Category Archives: People

Bob Paterson – Scotland’s Mr. Honda

Recently, we created a Trials Guru ‘section’ on Colin Bullock who has been taking trials photos for many years and we were proud to feature some of his most excellent images. It was when we were studying one of Colin’s photos from the 1985 Scottish Six Days of Steve Saunders on his Honda Britain supported RTL250 Honda. In the photo was a man well-known to Trials Guru’s John Moffat, that man was Bob Paterson, former Scotland and Northern Ireland Sales Executive with Honda motorcycles and power equipment.

1952 Scott Trial - Ray Biddle
Bob Paterson in the 1952 Scott Trial on his 350 Matchless – Photo: Ray Biddle, Birmingham

Bob Paterson, known as ‘Big Bob’ to the Scottish trials community of the period was a keen trials rider of the old school. He was a stalwart of the Lanarkshire Motor Cycle & Car Club which is based in west-central Scotland and had a history as being a scrambles and trials club which could trace it’s roots back to the 1930s. In the early days it was a joint club, for motorcycles and light cars.

The Lanarkshire MCC was the first Scottish motorcycle club to organise ‘scrambles’ events.

watsons1
Watsons of Airdrie service department in 1956. Bob Paterson is second from the left in the front row, Director, Bill Watson is fifth from left. Photo courtesy of Carrick Watson

Back in 1998, John Moffat was writing some articles on Scottish motorcycle personalities for a magazine and visited quite a few former riders to get their story. These riders included Ian Bell, John Davies, Jackie Williamson and Bob Paterson. They were all people that knew John well, through his father T. Arnott Moffat, secretary of the Scottish ACU.

1950 Scottish Experts - Bathgate
Bob Paterson on his 350 Matchless in the 1950 Scottish Experts Trial, the section is at Westfield near Bathgate, West Lothian – Photo Courtesy Paterson family

Bob Paterson had by this time unfortunately passed away, but Moffat went to visit his widow, May Paterson at her home at Luggiebank, near Cumbernauld. Moffat had also by this time started collecting material for his first book which was to be called Scotland’s Rich Mixture, Memories of Motorcycle Sport 1945-1975. May Paterson has since passed away.

Lochaber Spring Trial
Lochaber MCC Spring Trial – Grey Mares Ridge with Bob Paterson getting a helping hand with his 350 Matchless, Ian Pollock on the left and Laurie McLean on the right. – Photo: Courtesy of Paterson family

Bob Paterson was brought up in Glenmavis, a village in North Lanarkshire two miles north-west of the town of Airdrie. He took up employment at Watson Brothers in Airdrie and was a faithful employee for thirty-eight years before moving to Honda of which Watson’s had a dealership in their Cumbernauld branch.

It is believed that Bob became frustrated with Watsons when a promise of a directorship in the family run business failed to materialise. Paterson resigned, moved on and became the Scotland and Northern Ireland Sales executive for the Japanese car and motorcycle giant. Bob was a well-known face amongst the motorcycle trade, he was a valued sales-person with years of experience gained in a busy motorcycle then a large Vauxhall-Opel multi branch dealership.

lanarkshire-mcc-scramble-in-1946-800x570
1946 Lanarkshire MCC Scramble. The middle rider is Bill Smith (AJS) formerly a Levis supported rider and later became a director of Associated Motor Cycles, the manufacturers of Matchless and AJS and on the right is Bill Watson of Watson Bros, Airdrie on a Lanarkshire registered AJS – Photo: Carrick Watson

Bob and May had a daughter, Shona and son Robert Junior, but they also adopted May’s younger brother, Kenneth who had been orphaned when May’s parents died suddenly. A very difficult decision to make for a couple, but ‘Big Bob’ and May just took it in their stride.

Paterson rode in both scrambles and trials, he had a particular liking for ‘colonial’ type trials which would form the basis of time-trials and latterly enduros. His favourite was the Edinburgh St. George Colonial Trial at Gifford, East Lothian. He rode several Scottish Six Days trials and rode in the 1952 Scott Trial on his 350 Matchless (HSG211).

ssdt 1970 Luft Puch B
Prior to the start of the 1970 SSDT at Edinburgh’s Gorgie Market, we see Bob Paterson quietly smoking a ‘cigarillo’ and closely examining the finer points of Austrian Walther Luft’s 169cc Puch – Photo Hans Maiditz.

