Cecil ‘Bob’ Ray originates from Barnstable, North Devon where as a farmers son other than rounding up cattle on an old Ariel he showed little interest incompetative events. He proved his ability as an Army BSA rider during the WWII impressing his instructors so much he became a instructor for the whole war based in Kendal, Cumberland. After demob he was quickly snapped up by Ariel to ride a full set of Trials, Scrambles and ISDT. His prowess in the Army built a reputation that saw Ariel team boss Tommy Davies snap him up and almost immediately put him to ride in the Colmore Cup British Pathé website features archive footage), which was a unusually muddy edition. He did not fair well but showed enough potential to stay on with Ariel becoming on of the great riders of the 1950’s in the three off-road motorcycle disciplines. These days it would be impossible to find a top works riders who in a few seasons picked up the Patchquick Trophy, a top award at the Scottish Six Days Trial and rode for his county in the ISDT. It was not like he was short of competition as his regular rivals included Bob Rist, Jim Alves, Alan Jefferies, Hugh Viney, Charlie Rogers and Bill Nicholson.
He was a great in Trial and Scramble but often the highest awards eluded him but his smooth riding style made him a cert for selection for the British ISDT team and he rode the ISDT 8 times winning several Gold Medals. His second appearance in 1949 at Llandrindod Wells was his first riding for the GB Trophy team with Viney, Rogers, Rist and Alves. He continued to travel across Europe at a time the days that the domination of the large lumps of British 4 Stroke hardware were being challenged by much lighter and nimbler european 2 strokes from Jawa and CZ. Given the British riders continued winning indicates that their riding skills were the best in the world.
Bob eventually hung up his boots in 1958 and his seat on the Ariel team was passed to Sammy Miller. He retired from the sport to devote his time to a chain of motorcycle shops he had started to set up in 1947 and also dabbled in Car Trials and promoting events for the famous BBC Sports televised scrambles. He sadly passed away 28th April 2010 only a few years short of his 100th birthday.
There is a feature on Bob in the excellent book “Off-road Giants! (Volume 2) – Heroes of 1960s Motorcycle Sport”
you can check out a preview of the pages featuring Bob’s story here at Google Books
Finally I am endebted to the South West Classic Trials website who have assembled an amazing collection of images of the greats of their local scene including a selection of photos of Bob in Action which we feature here and can be found on their www.southwestclassictrials.co.uk website too
Thanks to reader Jerry Gower who cleared up the correct identities of the above riders and bikes
Jerry Gower said:
ISDT Trophy Team photo above. Royal Enfield KAB547 is ridden by Jack Stocker.
BSA (not Matchless) LOL227 is ridden by Fred Rist