June at Castle Leod, Strathpeffer, Ross Shire, Scotland
To date I'd done a few reasonably local Rallies as a schoolboy pillion and more recently a few more on my Honda CB550 F1.
The people in the picture are from left to right Keith (Binney) Tinsley, my wife to be Christine (Smiv) Honneyman who is sat on Alan Barclay's knee, and Steve Giddens.
Alan Barclay (The Banker), a fellow Gonad, had approached me and asked if I fancied doing The Claymore. On questioning the location I was advised "just North of Inverness!" Having just turned 18 a couple of weeks earlier it may as well have been The Moon.
Give the 420 miles each way; I think we must have left Oldham on the Thursday in order to get more time at the Rally. Sweeping off the M62 westbound towards the M61, I was leading and overtook some traffic where the A666 splits off and then pulled across onto the 61. Looking in my mirrors, The Banker was nowhere to be seen. Great start to the trip - the guy with all the experience had gone. I carried on, joining the M6 and stopped at Forton services up near Lancaster. Shortly after, Al pulled in and after a coffee, we set off again.
Next stop "The Cannie Scots Shop" just over the border near Gretna. Fuelled up, we carried on up the A74 cruising along at about 80mph. This was my first trip to Scotland and once on the A9 heading towards Perth and The Highlands it just blew my mind.
This was the start of my affinity with Scotland and I ended up living there for a couple of years from 89 to 91. This was also the first of many Rallies north of the border. I'd never seen as many trees and the scenery was fantastic but it felt like we were riding to the edge of the world.
We went by Inverness and out onto the A835 towards Dingwall. Not far now and I was tiring. Coming into a roundabout with Al leading I totally misjudged my speed and realising that I wasn't going to make it, I stood the bike up. Thankfully there was nothing coming from my right and the island was a kerb and grass affair. As The Banker swept left off the roundabout I passed him having gone straight across the middle! After a fatherly chat we set off on the last 8 or so miles to Castle Leod which is literally half a mile to the east of the picturesque Victorian Spa village of Strathpeffer. It had taken us 8 hours.
Tent up and off for a beer taking in both The Strathpeffer Hotel and Mackays Hotel.
Next day the majority of people started to arrive and that Friday night there was a band and disco in the Spa Pavillion. As I'd got chatting to a local lassie that day the evening was even more enjoyable. I walked back to the tent at about 0230hrs and it wasn't even dark. Every field was awash with wildlife - thousands of rabbits.
Think Dave Honneyman from Darlington was there that year along with Tony Cormack and Dave Heatley, both from Manchester. On the Sunday morning Tony Cormack shot off on his 250 MZ alone. This was normal. Al and I were ready to go but Dave Heatley decided to give it another hour before coaxing his Suzuki 750 Kettle into life. With that, Al and I set off for another mammoth adventure.
We passed through the village, my lassies phone number in my arse pocket as she waved us farewell. We dropped down the back roads through Marybank, Urray, Muir of Ord and Beauly eventually coming out onto the A82 at Drumnadrochit and my first sight of Loch Ness. The ride down Lochs Ness, Oich and Lochy was superb with the road switching back and forth over the railway. Again the scenery was awesome. From there it was Fort William, The Ballachulish Bridge, Glencoe and down to Crianlarich. From there I think we carried on down the A82 down the side of Loch Lomond, out through Glasgow and onto the M74.
Turning into the A74 in those days, we were back in 80mph cruise mode as we ate up the miles toward Greater Manchester. Somewhere around Moffat, Al was leading our formation in the outside lane when without warning his 500/4 slewed sideways alarmingly. It straightened and then slewed the other way. The bars were slapping around and the back end was going left to right and back again. With obvious ability he avoided the brakes and rode it out. Meanwhile I'd slowed the traffic behind us and could now see that Al's rear tyre was totally deflated. We came to rest against the central reservation kerb. Phew! Adrenalin is brown!