Paterson was a great supporter of the Scottish Six Days, he had ridden the event, his first being 1950 course marked it in the 1960s and was an SACU steward in the 1970s. He sat on the International stewards jury when the event was at it’s pinnacle and was over-subscribed and all the factory riders had it written into their contracts that they rode the Highland classic.

Bob for many years assisted in the course marking from Stirlingshire up over Fersit to Fort William, a run he thoroughly enjoyed either on his own Matchless G3C or a machine supplied by the Edinburgh & District club.

Gorgie 1970 - HM
SSDT 1970 – Group photo at the ‘weigh-in’ From Left: Walther Luft; Peter Bous (crouched down), Tommy Ritchie; John Graham; Trevor Hay; Bob Paterson; Jackie Williamson; Unknown; John Moffat; Unknown; T.Arnott Moffat – Photo: Hans Maiditz, Graz

Paterson enjoyed setting the course for the Lanarkshire MCC’s annual Valente Trial held at Kilsyth, he used his Matchless to set the moor and road work for the event which had a lap of approximately 15 miles.

Bob was elected President of the Scottish Auto Cycle Union upon the retiral of the haulage firm owner from Markinch, Fife the late Jim Birrell, Bob held the post until 1983.

Jim Birrell - 1951 Highland 2 Day Trial
The late JIM BIRRELL from Markinch, Fife on his 197cc James Commando in the 1951 Highland Two-Day Trial at Inverness. Birrell and Paterson were not only past Presidents of the SACU but great friends also. Photo courtesy of the Birrell family

He was asked by the SSDT Secretary, Jim McColm in 1983 to write an article for the official programme when he was president of the Scottish ACU, in it he wrote a fascinating account:

I feel priviledged to be asked to write this article for this years’ Scottish Six Days programme and probably like many contributors before, find it difficult to begin. As a layman at this kind of task, I feel hopelessly inadequate to try and put into words the feeling one gets in attending the SSDT. Be that as it may, there is no doubt if one rides or even attends the Scottish, forever after come hell or high water, the first week of May will be reserved for the Sporting Holiday in the Highlands or as the late Allan Jefferies once described it ‘A religion or an incurable disease.

It was 1950 before I had the good fortune to enter the SSDT and as over the previous few years I had listened awestruck to older hands talking and reminisce regarding this great event, the big day rushed nearer with all the attendant forms, what with signing up for oil and petrol etc and then obtaining my international licence. I was beginning to feel taller than my then 6′ 1 1/2 ” frame. Finally being allocated riding number 53 only one place behind the great man himself, High Viney at 52.

This was to prove a great benefit, for B.H.M.V actually came over and spoke to me at the weigh-in and from then on throughout the week I felt quite at home. The fact that I was to lose 100’s of points to his tens or was it single figures? Didn’t matter.

When the great man took the time to advise and follow him, like getting up onto the pegs and into top and blasting over the Mamore Road it made it feel like a main road compared to my 1st and 2nd gear slitherings, prior to his advice.

Sometimes the lessons learned from the big boys were well driven home certainly I never forgot one occasion when after leaving Altnafeadh and heading down the main road for about 46 miles to Camushurich on South Tayside past Killin, I found myself at the front of a long line of the big names and feeling quite proud to be heading a procession of about a dozen machines in close company, that was until I spluttered to a near stop and had to go on reserve with the string passing and waving their thanks for the tow, probably getting them to a lonely pump somewhat short of Lix Toll

Those were the days of course when the petrol and oil tankers followed the route of the trial and one drew alongside when suction pumps emptied the 4 stroke oil tanks, replenished with fresh oil and tanks were topped up with petrol. The International flavour created by the properly sited tankers and trade barons in those days were much better than many varied vehicles we see today, spread all over the countryside to give the necessary support to their riders. it is a great pity that the petrol barons have withdrawn from our sport and of course new legislations also prevent some of this assistance.

Within days of the trial the newcomers are seen in close contact with the stars and while today I’m sure some of the big names are easy to converse with and obtain some guidance, there can be no doubt the stars have more pressures, with all the backing, sponsorship and manufacturers to contend with than in earlier times.

As trials are no longer a British sport but International, we can now gauge the strengths and expertise of our overseas visitors by their performance over the pas few years and one never ceases to be amazed by the severity of sections we now see in national and World rounds of our trials sport.

