CONTINUING OUR recent theme of motorcycling in the fifties, Olive Bedworth of West Bromwich has more memories and photographs from those times, and this week she tells us about some of her longer treks, on one bike with late husband George ...
"In the '50s petrol was still rationed; war rationing ended in 1950, but it was reintroduced for a while in 1957 during the Suez Crisis. There were very few people with a car, but many had bicycles and motorcycles, which were coming into fashion by then.
"It was a pleasure to go out on a motorcycle, as there were no motorways, just A and B roads. It was lovely to ride along the lanes, see the farmers in their fields, the cattle, and smell the fresh air.
"My husband George bought a 1934 Norton in the '50s, and we used to go out on it whether it was winter or summer. We explored most of England and the Isle of Wight. The George bought a Royal Enfield twin, a lovely bike, and we decided to explore Scotland on it. It was a hard run, we used to set out from West Bromwich about 3 in the morning, and carry on until we got to Carlisle. On one occasion when we got to the Warrington Canal, we all had to step to allow a big shop to pass through. A gentleman came up to George and said 'we've been following you and we're worried about your pillion passenger, who hasn't moved for miles.' "George told him that I had been asleep. Being so early, I used to belt myself around George and put my arms around his waist and fall asleep for miles.
"We decided to explore around Selkirk, Inverary on Loch Fyne, Aberdeen and Banff, just to name a few of the places we visited. George was stationed around Inverary before he went overseas in the Second World War. We went to Inverary Castle, the seat of the Duke of Argyll, and we did a bed and breakfast at Ouich, at a forester's cottage near to where they filmed Rob Roy.
"One trip took us to the Pass of Glencoe, and on our arrival, standing in his Scottish tartans and playing the pipes, was a big scot. George asked me to go and stand near him so I could have a photograph. The piper told me to go down to the bridge, where his daughter was selling white heather. I did, and I felt very upset when I met her, as she was blind. She put her hands over my face and felt my features. In the meantime, George had bought me a McGregor bonnet and as I was by the piper, a coach load of Scots stopped, got out, and started shouting at me.
George said it was the bonnet; the McGregors had famously slain the McDonalds in the Pass of Glencoe.
"Another time we were on our way to Aberdeen, and I was tired and a little stiff.
Along the road was a park, so I asked George to stop and let me off for a lie down. I lay on a lovely patch of grass and didn't notice anything as I lay down, but then a terrible smell met my nostrils. A dog had done what a dog does, but it was very messy and I was covered down my back. I started to get upset, but George tried to clean me up as best he could with some long grass from around the base of a tree. The he recited a bit of A.E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad: 'And down in lovely muck I've lain, happy till I woke again.' "We found the Scots generous and kind, sometimes strict. At one bed and breakfast cottage the lady who opened the front door said 'Are you married?'. I'd had this question asked of me on another occasion when we'd stayed in London, so I always carried a copy of our wedding photos with me. They were very strict in those days, were the Scots.
"The toilets at that B&B were quite a way away. You walked along past a row o cottages, up a steep bank and on the top was a row of oldfhaioned toilets, a plank with a hole in the middle. We couldn't get over how far away they were.
"Also in those days, if a fellow motorcyclist was stranded along the road, you always stopped to help. They were great days.
"George later sold the Enfield and bought a big Norton with a lovely bombshaped side car, but it wasn't the same as sitting pillion.
"Having a motorcycle of my own, I used to have George on the back as pillion, and we would go up Barr Beacon or on short runs together. I enjoyed being the driver at times. We used to go to all the races, standing in all weathers, but we had good gear; Barber suits and decent boots. George used to 'dubbin' them before each run.
"What a shame, all good things have to come to an end. But in all the years we travelled around the country, we met some lovely people, and I am proud to say my husband was the best of drivers.
We never had an accident."