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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

An image of Evan Jones (Bala), J R Lloyd (Llandderfel), mechanic J Wood and Jim Davies (Oswestry) with the motorcycles supplied and prepared by Roy Evans’ Motorcycle Workshop for the International Six Day Trial in 1954.

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

Agents for AJS, Ariel, BSA, James, DMW, Norton and Sunbeam all classic British marques of the time

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The site of the Roy Evans shop in 2009 (Courtesy of Google Streetview)

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

Oswestry & District MCC Scramble, Sandpit, Queens Head June 1954

Scramble at the Sandpit, Queens Head 1955, organised by Oswestry and District Motor Club, Jeff Smith, British Scrambles Champion, won every race that he entered.

Photo of the organisers with Jeff Smith? 1955. Jeff was a succesful ISDT career eventually emigrating over the Atlantic and riding as a national from North America whilst running the Can Am factory.

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.

Motorcycle Scrambler arriving by sidecar

Trackside Grocery.. I hope the produce was not for throwing at slow riders, those coconuts would hurt I am sure

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 1954

Motorcycles and Cars passing along old unsurfaced road on the Welsh Borders in rally event

Another example of an old road on the Oswestry and District MC 9 Hour Rally that included unmodified road going sports cars along rough old roads

Apart fro mpsorts cars the Oswestry & District MC also seemed to like to encourage a more refined contingent in its 9 hour rally.. same they could not find gentler public roads to use.. .G&T anyone

These days such images would be only found in adverts for 4×4 sports vehicles.. local reg too, probably worth more than the car by the end of this track.

This sidecar outfit [DUJ 490] looks pretty clean so its either the start or they found away around to avoid those muddy roads

An immaculate and classic Matchless [JUX 667] ridden 2 up, local Shropshire registration taking part in 9 hour rally

A 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.

Another 2 up motorcycle competitor along with [LNT 99] looking clean so this must be the start

Grasstrack at Oswestry There was a vibrant grass track scene in the locality which was a popular sport attracting large crowds of spectatos

Oswestry Motor Clubs Grasstrack meeting in May 1950

Oswestry Grass track meeting May 1950

Oswestry grass track race meeting at Mile End Field, Shrewsbury Road on Good Friday organised by the Oswestry and District Motor Cycle Club; the most successful rider, R Tolley (no. 27) can be seen in various images.

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