Having got across to the nearside verge we removed the wheel and as we worked Dave Heatley arrived on his Kettle. The culprit was located. The valve had been blown off the inner tube at the point were it is vulcanised. This left a half inch hole in the tube and caused instantaneous deflation. We stuck a new tube in and Dave took the wheel down the road and returned with it inflated. The three of us rode back largely uneventfully after this.
It was a superb trip and a really enjoyable weekend and I will be eternally grateful to The Banker for putting up with the novice and introducing me to Scotland as well as giving me invaluable experience.
The Claymore Rally 1978 was held in June at Castle Leod, Strathpeffer, Ross Shire, Scotland.
Having been to this Rally the year before, I was bitten. I'd also been back up to Strathpeffer in the September of '77 to see the Lassie that I'd met at the Rally that year. I did the A82 Loch Ness route in both directions and called in at the Antler Rally at Salen on the way up.
Now it was The Claymore again and I was really looking forward to another trip to the magnificent Highlands of Scotland. Small problem though, I'd blown the camshaft on my CB550 F1. Alan Barclay (The Banker) had traded his CB500/4 for the newly introduced CX500 and my good friend Mike Shepherd had also bought a CX. As Mike was stuck on an Oil Rig at the time, he very kindly lent me his new CX500.
This trip was largely uneventful but enjoyable just the same. The two CXs performed faultlessy and never missed a beat as once again we did the A9 up and the A82 down.
The Strath was much the same except that the Spa Pavilion had been closed due to a lack of maintenance funds so no music this year.
Dave Honneyman and his wife Christine were there and we spent most of the weekend in MacKay's Hotel.
I'm not sure if The Claymore was run again as I think a number of Wyvis Club members were killed on the A9 and in any event, I was now aboard HMS Norfolk so it was a while before I did another Rally.
After Mike Shepherds generous offer, I did buy my own CX500 and had many years (17) service from it.
I was last in Strathpeffer in 1997 and the pavilion was still derelict but as a listed building it cannot be developed. The locals advised that negotiations were ongoing with the Council to secure funding for refurbishment.
- Steve Giddens
We traveled up to the rally through the night setting off with Paul and Christine Elliot about 7.30pm. We got about 200 yards from Pauls house and his bike ran out of petrol! We spent the next 20 minutes getting the bike to a garage.
This was at the start of a weeks holiday with Paul and Chris, which was to take in the rally, then continue with us touring Scotland's west coast. I remember thinking this is going to be fun ... and it was!
We rode right through the night. We stopped for petrol a couple of times and stopped for fish and chips in Perth. Paul remembers a woman in the fish shop trying to pick a fight with the more sober ones in the place.
At one point in the journey we were attacked by a couple of yobs as we drove through Pitlochry. They were sitting on a bench swigging spirits and when they heard our bikes they got up and ran at us. They took a wild kick at us as we speeded up past them.
Smiv was oblivious to all of this. She'd been asleep since we left Perth and she continued to sleep until she was woken by pigeons sleeping by the roadside which took to flight as we came upon them. It was still dark at the time and we had no idea what the strange flapping noises going on around us were until it became lighter.
We had a great time at the rally and the weather was scorching for over a week.
After the rally we camped at Big Sands campsite near Gairloch. It was amazing to see people still playing games on the beach at 1.00 in the morning, it was still daylight up there.
One day Paul and I went fishing and the girls went to the launderette on the site. We came back with nowt and they came back with fish. I never could work that one out!
It was a fantastic holiday and the best weather I've ever had in Scotland.
The year after, Smiv and I were married and Paul was my best man.
- Dave Honneyman
Hi, Keith Hunwick here.