The Edinburgh & District Club have managed to accommodate this welcome involvement from our overseas and home top runners and yet provide possible sections which continue to ensure a fully subscribed entry, made up in the main from club riders and most importantly newcomers.

It may be that a special section per day to fully test the top runners will soon be required and the rest of the sections something less than the crankcase breakers we are now seeing in World rounds, whatever is decided I’m sure the E&D will live up to the test, requirements and pleasures the Scottish has provided over the years.

One could not exclude from this article the efforts, work and hours the organising committee put into the running of this event, from the many long, hard, wet, snow covered and just occasionally dry weekends covered by the scouts who are out and about in the area of the trial on motor-cycles, visiting landowners, looking at new hills etc. and during the trial out marking the hills, to the hard pressed office staff in getting the results out as soon as possible. All their efforts must of course be assisted by the voluntary observers and other officials during the week, ready and willing numbers of people to fill those duties are always available and speak volumes for the popularity of the event, Having experience on most of those duties, i.e. to route marking and back marking, I can recall, as this years assistants will, the pleasure of getting back to the Hotel, having a bath, catching a meal (sometimes) and as in the past, off to the bar for a small talk of the day.

Having had previous experience as a steward of the trial, I wish this years’ jury a good trial with not too many nights on duty into the ‘wee sma hours’ and above all trust that our secretary of the trial, Jim McColm keeps his cool as usual and has yet another successful trial under his belt.

I look forward to being with you all this year in Fort William and trust that our Scottish greeting of haste ye back will be remembered as the first week in May keeps coming around“.

In the 1980s he was a spectator, but also a Honda representative and took an close interest on the Honda factory riders of the day, especially Eddy Lejeune and Steve Saunders. Bob would be found standing silently wearing his deer-stalker style hat at the side of many of the sections eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Honda mounted riders. He would continue to watch the riders walk the sections and then ride them. Bob enjoyed a small cigar called a cigarillo and would smoke one while waiting for the riders to arrive.

Back Catalogue Trials 276
Steve Saunders on the Honda Britain RTL250S at the 1985 Scottish Six Days on Achlain section, watched closely by Honda UK representative Scotland & Northern Ireland, BOB PATERSON – Photo copyright: Colin Bullock/CJB Photographic

On quite a few occassions in later life, Bob would take his specially imported 1976 Honda TL250 up with him to the SSDT to observe and used the machine as transport instead of his car. Often he rode around to follow the trial for a number of years with fellow SACU man, Adam Brownlie, but never off-road.

There was a rider called Fransisco ‘Paco’ Nistal who came over to compete in the SSDT in 1986 from Guatemala who stayed with the Macgillivray family at Muirhearlich just outside Fort William. He was having trouble coming to terms with the machine he had entered for the event and wanted to buy a Honda RTL which was a machine in short supply. Alastair Macgillivray mentioned this to Bob Paterson, who knew Tom Robinson of Robinsons of Rochdale, a main Honda dealer and one of a select few chosen by Honda UK to handle sales of the specialist machine. Robinson’s happened to have a brand new RTL250S in stock. The RTL was sent up to Scotland for the Guatemalan to ride, all due to Bob’s interaction.

Bob Paterson Trophy:

The Pre’65 Scottish Trial accepted a trophy from his son Robert and widow, May to remember Bob and his significant contribution to Scottish motorcycle sport. Called ‘The Bob Paterson Trophy’, it is awarded annually for the best performance of a competitor riding a machine up to 500cc.

Article Text Copyright: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing – John Moffat 1997-2016

Photos:

  • Paterson Family, Cumbernauld.
  • Birrell Family, Fife.
  • Ray Biddle, Birmingham.
  • Colin Bullock/CJB Photographic.

Gordon Farley

GORDON FARLEY

13
Gordon Farley with a photo of him on the works Montesa Cota in the SSDT – Photo: John Hulme/Trials Media

Words: John Hulme & Gordon Farley

It is true to say that some trials riders will be remembered for being not just good, but for beating the seemingly unbeatable. One of these riders is Gordon Farley. For eleven years, trials riding in Britain was literally dominated by one person, the great Sammy Miller. Other good riders came, tried and went away unsuccessful but Farley was determined that his name was not going to be added to that long list when he set his sights on Miller’s supremacy. “It was without doubt the most satisfying moment of my career when I knew I had won the British title and had beaten Miller”, Farley commented recently. Miller had won the trials championship eleven times on the trot; it had a psychological effect on the other riders – they got to the stage where they thought he could not be beaten so they did not try. Farley said to himself “I am going to do it!” and that was what he concentrated on. Every trial he rode in was to beat Miller but it was hard to get close to him. Eventually when he did it was unbelievable, but then he retired and the trials scene was never quite the same.

