Welsh built two-stroke. He was originally from St. Andrews in Fife and he is featured in our Great Scots series.
Thomson didn’t enter the following year and when he did ride the SSDT again, he reverted to use the BSA Gold Star in both 350 (PSR54) and 500 (PFS916) variations.
Ron sold the little BSA to Dundee trials man, Alfred C. Ingram who was a bit of a character and he rode the C15 more than a half a dozen times. Alf also had the distinction of literally driving around the globe in an 875cc Hillman Imp car with a very novel way of overcoming mechanical failures along the way!
Alf carefully wrapped up components in grease-proof paper and labeled each one, making a note of the contents on a list which he took with him. When he suffered a mechanical failure he sent a telegram to his mother who would go to his stock of parts with the required reference number and mail the item to him wherever he was in the world. Now that is one way of having your own spares system, globally!
Ingram rode the BSA C15T in a number of SSDT events, and at every one, his machine was marked with dabs of special paint with the riding number inscribed before the paint dried fully by machine examiners at Gorgie Market on the Sunday before the event started. Alf never removed these markings and the machine collected a fresh mark every year he rode. The machine created its own history book of itself.
By 2009 the BSA had entered the ownership of Dundee car dealer Bruce Johnston who knew about the machines history. The bike was displayed in the car park of the SSDT for a couple of years and advertised as being for sale. However, the price was not to everyone’s taste and the machine didn’t sell initially. Johnston then did what a ‘purist’ would perhaps describe as a ‘despicable act’, he removed the original registration number and put it on retention, the DVLA then issued a replacement age-related mark from the 1959 era. The machine’s records now hold the replacement registration mark and not JTS139.
The BSA which, going by the frame number was the 42nd C15T built at Small Heath, had remained intact since 1959 apart form the usual modifications such as Cub wheels and a Lyta tank had effectively lost it’s original identity and a bit of it’s history in the process.
The machine was eventually sold without the original index number JTS139 which is now on a Nissan car.
Then a strange twist of fate emerged, the new owner had an idea to put the motor from the BSA into a Drayton frame kit, would this be the end of the C15T?
No it wasn’t, far from it in fact, Steve Owen became the new owner and rescued the BSA from it’s DNA forming a virtually new machine and the identity would be further defiled.
Steve then made contact with Trials Guru’s John Moffat via the website’s contact facility asking if any of the BSA’s history was known. Steve made reference to the abundance of SSDT markings and Moffat was immediately intreagued and remembered the bike ridden by Thomson and Ingram as he knew the bike quite well. He was of course slightly confused when he asked Owen for the registration number stating that he expected the number to be JTS139, but of course it had been!
Due to Ingram’s forsight, he did not remove any of the paint dabs from the BSA which still carries all the old SSDT markings on the frame, fuel tank, oil tan, front forks and rear dampers. Bruce Johnston had the wheels rebuilt with alloy rims, due to the decay of the originals, which would also have come under the machine examiners markings back in the day. The motor was out of the frame and Steve Owen plans to have the bike back in one piece very shortly.
Steve Owen told Trials Guru: “I was delighted to learn more about my bike, I guessed it would have a have an SSDT history going by the markings and John Moffat confirmed that by researching from his archive of SSDT programmes, matching the dabs of paint with the years they referred to. It’s a pity that Bruce Johnston decided to part the bike from its number, research indicates that the number is for sale at £3,000 a hefty amount for a number plate”.
“John Moffat knew Ron Thomson, the first owner, very well as his father rode trials in the 1950s with him, he also knows Bruce Johnston through Scottish trials, so I suppose I went to exactly the right place to research the machines history”.
Bruce Johnston told Trials Guru: “I’m not sure I can add much to the story other than that I bought the BSA from Gordon Small who was a journalist with D.C. Thomson newspapers in Dundee. Gordon was a good friend of Alfie Ingram and had bought the C15 from him years earlier. Alfie was a keen mountain man and was part of a mountain rescue organisation at one time.”
As luck would have it, Trials Guru’s John Moffat was friendly with the late Gordon Small who introduced Moffat to world racing champion Bill Lomas.
Moffat: “I knew Gordon Small very well indeed as he had been editor of ‘Classic Motorcycling Legends’ magazine in the early 1980s and our paths crossed many times over the years. Gordon’s nom-de-piume was ‘Gordon Cadzow’ taken from his house name in Newport On Tay and he used this when he edited the magazine. Small also edited ‘The Biker’ column in the Dundee Courier for many years. Gordon arrived at my house in the latter part of the 1990s with former world champion Bill Lomas, who was also a very good trials rider, to look over my ex-works Matchless a machine Lomas had been given by the factory in the winter of 1955.”
