Early Days of the Lancashire Centre
Cliff Laycock 17.2.2011
I first encountered the VOC during 1963 when I had bought a ’59 Venom Clubman secondhand from White City Motors in Manchester in part-exchange for my C15. I soon found it wasn’t ideal for a 4 mile ride to work in central Manchester. I found someone in the Club with a red and black Viper complete with glassfibre engine covers. One hectic weekend we swapped the bits and it became a standard roadgoing red and black Venom.
The Centre was formed in 1958 at a The Spread Eagle in Ashton under Lyne by A.Hale as the Manchester Centre with 21 members. (FT 5).
Within a year it had moved to The Napier at Bury, under the guidance of “Wild” Bill Healey from Bowlee, near Heywood, with Tom Savin as Secretary. In 1962 Arthur Illing had his Venom stolen from outside the pub and so the long search for more secure premises began.
I remember going to the ’63 Dragon Rally on the back of John Snee’s KTT952. We arrived frozen at Gwrych with a tiny ridge-tent, small tin of beans and a meths stove to sustain us overnight! (The neighboring guy had filled his primus with meths instead of paraffin and destroyed his tent.) There was a nice GTP in the group (see photo).
At the time I was also Chairman of the Rossendale Motor Club which met at Hall Carr Cottages in Rawtenstall, helping to run their events. One trophy was the Velocette cup (presented by the works) which we awarded annually in one class of our 100 mile annual Enduro.
Because of a new job and marriage I disappeared from the scene but not before I’d suggested that the Lancashire Centre share the premises with the Rossendale Club. FT 40 reports this and John Davidson’s name appears on the committee – a present stalwart and this year’s Clubman of the Year.
In the early 70’s the Rossendale Club was disbanded and the Velocette cup given to the Lancashire Centre. It was first used for the Lancashire Section member doing best at the Batley MCC annual sprint hill climb.
Rawtenstall was a bit far for South Manchester members to travel and the Centre moved to the Rawson’s Arms at Peel Street Farnworth.
In Jan 76 Graham Wright was secretary and Brian Hoy chairman.
In 1977 Frank Brierley and others moved the Centre to The Lord Nelson at Stoneclough near Kearsley By this time I had moved to the Sheffield Centre and others’ recollections will be more accurate.
After the Sheffield and Huddersfields’ Centres’ demises I joined the East Midlanders but with the last few years back with the Lancashire lads and lasses the wheel has turned full-circle.
The Velocette Cup has now been remounted and presented annually to Clubman of the year as the Frank and Ian Brierley Cup (recycling works you see).
Thanks to you all!
John Davidson’s memories of the early Lancashire centre.
I bought my Venom from St Domingos Motors, in Oldham, in May 1961 for £195.
In the toolbox was a card from the VOC inviting me to join the Club. I joined and went to their meeting at the Napier Inn in Bury. Peter Walker was the Secretary and Tom Savin, from Leyland, the Treasurer. We met every Friday and one evening, whilst the machines were parked on the road, somebody stole my Rev Counter and handlebar mirror. Other members also had items stolen. This led to a change of venue and we moved to Hall Carr Cottages in Rawtenstall , a somewhat more remote and secure location.
I bought a KTT, no 952, from Jack Snee. He told me a tale of him riding it up the A5074, south of Lake Windermere, bike equipped with a Fishtail. He found a quiet spot, removed the Fishtail and fitted a pukka KTT megga! Up and down the road he blasted with music in his ears. The old lady sitting outside her cottage just heard the blasted din!
Jack subsequently ordered a Venom directly from Veloce but specified that a 4¼ gallon tank be fitted. These had only been fitted to Clubmans up to this point. Veloce duly obliged and when Jack collected the bike from Hall Green they advised that this was indeed the first Venom so equipped.
The Centre’s first run was to East Yorkshire to a scramble meeting that was being televised by the BBC. That year we turned out for the main AGM being held at the Antelope Club, in Coventry and 13 of us made the run.
Echoes of the past as the Velocette men roar in!
Evening News, Thursday, Sept. 28th, 1978
Note from Brian Hoy:
"I’ve had a chat with John (Davidson) about the photo and this is our opinion:-
In the photo with the seated rider: In blazer – Frank Brierley; in Velo pullover – Dave Leeming; seated – unknown, we think this is the man standing at the back in front of the door; next to the rider is Don Thompson, he also is standing at the back in the helmet and to the left we think is Mike Hamilton."
( Click photo to enlarge - please contact us if you can identify anyone else)
Members of the club outside their meeting place in Ringley.
By Leigh Banks
Usually just about the noisiest thing in Ringley Village is the incessant buzzing and spluttering of over-head power cables from Kearsley power station – but one night a week the Velocettes arrive and you can’t even hear yourself think!
These two-wheeled ear-wreckers race in convoy through Kearsley and into the village.
On first impressions one could be forgiven for thinking that Ringley had failed to progress beyond the middle 1960’s when Hell’s Angels – who wore toilet chains as jewellery – thought it was great fun to fall off their powerful motorcycles all over the countryside.
