Film ID:
NEFA 21287



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This amateur film documents the 13th Inter-Centre Trial for motorcycles, starting from Alston in Cumbria on 24th October 1954. It was commissioned by St. Andrew’s Motors (SAM) and produced by amateur filmmaker, George Cummin (Conway Films), assisted by members of the Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers Association (ACA). The wry commentary was also by George Cummin.

Credit: By arrangement with Conway Films and St Andrew’s Motors Ltd., Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Title: “Sam presents the I.C.T.”

Title: This, the second in our famous Trials Series, deals with the case of MUD v MOTORBIKES in the Inter-Centre Team Trial at Alston & surrounding Quagmires on 24th Oct 1954

Credit: Photographed under Difficulties and practically under water by Ted Davis, Geoff. Henderson & Don Nichol

Credit: The film subsequently wrung out, dried and cleaned up generally, then combined with SAM’s remarks (where printable) by George Cummin

The film sets the location with a road sign for Alston. On a grey, rainy day a policeman directs traffic attending the 13th Inter-Centre Trial for motorbikes, due to start from Alston and take place at locations around Alston Moor, Cumbria. Motorcycle competitors in regional teams, hardy spectators and officials gather at Collins Garage in Alston, awaiting the timed starts. They include the coach for Cheshire, No. 9 Gordon Jackson of the South Eastern team riding out and Watson from the Northern team in a ski-hat and goggles. Spectators are standing beneath umbrellas.

Close-up of the event programme showing the lists of teams from 11 different ACU (Auto-Cycle Union) centres from all over the country.

Chief Marshal Wright stands with another official, coated up against the cold. The official starter sees off riders at the start of their trials. Pam Loveyear, another trial official, grins broadly and chats with other staff.

Various riders are timed off with a stopwatch at one minute intervals, including No. 26 Dave Tice(?) on a BSA, and No. 27 Ted Page with the North Eastern team who shares a joke with the starter.

Two officials check their event programme.

A group of motorcyclists, including Ted Usher, wait for their starts in the rain. Tom Ellis takes a walk before his trial with one of the organisers, Allan Jeffries. Brian Martin from the Midland team bounces on his BSA bike, demonstrating his suspension to a sceptical Ken Holloway. Some of the spectators braving the rain include a few young lads in their school caps. The Starter dispatches more of the competitors, including Geoff Broadbent from the Yorkshire team, the competitors Nos. 73 and 74, and Stoddart from the Yorkshire team. 

The first observed section is at Blagill, old iron and lead mine country, which is one big puddle at the bottom. This course has replaced the Blagill Burn section, which was totally washed out. Overhead shot of cars and spectators at this first trial stop. The East Yorkshire rider, Shearsmith, makes his way around the bend in the road to arrive at the first section. Some of the riders attempt the steep, muddy climb, including competitors Nos. 60, 61 and 62. All ride the section quite well. Amongst the spectators are Ken Holloway’s family beneath an umbrella beside the hill climb.

Back in Alston, Nos. 76 and No. 77, Johnny Britten on a Royal Enfield, take their place at the start, Britten turning over his bike in preparation. This film’s director, George Cummin, is carrying a toddler on his shoulders. Competitor No. 82, Ken Holloway, is sheltering in Collins Garage from the pouring rain along with other riders. Competitor No. 85 (“the mysterious A. N. Other”) gets ready to start. The last two, No. 87, Johnny Giles, and No. 88, Ernie Smith, set off. Ernie Smith rides off in a flat cap, with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, passing the Alston Hotel.

Back at Blagill, riders No. 71, Arthur Brown riding a lightweight bike for the North Eastern team, No. 76 on a Triumph bike, No. 78, also on a 500cc Triumph, and No. 82, Ken Holloway on a 197 James, all clear the rough and muddy course with no problem.

The next observed section is at Nentsberry, Hagg’s Mine. A crowd of spectators are waiting at the top of the waterfall. Competitors, including No. 69, Jones of the Cheshire team, battle their way upstream, water flowing fast down a rocky burn, the banks lined with spectators. A competitor rides up the higher section of the course, which is dry. The observer, smoking a cigarette despite the drizzle, Roly Cassell records the section ridden by Todd on a Matchless bike. On the topmost section, a bleak and deserted spot known as the Golden Staircase, a rider makes it onto a track to the upper moorland, where he turns right to get to Killhope.

General view of a torrential waterfall, a rider fording the top. In the next gully, a motorcyclist makes his way downhill. Various shots record the competitors riding through water to the base of the burn.

General view of the waterfall, looking like a mini Niagara Falls!

Title: Interlude [over picture of waterfall]

The commentator, George Cummins playing reporter Sam, explains: “When Sam returned to his transport he found it completely bogged down in the Killhope mud. His comments on this were interesting, but scarcely fit for transmission. The film therefore does not feature some of the observed sections. ‘Sam’ rejoined the trial at Fairless Pasture.”