Moffat added: “I was delighted to check over JTS139 when Bruce Johnston owned it around 2009, he had it on a stand in the parc ferme area of the SSDT. I was very much taken with the bike and I had a mind to buy it from Bruce, but I thought the price tag was a bit too steep at the time and I didn’t make a firm offer. We chatted about it’s history and I was quite interested in buying the BSA at the time. I knew Ron Thomson very well and I had been given the details of the bike from Ron when he was still alive, it was he who told me about the factory bikes pulling out of the 1959 SSDT leaving him as the sole finisher on a BSA C15 that year.”
Steve Owen takes up the story:
“My friend who has worked with me for nearly twenty years and is a big trials bike fan has an older brother Bill Fitzsimons now 86 years young. He first saw the bike for sale on the Yeomans of Bromsgrove stand at the Stafford show and he noticed all the Scottish markings and thought it looked very interesting. The stand was selling it on a commission so didn’t know much about the BSA.
As interesting as it was he didn’t buy it then and there, but took details home with him after a bit of thinking time he gave them a call and they still had it so a deal was done. The previous owner had already had new rims and tyres fitted but otherwise it was unrestored and running, all be it with a lot of smoke. Bill stripped the engine down and fitted new rings , exhaust valve guide and a main bearing and started to put it together but before getting very far he decided to sell it to me having talked to his brother Mike.
I’m getting around to replacing the engine in the frame to get the little BSA running again. It certainly has a lot of character, although it is a real pity it hasn’t retained it’s original registration to complete the history.”
That isn’t the end of the story, we are trying to locate photos of Alf Ingram riding the bike in the SSDT and are conducting a thorough analysis of the years he rode the BSA – so as they say, watch this space!
JTS139 – Its SSDT history:
1959 – R.S. Thomson – number 74
1963 – A.C. Ingram – number 150
1964 – A.C. Ingram – number 129
1966 – A.C. Ingram – number 126
1967 – A.C. Ingram – number 97
1968 – A.C. Ingram – number 192
1969 – A.C. Ingram – number 90
Ron Thomson – Trials Guru has already written about the late Ron Thomson, a man who was very well known in trials by not only his fellow Scots but also Peter Fletcher, Gordon Balkeway and others of that era who got to know Ron through riding in the SSDT over the years. His story can be found here: Ron Thomson.
Alf Ingram: A trials enthusiast from Dundee in Scotland who was a member of the now disbanded Dundee & Angus MCC and was a keen mountain climber in his day.
The paint dabs on machines that competed in the Scottish Six Days Trial – It was a method used for many years by the event organisers to stop competitors replacing components on their machines. They were marked by machine examiners during the Sunday ‘weigh-in’ by painting a square of paint about 15mm x 10mm on the component with a special paint which was mixed by Edinburgh paint manufacturer, Craig & Rose. It was believed that this paint ‘flouresced’ when examined under a UV light. The examiner would scribe the riding number of the machine into the centre of the paint dab with a pencil shaped wooden ‘scribe’ so that riders could not swap compenents from another machine during the event. Every year the paint shade changed slightly from a blue to green colour.
News on JTS139 – May 2018
Having heard of the article, Bruce Johnston met with Trials Guru’s John Moffat at the 2018 Scottish Six Days and explained that the number, JTS139 was indeed for sale and asked that the current owner, Steve Owen make contact with Johnston to discuss the number. This was achieved on 10th May and a deal was done and the original number would see it back on the BSA C15T. Indeed a happy ending brokered by Trials Guru and the little trials machine had its original identity restored.
The annual Bob MacGregor Memorial Road Run is all set for Tuesday 1st May which sees the start of the usual excitement in the run up to the Scottish Six days Trial.
Organised by the Westmorland Motor Club (founded 1910) and led by it’s enthusiastic member, Peter Remington from Kendal, it consists of a 130 mile excursion into Perthshire. It starts at the McLaren hall in Killin and takes in some old SSDT scenery from the 1940s and 1950s. On the return leg it passes the 1970s section Edramucky on the slopes of Ben Lawers which was an opening day ‘terror’ section back in the days when the SSDT started and finished in Edinburgh.
With a mixture of old and modern motorcycles, it is surely a day to go watch and take in the scenery.
Trials Guru features a local radio station that covers the Scottish Six Days Trial and is the only media radio station to do so – Nevis Radio, Fort William
Nevis Radio is a community Radio station based in Fort William in the Highlands of Scotland. It has been operating for 25 years and started out by giving ski report information for the Nevis Range Ski Centre. Over the years the output grew until it had a full time schedule without needing a service from Inverness based MFR and in turn became its own entity.
Nevis Radio has two staff, one full time, and one part time, with everyone else including the board of directors being volunteers. With this in mind, the stations’ drive and overall output is driven by a passion for what they do.
