"How'd you like a
motorbike? I just got my call-up papers
for the Army. I've taken it all apart,
every bit of it including the engine and the
carburetor. I've taken all the paint off the
frame. I was just about to start a complete
rebuild when I got my enlistment papers. If you
want it I'll bring it all to you. I know you can
put it together." What 16 year old could refuse
such an offer? And so I became the proud
owner of a 350 cc Velocette; two wheels and a
great number of cardboard boxes full of bits and
I came to the
conclusion that what I had was just a big
jig-saw puzzle. Only one bit could fit
with one other bit. Gaskets, between parts that
had to be sealed, I made from brown butcher
paper. Finally after several months I had the
last bit of the engine assembled. Next came the
painting of the frame. Finally
came the day that I tightened the last bolt. I
did a very good paint job on the frame and the
tank and I was really proud of my
accomplishment. I'd been very careful as to the
timing of the valves and the magneto and the
running clearances and adjustments of the
tappets. Now comes the moment of truth. Will it
I got astride and
slowly cranked it over to prime the cylinder. I
switched on, gave a soft, push over center, kick and right off
first time it ran. Not only did it run it ran
perfectly and idled as smoothly as could be. I was one proud and happy boy.
From time to time a
circus complete with elephants, lions and tigers
and with all sorts of fun/game side shows came
to visit Earlsferry. The allocated place for
them to set up all their tents and equipment was
on the wide piece of grass on the golf
course, the area between the rough of the
4th and the 17th fairways, where the Cadjers
Road crosses. One of the side shows that
fascinated me was Speedy Brum and his Wall of
Death, a large completely enclosed heavy steel
wire mesh cage with a mesh domed top. Speedy and
another on motor bikes started out circling from
the bottom. As the speed of the bikes increased
the bikes defied gravity as centrifugal force
held rider and machine against the mesh
sidewalls as they raced around and around and at
each circle getting higher and higher.
Further bursts of speed and the two of them went
circling upside down right under and across
It was amazing that they didn't collide, crash
to the floor of the cage and kill each other.
One year a small stage was set up for the
children of the area to participate in a talent
contest and there were a number of entries. When
I was a boy I had a fair singing voice and I
plucked up my courage and went on stage.
Recently we had a death in the family. Our cat
had expired from an unknown ailment and me being
in mourning my sniveling rendition was my jingle
for which I made up the words, "Oor cat cutch
the mizzles and it's dade, pair thing," that I
sang to the tune of “Doctor MacGregor and his
wee black bag.” Needless to say I ended up at
the bottom of the totem pole but I was rewarded
with a tanner (a sixpence) for my effort. After
me an Elie girl who was my same age
a live cat but wanted a dog got up on to the
stage and gave her version of "Daddy wouldn't
buy me a bow, wow"
and completely stole the show.
my bosom buddy, also had a motorbike and in no
time the pair of us were
joy riding all over the place. We raced each
other. We went off-road hill climbing and in
general we had a great time with our bikes.
I will tell of one
episode with Jems.
This was in World War II during the days of the
blackout. One moonlight evening
Jems showed up.
"Let's get our bikes out." Off we went in
the dark chasing each other up the Ferry Road.
We'd gone about four miles and were at a bend in
the road at Muircambus
when the chain of Jems'
bike came off. We
pulled over to the right side of the road to
prop Jems' bike
against the banking at the side of the road. I
focused my headlight so that
Jems could see to
get his chain back on. While so doing a
car from ahead came around a curve in the road.
We were on the wrong side of the road. As the
car approached it slowed down to a crawl then
stopped opposite us. Was it a police car? What
a predicament. Neither of us had an operator
license. Our bikes were neither registered,
licensed nor insured. The petrol in my tank was
dyed military green, courtesy of an army tank!!!
We debated fleeing the scene but thought better
of it. The car door opened and out stepped
the chief of police of the County of Fife.
Holy mackerel we'd hit the jack pot. Also in
the car were three other high ranking police
The chief politely
asked, "Are you having a problem?" Doing
my level best to put on an innocent front I
explained what we were doing. The officer then
reprimanded us for being on the wrong side of
the road because being on the wrong side
could have caused an accident. He went on, "We
can't help you as we're already late for a
meeting of police being held at
Anstruther. Please get on to your
proper side of the road and be more careful."
With that he got in the car and was gone.
If God in his Heaven
ever smiled on Jems
and me He certainly beamed on us that night.
acquired a BSA then a Triumph Tiger 90 that was
followed by a Tiger 100. In 1950 I had gone by
train to visit my brother Noel who was in the
town of Stafford in England. There in the
motor cycle shop window of a man by the name of
Ernie Bunn was a brand new, bright blue, 650cc,
side by side, vertical
twin, Triumph Thunderbird. It was love at first
price was a little over 200 pounds. In I went
and came out the proud owner. In all the time I
owned the Thunderbird it performed to my utmost
satisfaction. It had power and perfect
balance. I got so good at riding that bike
that I learned to set the throttle speed then
carefully work my way up to letting go of the
handlebars and for a few brief seconds ride it
standing on the seat. Over the years I've had
several other bikes but never was there one that
came anywhere close to the
weight and balance of the Thunderbird.