General view of moorland around Fairless Pasture. High angle shot of a motorcyclist arriving on the road to ride another observed section uphill. No. 21, Gordon Jackson, rides hell for leather up the rocky gully, but has a problem when his bike slips from beneath him. He regains his seat. He looks back smiling. K. D. Edwards is following. He checks back with the observer to see whether he has acquired penalty points for his ride. Close-up of the observer gesturing with his hand – one penalty point. Competitors continue up the gully to the top.

From a different viewpoint on the upper section, competitor No. 9, Stewart with the Northern team, is having trouble staying on his bike through the zigzagging gully. A group of drenched spectators watch from beneath waterproof macs and umbrellas.  Closer shots follow No. 9, Stewart, as he almost reaches the top, but the bike tumbles in the last few yards, and Ted Usher whose bike is now stuck in deep mud at the same spot. Johnny Chapman, from the North Eastern team, attempts the same tricky part of the section and has to get off his bike and push. R. Holme makes his way up using his feet to balance. No. 31, Bob Mans (?) of the South Eastern team, has a good run. Gordon Blakeway is mired in the mud and needs a helping hand from a marshal. Pat Britten begins to climb cautiously and successfully.

The observers are waiting at another observed section for the riders to appear. Competitors Nos. 57 and 59 are waiting to climb the extremely muddy, flowing burn. Nos. 57, 61 and 41 (S. Smith from Cheshire with a rucksack on his back) tackle this 1:2 slope and have a trouble-free climb.

A small party of onlookers, including two young lads, watch the riders from the top. Another competitor falls off into the mud. A marshal helps him out. J. G. Brown races up the section. Parker makes it and Johnny Giles flies over the top, raising clouds of smoke from his bike.

Two motorcyclists race across the moorland to the next section, which was to be at Grass Hill Common. But “Tynehead has been cut off altogether”. The river is much too deep for them to get across.”

Instead, the next section is at Shaw Side, marked by a waterfall. Competitor No. 2, Wright from the Midlands team, crosses a stream and rides to the observed section. Here, A. Radcliffe of Yorkshire rides up a rocky stream, performing a jump as he passes by camera. He is followed by No. 13, Thomas of South Midlands, who falls off his bike. Competitors Nos. 1 and 12 ford a stream and set off up the observed section, but No. 12 fails to make it up the last few feet of the climb, his bike coming to a halt. No. 21 Gordon Jackson rides the section successfully.

A competitor rides through the wet section and onto a dry, stony path but can’t make it to the top and uses his feet to push. Chapman negotiates the stony part safely, but comes to a halt at the same spot. R. Wilkins of Yorkshire clears the stony ridge at the top of the climb and makes his way to the road.

A motorcyclist arrives at Hagg’s Mine. Competitors No. 50 and Smith of Cheshire negotiate the last section, followed by Jeff Smith of the Midlands team. At a turbulent stream, No. 54 ploughs his bike through. Various shots record competitors on the section. Close-up of No. 70, Marriott, examining his bike. Spectators watch at a point known as Golden Staircase. A motorcyclist disappears into the distance, riding across the fells to Blagill. The spectators now pick their way downhill and back to their cars. Competitor No. 85 is examining his bike.

Riding down the road at Blagill, Peter Armstrong races past camera, smiling, and is apparently heading in the wrong direction.

Riders Chadwick and Marriott ford a burn, a re-instated section of the course.

Competitor No. 11 rides off on the road to Alston and the finish.

Back at Alston, the official Harry Robson awaits competitors with two other colleagues. Don Evans of the Midlands team arrives back, then Hickman (South Eastern team), Pat Britten (Midlands team). The South Eastern riders all arrive back in good time. The chief marshal collects competitors’ numbers as the riders return.  Davis (Cheshire) and S. Smith return. A crowd of men in suits and rain macs wait at the finish. The competitor Hickman joins another rider for a chat. W. H. Wood and another rider (both North Eastern) arrive back.

Portrait shot of rider Harry Wood, looking weary, talking to Arthur Brown. One of the riders walks towards camera showing the liquor hidden in his inside pocket. Close-up of a competitor’s muddy clothes. Water is poured from a muddy Wellington boot.

The Yorkshire rider Parker is now back at the finish.  On a Sunday lunchtime at Alston, the streets are quite empty in the rain. No. 69 returns and gives up his number. A table is full of all the competitors’ numbers laid out neatly, with gaps for those who have still not returned to base. General view of a street in Alston, the Lion Hotel in the background, as motorbikes return.

A policeman wipes his brow. Some of the trial officials are in the street. Bikes have been loaded onto trailers. Vans drive away. Two men try to force a bike into the back of a van. A motorcyclist has her goggles cleaned. Rider Ken Holloway chats to another man, joking about the wing collar he is now sporting. Some other bikers are filling up their bikes with oil and having a cup of tea.

Gordon Jackson and the South Eastern team were the eventual winners. Close-up of the event programme: “13th Inter-Centre Team Championship Trial. Start & Finish Collins Garage, Alston, Cumberland. Sunday 24th October 1954, at 10am”. A picture of Gordon Jackson in action has been used on the front cover.

General view of the high street at Alston.

Title: The End