ACU, mid Wales, motorcycle, motorcycling, Oswestry, scrambles, trials
The development of off-road motorcycle sport has formed a key part of the social history of the Welsh nation, and it’s English Borders. The first popular affordable vehicle for many of its people, also provided mobility in rural areas and led to many owners taking bikes up for recreation uses from which developed competitive riding. Wales’s abundance of natural rugged terrain also meant the motorcycles were often used in challenging conditions. This gave rise to the earliest development of trials, scrambles and their in-between relative, the Reliability Trial which is today goes by the name Enduro.
With all social history the legacy can often be best appreciated through the archives of the work of the professional photographers of the time. Geoff Charles was one of the most important photo-journalists active in Wales at the time covering all aspects of life, political, sport and culture. He was a professional Photo-Journalist working most of his life in Welsh Speaking Wales. Born in Brymbo Wrexham 1909, he obtained a degree in Journalism from the University of London.
The Geoffrey Charles Collection and Archive at the National Library for Wales
His first work was with the Western Mail where he specifically covered Dirt track racing, Greyhounds and Inquests. He left to work in Surrey but returned back to Wales to help start the Wrexham Star, a paper where he got the scoop on the Gresford Colliery Disaster. He then left to run the Montgomeryshire Express in Newtown and also provided images for the Welsh language newspaper Y Cymro. His first camera came at the end of the Wrexham Star time and his style was influenced by Picture Post. His work reflects a vanishing way of life across rural Wales in the 30’s 40’s 50 as technology, rural depopulation and the effects of 2 world wars were starting to pull the original communities apart. He was one of the greatest recorders of Motorcycle life in Wales both the ISDT and this example of his coverage of the Opening of the New Showroom of Roy Evans Motorcycles in Beatrice Street, Oswestry. as well as his coverage of often small local events that were of no importance of those other than locals.
Roy Evans Motorcycles
Images of the official opening of Roy Evans motorcycle shop in Oswestry, by Bill Doran, a well known TT driver and Charlie Salt of BSA (Birmingham Small Arms Company). Roy Evan’s business still exists in Oswestry but today it is a successful Peugeot Car Dealership
Despite many changes in Oswestry the site of the original Roy Evans dealership that was opened in 1950 remains as a retail unit today,
Geoff Charles covered many of the Motorsport events in the locality not just Reliability Trials but also Scrambling and Rallies showing a strong vibrant local scene and motorsport was a major activity in the sporting life of the region. Oswestry Scrambles
Hold the bus….Dave (Dusty) Rhodes, who was there, tells me I got the titling wrong, although some of the details by chance are right, this rider is now a resident of Canada and became Dusty’s brother in law, Bernie Blomer, the Blomer family had a shoe repair shop at the top of Leg Street (You could not make this up, this is how it happens in Oswestry). Dusty came 6th to Jeff Smith’s 2nd in a 200 mile XC race in Alberta… well I was almost right.
The Oswestry & District MC also held Rallies covered by Geoff Charles.. that were open to motorcycles including this one named the 9 hour Rally in September 1954A note from Dave (Dusty) Rhodes ex Oswestry MC and now a native of British Colombia, Canada tells us the couple above were Des & Jean Worthington. Grasstrack at Oswestry There was a vibrant grass track scene in the locality which was a popular sport attracting large crowds of spectatos
If any person stumbles on this page from the Oswestry area or are familiar with motorsports in the area during the 1950’s we would be really pleased if you could let us know the details of any riders or persons here, especially if they have any background in the ISDT
Oswestry and District Motor Club have existed since 1921 and here is their website
Eric Roy Evans said:
Hi, my name is Eric Evans, Roy Evans son, and I am pictured in the photos of the opening of Roy Evans Motorcycles. The couple in the sidecar outfit are Eric and Freda Corley keen members of ODMC for many years, my father,wearing a duffle coat, is standing behind Freda. I remember Bill Doran well, he ran a successful motorcycle dealership in Wellington Shropshire.
Eric thanks for popping by I would be keen to hear more from you. As your father was a sponsor of one of the few North Wales teams were you old enough to have any recollections of his ISDT interests.
Eric Evans said:
I did not know Dad sponsored an ISDT team, so can’t help you there sorry. I think if the motorcycle shop opened in 1954, I would have been 6. I do vaguely remember going to the Isle of Man when he was racing withNorton, but that was before that date. If you have any other questions I would be happy to try and answer them. E
Dave Davies said:
Congratulations on getting the site up and running again. I particularly enjoy the material on the events in Wales. On the Geoff Charles and Roy Evans page Jim Davies, who is in the workshop picture preparing for the 1954 ISDT, also appears in the shop opening pictures. He is the chap with his hand on the shoulder of young Eric Evans. In the mid 60’s he managed the shop but if he did when it opened I do not know. At some point, probabley late 60’s, he bought the shop and ran it as his own business. He was a nice chap who was always very tolerant and helpful to us young riders with little money to spend and not much idea of what we were doing.