That's me and me pal Big John, (centre bottom row of pics) We may look slightly chilled but in actual fact we are limbering up for that evening's human pyramid. As you can clearly see, John is adding those essential calories. The bike is a Honda TL125 with a 180 big bore kit & shagged cylinder head. I had not completed my Kettle rebuild in time for rally & took a chance on the TL which was 2 up with all the camping kit & an average speed of 45mph which didn't bother me too much on account of occasionally driving trucks. The carrier you can see on my side of the bike was to carry 1 gallon of petrol as the TL tank only held 9/10 of a gallon with 1/10 reserve & as those of you that had travelled those roads day & especially through the night know, fuel stations were sparse. Who remembers the pound note Pre-pay machine filling station north of Perth?
It was a fantastic rally & our club, the Tees Tornadoes, had a good turnout as usual. We won the tug'o war. How could we fail with Big John as anchor man?
Anyone on the Rally scene at the time would remember Big John with his hearty laugh & humour. Unfortunately John is no longer with us after his sudden & massive heart attack 28/2/2005 aged 50. John was still riding, as I am.
I'm now 50 & there are few things in my past that I would change & many memories I treasure. "These were magic times"
Also attending the Claymore this year, for those that can remember names, was Bunce Banes, Tommy Lugg, Arnie (the Farmer) Scott & Pete Whitesmith.
As for the Pavillion, it's restored & the village is in good fettle. I go there with my wife Bernie around twice a year & I always think back as I pass the campsite on the way to the Highlander Hotel.
When I start telling my 3 sons aged 19, 21 & 23 of how far me & their Mam travelled on a TL125 & because we each have GAS GAS Trials bikes now (as was the Honda TL) I'm sure they think I'm either full of shit or losing the plot.
Our return journey on the TL to Chester-le-Street was slightly more rapid as I managed to slip-stream a couple of Charles Alexandre's fish wagons & yes we did hum a bit by the time we got home.
Hi Dave, hope you & Chris are well. Here's wishing you all good health & good fortune.
- Keith Hunwick
Nice to see the 5 star award for this one, especially this week.
Unfortunately Keith lost his battle against cancer, and his funeral was Wednesday 2 July 2008
Happy memories, from a fellow Tees Tornadoes, gone, but never forgotten.
- Ted Trett
I remember Big John from the Dalesman. I'll stand to be corrected but circa 1987 rings a bell.
Big, kind, jovial and generous guy. Went for a beer at The Westholme Caravan Site. We decided (he decided) to arm wrestle - I beat him - Christ knows how! Think Les Hobbs was the judge.
We spent the rest of the night buying each other beers and having a laugh. A true gent.
Every Rally thereafter - "Hi Steve" - "Hi John - Another arm wrestle?" - "F**k off."
- Steve Giddens
I attended the 1978 Claymore Rally with my then girlfriend Elaine. I was the proud owner of a Kettle fitted with a Piper three into one (I loved the sound of that bike !
We only got to know about the rally after meeting a couple of bikers at the Forestry Commission campsite at Glencoe. They were on a 400 four - I think it was Dave Honeyman.
I met the Swedish couple at Gairloch and stayed in touch with them for some time. I intended to visit them in Uppsala, Sweden when I visited that country in 1980. By that time I was riding a GS1000, but got knocked off near Vastervik.
Is the Black Isle club still going?
- John Davison
In August 1976 I headed from Somerset to the Black Isle (600 miles), riding my 1966 Norton 650SS. Not the best tool for M5/M6 but definitely the best tool for the "auld A9".
I got through Perth and saw a sign which said Inverness 110 miles! Knowing there wasn't many places in between I headed back to Perth and filled the tank!
Had a great time at the rally with some riders from Sweden. Finally I packed up on Sunday and headed home.
Between Perth and Edinburgh, I had to get my overtrousers on due to rain - What! Took a back road to just outside Carlisle. On the M6 I felt tired and was following a car when it veered over on to the hard shoulder and came back on the road. I realised I was tired as well so I went into the Lake District, found a campsite, rang my Dad to tell him I wouldn't make it home and could he please ring the works to tell them I had felt ill on the way home!
Any way I made it home OK the next day and proudly have my Claymore badge to prove it....
- Alan Rogers
It's good to hear of people's experiences of life, it makes you want to go live it some more.