Did you know … Nevis Radio was one of the first UK radio stations to broadcast on the internet? Because they love what they do, they are always looking for new ways to raise the bar in how they work – with everything.
In recent years – Nevis Radio have covered the SSDT with a four hour show daily. One year they added global streaming, and then added the ability to chat to the studio in real time. They also tried to live stream video from the SSDT Parc Ferme which proved a hit. So much so they have worked hard every year to improve this option and always try to bring along something new every year to enhance what they can offer.
2018 will be no exception with ideas currently in testing. NR are proud to say last years’ result of a fully streamed Video service on ‘youtube’ and online listener figures as well as FM output exceeded 250,000 people which by any length is an amazing achievement for a small team.
They have also covered other events in the area like Christmas festivals, live music events and farm shows all with varied content and their own challenges but the main aim is to give a window on the event to the people of Lochaber or wherever anyone is tuned in online. The sense of achievement to hear feedback on their efforts is immense as 90% of the External events is generally produced and run by a team of three or four people at most – even of that three of those people are generally volunteers with no ‘professional’ experience.
Despite the tags of ‘Volunteer’ and ‘professional output’, NR always do their very best to give the best output they believe they can offer which has been noted on many occasions, even by others in the television and radio industry. Recently being involved in the ‘Biggest Little Railway’ on Channel 4 and more prominently on Ross Noble’s OFF ROAD SSDT effort on the Dave channel. Both production crews were suitably impressed with what a small station and a handful of dedicated people could achieve.
To listen on the good old wireless – You can get NR across Lochaber on 96.6, 102.3 and 102.4. They have never managed to get an accurate idea of listener figures but they were given an estimation in the region of 12,500 daily from others in the industry, however NR have no way to say if that is accurate or not. In terms of the content they listen to, they are open to everything and anything as they don’t have a larger corporate network to follow! Anything from bikes, to fitness and wellbeing, farming to getting the best of your technology – as long as it’s interesting Nevis Radio will take a look. This also applies to music with a fully independent playlist containing music from today’s top forty, a number of other not so well known popular tracks, upcoming and independent artists and they always support local artists too. Because of this approach to cater from anyone from the age eighteen to eighty, Nevis Radio are a very diverse station who like to cater for everyone in our community.
Looking at the SSDT Coverage – this will be the second year the current team have done this using this format:
Studio Anchor: Simon Abberley known as ‘Sy’ aka ‘Biscuit Boy’, plus other varied names.
Sy is the Sustainability and Business Manager at Nevis Radio, in short the man behind the plan. In charge of all things technical and admin, Sy also creates the audio parts used and adverts for the station when he’s not on air broadcasting or coming up with another grand plan of how to enhance the service in some way. Sy has been with Nevis around ten years and started as a volunteer. He has a background in DJ’ing which is where the passion started for the music and as time passed it was noted he had good skills in all things technical and dabbled in production. After seven years of being the Production Manager at Nevis Radio, Sy undertook the transformation into the Sustainability Manager in January last year to steer Nevis to new heights in the 21st century with new ideas and take what Nevis can offer to the community.
On site Presenter: John Weller known as ‘JW’ aka Mr. Weller / Security.
John is a dedicated volunteer to Nevis Radio. Currently hosts four shows, is a Director and chairperson of the company, and also is the Head of Music. John has always been keen on the music and preents varied shows through the week of differing styles. But has always shown a keen interest in other events such as the SSDT. In previous years John has done the camera work, also assisted in getting information for presenters such as John Moffat – our ‘SSDT Guru’. And last year hosted the SSDT coverage alongside John Moffat.
John Weller has always assisted Sy with his ‘wonderful’ ideas and supports where possible, John is very much an essential member of not just the ‘SSDT Team’ but of Nevis Radio.
Guess the identity of the rider/modifier of this 340 Bultaco Sherpa!
The photo was taken at the SSDT in the early eighties – yes we know which year, but do you know who the rider of this modified machine was?
Bultaco enthusiasts will straight away notice the larger alloy air-box, different mudguard stays, additional length mud-flap on the front mudguard, different tank filler cap, much modified clutch casing and operating arm location!
Answer added at foot of page: 31/12/2017
Answer: Walther Luft from Vienna modified this Bultaco Sherpa 340 in 1982, photo taken at the SSDT the same year by Ian Gibson, Newcastle.
Whilst Trials Guru is all about trials, we sometimes deviate ‘off piste’ and this was one of those moments we were asked to promote Classic Motocross. We were happy to oblige, especially when the Special Guest is Brad Lackey, 1982 500cc World Motocross Champion from the USA who will be flying in for this unique event in South-West Scotland on 14/15 July 2018 – ‘Racing at the Castle’ ~ The Drumlanrig Castle Scottish Classic Grand National Motocross.
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