Thistle Rally 1973
Quite a few members of the Potteries Phoenix that I was a member of at the time decided to go to the Thistle Rally that year.
Myself and a mate - Gordon Abbots - set off at 5.45pm on the Friday evening on his Norton 650SS and arranged to catch up with a couple more members who were travelling on a Triumph 500 5T outfit. Obviously it was dark when we departed and very cold being in the middle of February. Anyway, we caught with our mates at Tebay services on the M6.
No idea what year but it will have been late 70s. A pre-Beetroot outfit facing Drew Grants, which had a right hand chair.
The guy riding the outfit was Les Dale (aka Scammel) and he decided to let his passenger Roy Pointon (aka Cheesy) drive the outfit for the next stint. Les told Roy to make sure that the clutch lever was returned properly as it was catching on some handlebar muffs he had fitted prior to leaving. We left the services about 8.30pm and rejoined the M6 at the bottom of Shap. Needless to say, Roy had forgotten what Les has told him about the clutch lever and the Triumph clutch started slipping on the climb up Shap.
As the clutch was giving up the ghost, we pulled into Southwaite services to install another set of clutch plates (sidecar riders often carries spare clutch plates in those days).
After Les had finished installing the fresh clutch plates he decided to test the bike on the by now frozen and icy car park. There were no other cars on the car park and a bemused policeman watched Les riding around the car park doing figure of eights etc.
With the clutch fixed, we set off again, leaving Southwaite at about 11.00pm. However, it was so cold that we had to stop after about another forty miles, somewhere south of Locherbie. We lit a fire in a concrete dustbin in a lay-by at the side of the A74. After getting slightly warmer we set off again only to encounter snow after about twenty miles. We rode slowly and then went into an all night Little Chef where we met some other rallyists sheltering from the snow and severe cold.
After about an hour, the proprietor of the café decided enough was enough and locked the doors telling us he was closing in about half an hour. It was strange watching fellow rallyists trying to get into the café with cold noses pressed up against the windows.
Anyway, we took our leave and left, the snow ceased in a couple of miles and we were able to proceed a bit quicker.
Unfortunately, as the A74 was not a motorway in those days, there were no petrol stations open in the early hours so we had to pull up at Cumbernauld at about 6.45am to await the petrol station opening at 8.00am.
Re-fuelled, we set off again, only to stop for another warm in a lay-by just north of Doune.
No further problems were encountered and we arrived at the rally at Strathyre at about 10.30am having taken almost 17 hours to get to the rally!
Thistle 1978: Ted Trett, Pete Fisher, Sue Slater and Paul Mullis
The rally was enjoyable and the journey home was much quicker with few problems. We decided to leave the outfit and were able to cruise a lot faster on the Norton, getting home about 4.00pm on Sunday.
- John Scotcher