In the Flickr archive there is a picture of two riders with welsh dragons on their helmets which are tucked under their arms. The one on the right, drinking a cup of tea, looks like Jim Davies and the other bloke looks like Evan Jones in the workshop picture. There is another picture in the Geoff Charles archive of the workshop which shows him more clearly. The small round badge on Jim Davies’s chest looks like 249 and on Evan Jones like 123. These are the numbers of the bikes that they are working on in the workshop pictures. This all seems very convincing except that one picture is dated 1954 and the other is 1949. Of course, the most likely explanation is that I am wrong! Good luck with your efforts.
Thank you for your praise, much of it was Taffs hard work but we keep growing. We had one of the young Evans family here recently. I am particularly keen to get as much of the local material for the Welsh events especially those sections in North Wales. Please come back again and if you have any thing we could use I am happy to collect and arrange scanning. More stuff going up all the time and we are going to start trying to add material to the National Library of Wales’s Peoples Collection of memories.
JFD(Don( Rhodes said:
I was trials secretary of the OMC and we used to hold a trial on Boxing Day starting at the pub in Selattyn. I also rode in the scramble at the sand pit Queens Head. You don`t mention the Llecruddy Struggle we used to hold which was a really tough event
Thanks for your note Don, and thanks for tipping your brother Dusty off about this site and post. I never heard of the Llecruddy Struggle. When you were running the trials at Selattyn did they ever pop over into the Ceiriog Valley, do you have any memories or recollection of the ISDT passing through on its way to Llangollen, or do you know of anyone still around who does? We believe it used the Allt y Badi and maybe Heartbreak Hill was thrown in too or was that just used on observed trials?
Dave Rhodes said:
This is Dave (Dusty) Rhodes posting from Canada ( brother of Don) I also have lots of memories of Roy Evans and his shop first at the top of Willow Street – then the new one in Beatrice Street. – The bikes that Jim Davies and the other riders rode at the 54 ISDT in Wales, were displayed in the shop after the event still covered in mud. – At that time I was saving up for my first bike a 197 James. – I went on to ride Trials and race at the Sandpit, before emigrating to Canada in 1965. – I’m still very much involved with the sport and run a small Trials business in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. -(www.outlawtrials.com) – I knew Geoff Charles quite well as I worked for Woodall’s Newspapers. and the rider sitting on the bike at the Sandpit, is my brother in law – Bernie Blomer, who also lives in Canada. – The couple on the Matchless, are Des & Jean Worthington. -.
Thanks Dave a nice note correcting my post is always welcome, hope the pictures bought back good memories. Do add more if you are able.
Dave Rhodes said:
The name of my brother in law is spelled Blomer not Bloomer – The family had a shoe repair shop at the top of Leg Street, not far from the Roy Evans store. – Bernie did not continue riding after he left the UK.
I raced in a 200 mile Cross Country in Alberta in 1976, in which Jeff Smith got 2nd – I finished some way behind in 6th place, A total of 173 riders started.
Suitably chastised I have corrected. as far as your getting a 6th to Jeff Smiths 2nd you clearly know how to make your bike smoke in your day, I bet the locals were hoping you would get fed up and go back home. Thank you very much for your additions to this article. 200mile in Alberta that’s about 20 miles longer than the Powys Enduro.. how long did it take? were their time checks or was it throttle open as far as you could all the way?
Dave Rhodes said:
The Cross Country races in the 1970’s were a mass start – and varied in length , there were punch-card checks to make sure you didn’t make any short cuts and in the early years were extremely difficult – Trials riding skills certainly helped, as indeed they do now. – During this period, I was working for Yamaha Canada, and doing some testing on the new IT series. – Jeff Smith was on a 250 Can Am. – I did forward some pics from both the 50’s and at the 83 ISDT in Wales, plus a recent shot of the old guy on a 2013 Beta. Glad you find it of interest.
Nick Savage said:
Hi just spending a few minutes browsing the site again and spotted my grandfather Geoff Proe in some sort of official capacity standing on the left of the photo of DUJ 490 and also in the Worthington one JUX 667.
John Wakefield said:
A pic has appeared on the GRA forum stating it was taken near Oswestry. Can anyone identify the venue, the year, and any of the riders. Interestingly No4 looks to be riding in his ‘Sunday best’ including a shirt & tie see the pic here