But these particular “cycle “ freaks have gone a bit beyond that motorised rebel stage which had a devastating effect on the sea front at Brighton and are proud to say that their powerful machines are one of the most exclusive types of bike in the world.
The Velocette, it is claimed, is a motorcycle almost impossible to fall off – somebody should have told that to the Hell’s Angels 12 years ago.
The Velocette owners get together in the Lord Nelson, a quiet pub directly opposite the parish church, have a couple of pints and talk almost exclusively about their “mean” machines.
In fact the members of the Velocette owners club take their cycles so seriously that Frank Brierley, of Manchester Road, Bury, decided that the Lord Nelson on Friday night was the best place to spend his 44th wedding anniversary – without his wife!
He said: “It just happened that my wedding anniversary fell on the same day as the club meeting so I came along. My wife, Eva, doesn’t mind, in fact she encourages me to come long.
“They are fantastic bikes and I own a couple. As far as I am concerned they are just about the best cycles made in the world – it is a pity that they are no longer manufactured.”
Frank is 67- years- old and still “burns” up the road – but he is not the oldest member, that title is safely held by Tom Parrington – Frank’s senior by ten years.
“I don’t think these bikes can be beaten. They are marvellous. Something like the Vincent Black Knight is often said to be a better machine and in some ways it probably is – but you try maintaining one of those and you have a real task. The Velocette has the beauty of easy maintenance and reliability.” He said.
The Velocette range was built by a Birmingham company, Veloce Ltd, and are renowned for winning more TT races than any other motorcycle.
Now out of production, they have become something of a collectors’ item. There are about 100 members of the Lancashire branch, but the club has world-wide membership of about 1,400.
Memories of the 1960's
The following email extracts and photographs are reproduced with the kind permission of Mrs. Sheila Whittingham.
I had Velocettes in the 1980's and have just come back to the marque last year. I was trawling through Velocette online and as I am originally from Rochdale had a peek at your website, and was delighted to find a mention of Arthur Illing and Bill Healy as they were both friends of my Dad Jack Wynn. I remember Arthur’s bike getting stolen, as he always said.......” All those identical bikes and they had to steal mine!" I remember them being at Hall Carr Cottages and before I passed my test Arthur used to take me pillion on many club rides to the Yorkshire Dales and even one ride in 1968 to see the new Forth Bridge with a stop in Edinbro'. We left at 6am and got back home at midnight.
Other names I remember were Vic Goodenough, Tom Hague from Haslingden, Dave Nicholls from Norden and two others who had other makes of bike who used to come with us, Alan Crossley, Norton Atlas and Geoff (?) who had a BSA. I also remember Tommy Atkin, who was killed on his Velo. on the Widdle road near Ribblehead .
If anyone remembers those days I would love to hear from them. I now live in Mid Wales.
Mrs. Sheila Whittingham (350cc MAC)
(Please note you can contact Sheila via our website “Contact Us” page.).................
...............Another name I remembered after I e mailed you is Roy Greech who was a good friend of Arthur Illing.......
......Have finally found some of the 1960's photos, slides etc up in the loft, some of which I haven't looked at for years and I'm afraid the years have taken their toll.
Photo of me and Mac December 2010. I had only got the bike the week before and the engine was in desperate need of lots of TLC!!
Photo taken I think at Kettlewell in 1967, large cafe there now I believe.Alan Crossley at the back. Left Geoff (Slater?) and right Arthur Illing.
Fountains Hall 1968.
I think Vic Goodenough at the back, the other chap I can’t remember, and me and Tom Haig at the front. Sorry quality so bad......
......All at three Peaks Cafe Ingleton 1966.67
003 Arthur Illing and Tom Haig with bikes.
005 Geoff Slater and Arthur Illing freezing to death January 1967
004 Alan Crossley and Arthur Illing at Brimham rocks.
1968 above Scout Head Oldham. 3 Velo's a Triumph and Norton Atlas followed a snow plough to the top without too much trouble, but the cars got stuck.
That's me in the centre in the pudding basin. There were better ones, but Arthur had them and just gave me this one. I wish I knew what happened to his vast collection of slides as he went with Roy Greech to Norway on the Velo's in 1962 and went up to the far north where their oil froze in the tanks., and there were dozens of Velo Owners trips around the UK. His nephew may have them, and I am trying to find his family, so far without success.......
........Please use as you see fit. I'm just sorry that they have disintegrated so much...thank goodness for digital. I only had a 126 camera that took cartridges in those days, and it hadn't any settings for different light conditions.
I'm hoping to rejoin VOC soon.
We went with our local club on a "Postman Pat" charity ride, and we all took our classic bikes. The organiser is a postman and took us round his rural Herefordshire beat, and one postmistress opened up the P.O. and made us lunch for a charity donation. Postman Pat wouldn't be complete without Jess the cat who came out on my MAC.!!