EK Alan Jefferies 1971
1971 Allan Jefferies Trial – Photo copyright: Eric Kitchen (All Rights Reserved)

Farley, like Miller, was attracted to road racing before he found himself in trials. However, he turned to trials because it was “a lot cheaper”. Although he would not call his family a motorcycling one, his father did own a machine and his brother did compete in a few trials, although he never reached the level of Gordon. At thirteen he purchased his first machine, a 197cc Francis Barnett – in trials trim, of course. This was replaced two years later by a Triumph Tiger Cub, a machine that will be remembered as the one Farley got not only his first taste of competition on but also his first taste of success, back in 1961. It was the first trial he had competed in and he came third; the event was the Sunbeam Novice Trial. Shortly after this he entered his second trial, the Wickham Harvest, and taking second place elevated him out of the novice class into the expert class. Farley remembers these early events clearly but when asked which was his most memorable and why, he said “I think that would be the one I rode in France. It was at a place called Nemour, which is about sixty miles south of Paris, and it was the first time I had competed abroad in an international trial. The event, I think, is still run today and I remember the French treated me very well; mainly because in France you were not allowed to ride a motorbike until you were seventeen, you could only ride a moped, and here was a sixteen-year-old riding in a trial along with much older men”. “Do you remember your result?” “Yes, I won!” One may wonder how Farley could afford to go to France when he had previously said he had chosen trials because it is a cheaper form of sport. In short he was being supported by a dealer in Folkestone called Jock Hitchcock. Gordon has always been friendly with Murray Brush, a trials rider well known in the south-east of Britain, and it was through him that Farley was introduced to Hitchcock.

Murray Brush
Murray Brush on a Greeves – Photo copyright: Mike Rapley

He sponsored Gordon from the age of sixteen until he was nineteen, and it would be fair to say that it was Jock pushing all the time that got him his first works contract.

A Works Ride

That was a nice surprise as he got a letter from Henry Vale, who was then the Triumph Competition Manager, on Christmas Eve offering a works machine, and it made a very nice present. He tried out the new machine in January and signed a contract. Farley was to enjoy four works contracts during his career: Triumph, Greeves, Montesa and finally Suzuki. During those first years as a works rider the world of trials was absorbed in an era of radical change, as the domination by the large capacity four-stroke machines such as the AJS, Ariel, BSA Gold Star, Matchless, Royal Enfield and Triumph Trophy (all actually slightly modified road models) was superseded by the Spanish and Italian two-strokes specifically designed and built for trials. Organisers had to rethink most of their sections, usually opting to make the turns tighter and sudden climbs steeper. Gordon Farley never rode one of the big old four-strokes, so he effectively grew up and learned his craft with the new style of riding.

1
Gordon Farley on the 1964 Triumph Tiger Cub developed with Murray Brush

He soon found the Triumph Cub had its limitations, it was after all simply a modified road model that had been developed from the Triumph Terrier, and its greatest handicap was – and remains – the lack of an effective set of trials-suitable gear ratios. Farley worked hard to improve his Cub, mainly by losing unsprung weight. He used alloy petrol tanks, alloy oil tanks, alloy air filter boxes and alloy front brake plates. Many of the items were copied and sold by Comerfords; indeed at one stage they added to his list of sponsors and he rode a ‘Comerfords Cub’.

108_0859
1967 Comerford Cub, which was based on the improvement work carried out by Gordon Farley – Photo: Trials Guru

With the Greeves it was a machine specifically designed for trials but with the bugbear of relying on the Villiers ignition system – for younger readers imagine putting a plug and socket in the ignition wire to the sparkplug and mounting the socket on the front edge of the crankcase cover, just where the front wheel plasters everything with wet mud. Yes, that is the measure of incompetence that prevailed! In 1967 the Montesa importer John Brise approached Gordon Farley to become their number one works rider but he had just signed a twelve-month contract with Greeves to compete for them during the 1968 season, so they would have to wait until the end of the year for him to join. It was a fantastic year for him on the Greeves as he took the runner-up spot in the Scottish Six Days Trial behind Sammy Miller, as well as third place overall in the European championship. In the December of 1967 Montesa had also approached another Greeves works rider, Don Smith, to join them.

