Simmer Dim Rally

17th June 1991 - Islesburgh MCC


- Phil the Spill

Eventually, Horse returned from the job he was doing/pub he was visiting, and we got the bikes under cover. Bubbles was worried, (as usual), that her bike was going to give her trouble, but that was going to have to wait a couple of days. Horse showed us the way to his house, and we carried our sleeping gear in. Bubbles had the spare room, Puker & Miriam were sharing the sofa bed, and I was on the living room floor. The first evening, we just spent in Horse's local, before retiring in our various locations.

MONDAY, we spent mostly wandering around Edinburgh, which is much like any other city, but had more castles and ruined abbeys in it. In the evening we visited some of Horse's friends in their local, then returned and crashed.

On TUESDAY, after working on Bubbles's bike for a while, we loaded up and went off rounding up some of Horse's club mates who were also going to the rally, ending up at the flat of a friend of his in Leith, (with its own underground car park), only 12 miles from where we started. (But in the right direction.) The others went down a pub for the evening, but I stayed behind, as I was bored with pubs. I was also supposed to act as doorman for those who came back earlier than Horse, who had the key. When all were in, we all just found our own spots to sleep around the flat.

WEDNESDAY morning started out quite uninspiring. It was raining for most of the 127-mile trip to Aberdeen Harbour, but we all got there, much to Bubbles's surprise. She was always convinced her bike was going to break down. It may have done that at home, but I never saw it fail on any Shetland trip. It used a Yamaha XJ650 engine, which were known as being bullet-proof, (even the later YICS versions), but there was a fair bit of exposed wiring sticking out from under the smaller-than-stock petrol tank. The frame was also non-standard as the seat had to be lowered quite a bit as she was not the tallest of ladies. The red and black paint scheme led to its nickname 'The Menace'. (I meant to ask her the meaning of the number 17 on the side, but never got around to it. Maybe it was her 17th bike? I was only on my 10th at the time.) The rest of my club also arrived, as did Charlie Cobbe. The usual fun & games ensued in the pub and ferry as one has come to expect and I am pleased to report that, once again, we prevented the roof of the bar/dance area on the boat from collapsing by constructing several pillars out of beer cans. Charlie, as usual, fell asleep during the party.

We docked on the THURSDAY, and several rallyists were photographed for the local papers, (Bubbles and Horse got in it, but I was elsewhere).

A bicycle made for two ... this couple arrived early for the Simmer Dim Rally and got married in Lerwick Registrar's office last Friday. The couple, Debra Dickens and Graham Ball, come from Nottingham and arrived on a 1958 BSA 650cc bike. They have spent a few days on honymoon in the Fair Isle before returning to the rally.
Photo: John Coutts

Bikers come North

Visiting bikers arrive for the Simmer Dim Rally on Thursday morning. Mark Rutherford from Manchester gives the thumbs up for the rally. It is his fourth visit to the event.
Photo: Malcolm Younger

I have to admit to not being over-impressed with this years rally badge or the ten-year achievement badge. They were bright enough, but didn't depict anything particularly Shetland-ish, like previous badges had. Anyway, who goes to rallies just for the badges? (You know who you are!)

After the tents were put up and before we are subjected to the barbecue, the traditional boot-party happened. One of the locals, Angus, arrived dressed in a fire-suit from the oil refinery and a can of lighter fluid. Guess what he did! (Quite often, actually.)

There were quite a few video teams there as well. The local freelance crew, who had been there before, and the BBC!* I was interviewed by both teams, but did not appear on the TV, and I have no idea what the freelancers did with their recording. (But I have been heard on Radio Shetland twice!) The TV show started with the presenter lighting his cigarette off of one of Angus's conflagrations. After several hours spent with us, the BBC bods went off videoing stuff in various locations, although they did return to get some footage, (is it still called that?), of the convoy around the island. (Total time on air was less than three minutes.) After they buggered off, the partying, (and drinking), could resume in earnest.

