York TT

W.A.T.T. Re-enactment 2014

Every single wallaby between Perth and York shrank back at least 100m from the roadside on the morning of 19 October. Not because the department of correctional services had just released another serial sex offender into the Avon Valley community, Esmeralda but because there was a Gold Star, a shovelhead Harley Davidson and a souped up AJS on Bill Cowlin’s York T.T. commemorative rally, all contributing to a truly resonating day.

It all started back at the Club Rooms, with veterans, Michael Rock, 1910 Triumph, Jeff Sieber, 1919 Coventry Victor, Carl Montgomery , 1915 B.S.A. Dave Alderson, 1912 Triumph and Phil Skinner, 1918 Triumph, all leaving before 8.15, with the heavens becoming more bruised looking by the minute. Indeed, by 8.30 as some of the vintage and classic boys started moving out, it started to drizzle and it didn’t stop raining anywhere on the track for the next 4 hours.

At ten o’clock, most of the crew were parked up at the Lakes, looking hopefully to see if the sky was clearing, having conquered Greenmount hill and the first quarter of the course. Back in 1912, when C.J. Lewis so spectacularly won the race, on a 2 3/4 hp Sunbeam, the course also followed a similar route, starting and finishing in Perth, turning back at the town of York. With more rain falling, Michael put his bike on the back up and the rest gingerly set off, arriving in York in spits and spurts.

Rex Edmondson, aboard the perennial black Triumph and Chris Whisson, also on a Triumph but with son-in-law in tow, were some of the punters that parked up for lunch. Bill was riding his AJS, Mike Davie on his combination (sans passenger) Jim and Carol Clark aboard the BSA and Ron and Lynn Gordon on their Norton, added credence to the line-up. The two Suzukis of Paul Spittle and Andrew Hyland preceded two, 5m high roostertails of spray, on their grand entrance to the town.

Once in York, the gasping crowds gathered round the parking lot and quizzed the riders. Janet Alderson explained that she nearly brought the early 30’s Scott of Dave’s but the dampness made her reconsider, bringing the Honda instead. Dave told them of the recently completed Adelaide to Darwin mission and I told them that I also had one of the first-of–the-foot-change Scott flying squirrels and that I had ridden the old girl around Ireland, back in the summer of 2011 (the motorcycle! Esmeralda). Some people wandered down the street and others had a lunch at the Bugatti Café or the Tatty Parrot. The rain was still pouring down, so some of the blokes left early, heading back for the big smoke. Terry McKie’s Ariel had a damp magneto, which required drying out and even Lat Fuller’s fine BMW R100/7 didn’t fire up first time. Other blokes emptied their boots out onto the paving and wrung out their wet trousers. We met a few rag-tag elements on their way back from a rained out Lake Perkollili event, a few kilometres NE of Kalgoorlie.

Then it was onto Northam and Baker’s Hill, the grey clouds lifted slightly, with very few people hanging around for long. Some of the tarmac on the road around Minson Road carpark had water welling up out of the ground! The route took us via Spencers Brook road to GEH and then old Northam road to Mundaring. By Bakers Hill it was starting to dry out, so Michael went back on the road, just in time for Phil to be picked up (belt drive not stopping down the hills) and Allen Barnes (Goldie coughed and died round a steep camber) With two back-ups (Val and Jean& May and Dave) there was never the worry that the trailers would fill up. With there being no designated fuel stops after York, some of the riders were very low coming into Perth, so there were some people who made a beeline for the pump.

For me it was rather a unique experience, trialling Graeme Hammond’s ’84 HD (the model that saved them from near extinction). With handlebars as wide as a Hummer and more cubic inches that you could shake a stick at, I had a whale of a time, at one point laughing at the two images of Terry and the two images of Bill in my rear view mirror, as we were burbling along past Wooroloo.

Back at the Clubrooms, John Moorehead had set up the urn and doled out cups of tea and plates of biscuits to the grateful riders. It had started to dry out but there were two intense downpours, one at the back of Chidlow and the other, right in the hills immediately behind the club rooms, so Frank van der Worm and Lee Hart, who just came to greet the finishers, were presented with rows of dripping socks and leggings! Barry O’Byrne was the only rider that looked relatively dry, on the M20 B.S.A.

Thanks must be extended to the four back up crew for patiently shadowing the 27 strong group under trying conditions and to Bill for tying it all up so well

John Wightman #811