Montesa promotional poster
Publicity poster using Gordon Farley on the Montesa Cota 247 in the 1971 Scottish Six Days Trial on ‘Laggan Locks’. The rider in the red hat on the left is John May, son of Comerford’s Reg May – Image credit: Montesa Motorcycles

He tested the new machine and was offered a contract as the company waited for Farley to join them in a new works team. 1969 would see Farley eventually join and he would win the opening trial of the new season, the Vic Brittain, mounted on the new Montesa Coat 247. He took second place in the 1969 European Championship (now World) and followed this by winning the British Trials Championship in 1970 which went all the way to the wire at the final round, the Knut Trial, where he beat Miller; he again took home the title for Montesa in 1971.

Gordon Farley - PB - SSDTcrop
Gordon Farley at the 1969 Scottish Six Days Trial, watched closely by Sammy Miller – Photo copyright: Peter R. Bremner

Rising Sun

Carrying superb credentials and with the Japanese trials invasion about to take off Suzuki opened talks with Farley in 1971 with a view to him helping with the development of a new machine. They thought they had struck gold when they managed to get British Champion Gordon Farley to sign on the dotted line to develop their new trials machine in late 1972. More importantly he came with a good reputation, having previously ridden both Triumph and Greeves works machines. He was also well known for his machine development skills and this would prove vital to Suzuki as they were so new to the trials scene. After many secret trips to Japan and the Suzuki headquarters Farley’s new machine was finally taking shape. Various meetings had taken place in the closed season as they wanted a competitive machine from the outset.

scan0039
Gordon Farley on the production Suzuki RL250 in the 1974 manufacturer’s publicity brochure – Photo credit: Suzuki Motor Co

The prototype machine was very much based on the TS series trail bike range which was a single cylinder two-stroke that they decided would be ideal for the trials project. With Farley under contract to Montesa until June 1973 he could not officially ride in competition for another manufacturer until the July. This gave both himself and the factory plenty of time to develop the new machine. When the two new machines arrived he was full of enthusiasm for the work the Japanese had carried out. The venue Farley chose to debut the new machine was a local centre event, the Horsham Club’s Ray Baldwin Trophy Trial. The debut was not a success and Farley finished second, four marks behind local centre rider John Kendal on a Bultaco. Farley was leading the trial at one stage but he had an unfortunate crash over the handlebars, which resulted in five marks lost and the win was gone. The machine was then ridden in the British and European Trials Championships but with very little success. Farley became disillusioned with this and the lack of support from the factory. With no major success and Farley wanting to concentrate on his booming trials shop it was rumoured at the end of the year he was going to retire from the sport, which he duly did. In 1972 he had opened up a shop in Ash near Aldershot, Hampshire, selling motorcycles with Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha franchises. He understandably also specialised in trials machines with Bultacos, Montesas and Ossas much in evidence, in addition to the Japanese mounts.

EK 1 British Experts 1971 - not sure the year is correect
1972 British Experts – Photo copyright: Eric Kitchen (all rights reserved)

After his official retirement he opened another shop and just wanted to ride in trials on a very low-key basis, and the UK Bultaco importers, Comerfords loaned him a new 350cc Sherpa to ride whenever he wanted. His last real outing was in 1978 at the SSDT where he finished in a creditable 45th place. He admitted recently it nearly killed him! Gordon is now approaching 67 but is still involved with the shops, which take up most of his time, and can still be seen observing at local events. Farley ended an era in trials when he knocked Sammy Miller of the top spot in the British Championship, a subject still much talked about to the present day.

EK Inter Centre Team Trial 1973
Gordon Farley (Montesa Cota 247) at the Inter Centre Team Trial at Ludlow in 1972 – Photo copyright: Eric Kitchen (all rights reserved)

Article: Gordon Farley, Copyright: John Hulme/Classic Trial Magazine UK

Images:

  • John Hulme/Trials Media
  • Peter Bremner, Inverness
  • Eric Kitchen (all rights reserved)
  • Mike Rapley (all rights reserved)
  • Montesa Motorcycles
  • Trials Guru/John Moffat
For back issues of Trial Magazine or Classic Trial UK … Click HERE