As mentioned, FRIDAY was the day of the run around the island, this year with film crew in attendance. I didn't fancy the various stop/starts, for editing, this could entail, so I went with some of my club mates for some knitwear shopping. When the riders got back, the film crew did as well and they filmed a few more snippets and the cigarette lighting gag, spending a few more hours with us, before leaving for their hotel and letting us get on with our partying.

On SATURDAY we had the silly games, visits from the Vintage club and some Vikings, and the TV crew turned up again for a few minutes. (I think it's the free beer that attracts all of them.) As usual some first rallyists were covered in muck.

One of the locals that was there was the local undertaker, who rode a Norton Rotary. He noted my interest in the bike, and handed me the keys, saying, "I'm going to be doing some drinking. Don't let me have the keys until I've sobered up. If you want to take it for a spin, I won't stop you." I didn't have to be told twice! I was familiar with the concept of the machine, but hadn't experienced 'total lack of engine braking' before. That caused a brown-trouser moment after coming head-to-head with a coach on the gravel-topped single track main road, followed by a very slow and wobbly ride to get to some tarmac. Riding this wonderful machine ultimately led to getting myself one when I found it.

There were coaches laid on to ferry us into town for the carnival in the afternoon, which is basically a procession followed by a pub-crawl. Then they brought us back again, which led to yet another twighlight-long party.

SUNDAY was the day of the awards-giving and final lunch, after which we drive back down to the ferry terminal. There is an award called the 'Miss Simmer Dim', which had been presented to various people for various reasons down the years. Someone trawled their records and worked out that I had travelled the most miles over the last ten years, (I don't know whether that included the year I started my trip from San Fransisco), and, lacking a purpose-made trophy, presented me with the Miss Simmer Dim Trophy and scarf.

Down at the Ferry terminal, all the rallyists slowly arrived, most having done a last sightseeing blast around the island. It wasn't too long before we were herded onto the boat and then we chugged off into the North Sea. It was, as usual, a 'muted' version of the trip up, with everybody quietening up not long after midnight.

MONDAY. All bikes and riders piled out of the ferry into Aberdeen Harbour, and grouped up for wherever their clubs were going. The majority, I assume, going home. My club were off to the Lake District again, Wasdale Head to be precise. The rest of them planned to stop off somewhere on the way, as fag breaks take up a fair bit of time, and Johns outfit was unlikely to make the 227 miles in one go, (as usual). I decided to head off on my own and go straight to the campsite we were going to use. It was not a nice day. The tent hadn't been thoroughly dried out before packing on Shetland, and the rain, patchy though it was, didn't help. When I got to the site, I managed to get it up between showers, but there was soon a large puddle on the roof of my porch area, and damp patches throughout the rest of the structure.

TUESDAY. There didn't seem to be a likelihood of a let-up, and I couldn't face the prospect of a wet bed, so I just packed up and rode the 321 miles home on my own. The site warden told my friends about my visit when they asked him, which amused them greatly. It had been my intention to spend the week there with the others, and then shove off down to Worcestershire for the Plastered and Cast Rally, but I spent a few days drying out at home instead.

- Phil (the Spill) Drackley

*BBC Scotland had a series called 'The Insider' in which the presenter, ('The Outsider'), travelled about the region getting the 'low-down' of various aspects of local lifestyles, with the help of a local personality, ('The Insider'). This episode was about Shetland and when they heard about us, they just had to include us.

BBC Alba have also visited the rally more recently, for their 'Air an Rathad' series, (in Gaelic), which is a motoring programme much like Top Gear was when it started.

In 2013, there was the BBC Scotland series 'The Harbour', about various goings on in and around Aberdeen Harbour, which had quite a segment, (nearly seven minutes), about the trip across to Shetland, for that year's Simmer Dim, in which Bubbles, on her last trip before the fatal accident, had a few words.