Film ID:
NEFA 21289



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This amateur film records an international scooter rally that took place in Langley Park, Whitley Bay, in 1958, with events such as the obstacle races and Scooter Queen contest organised by the Gateshead-based Northumbria Lambretta Club. The film was commissioned by St Andrews Motors (SAM) and made by members of one of the oldest cine clubs in Britain, Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers Association (ACA), with production and commentary by George Cummin. SAM was a dealership for Norton and Vincent motorbikes on Gallowgate in Newcastle from the 1930s to 60s.

Before the picture starts, George Cummin, a Newcastle and District ACA member, introduces the film, looking back to an international scooter rally at Whitley Bay in 1958.

Title: SAM Presents Scramble and Rally

Credits: Photography Reg. Hall, Frank Beaton, Geoff Henderson. Produced by George Cummin.

A card propped on a scooter tyre advertises “Scooter Rally Langley Park Whitley Bay, Sun 21 Sept 11am to 5pm. Admission Free. 6 hours of fun for the family.” Close-up of the promotion.

Rows of scooters are lined up in Langley Park, in the seaside town of Whitley Bay. An observer’s platform is set up overlooking the field where a scooter rally is taking place.

A sequence of shots of the scooters from all parts of Britain and Europe attending the rally follow, many displaying pennants, patches and stickers with club affiliation. These include Harrogate Scooter Club; scooters with and without sidecars; a Maicoletta scooter; rally competitor No. 41; a scooter that has been to the top of Ben Nevis; a Tees Scooter Club member; a scooter from the Vespa Club Recklinghausen in Germany; a Contessa scooter; a Lambretta scooter in the Guildford Gremlins; a Vespa in “The Tykes” Leeds Branch No. 4; and scooters from Edinburgh decorated in tartan scarves. All are at the rally to take part in a series of events organised by the Lambretta Club of Northumbria.

The men’s obstacle race is underway, testing riding skills and resourcefulness. They negotiate rows of flag poles, squeeze through a tyre, and burst balloons without using their hands. Finally, a Mr Armstrong of the Northumbrian Club is the winner.

Two spectators enjoy fast food beside the course and watch the races from the side lines with some of the scooter riders.

The women’s obstacle race sets off. The competitors nip in and out of rows of flag poles (apparently with one or two taken away to make it easier for the women riders). Next, they have to peel a potato and cast on 20 stitches of knitting. Miss Williamson of Glasgow (?) is the winner. The commentator muses patronisingly: “I wonder if she can cook?”

The next race is the men only flag race, “a very popular event”. In a two-man team, the pillion riders pick up small flags along the course, the scooters driving slowly enough for them to manage the task. The winners pose for the camera, Kay Gillroy in first place. A group portrait follows of the runners-up smiling, one rider giving a thumbs-up.

Men are gathered in the committee’s tent, where tea is laid on for the judges.

Back outside, judges assess the condition and appearance of each scooter for the next competition. The three chosen winners do a lap of honour to show off their scooters to spectators. Cynthia Williams of Doncaster is the easy winner, and third place goes to contestant No. 74 from “The Tykes”, a Leeds club. George Cummin comments: “Of course, the machines are very good looking, but the riders … well, of course, you can’t have everything.”

There is a shot of the National Benzole Scooter Station, a temporary filling station set up at the ground. Young lads are lined up watching beside the stand. A close-up records a scooter being re-fuelled, with pints, not gallons, of petrol apparently.

General view of the marquees at the rally, including a large tent for promotional stalls. Inside, there are display stands, the camera at first focusing on one for St. Andrew’s Motors (sponsors of the film), which, in addition to scooters, has a small power boat on show. People browse around the stands, some with displays of motorcycling accessories of various kinds. Harry Wood Limited of Newcastle and George & Joblin have trade stands here. There’s also a competition stand where you can guess how many miles a scooter has driven. The commentary states: “You can also join the RAF and have a blood transfusion.” More shots follow of visitors collecting promotional literature and browsing trade stands, many with displays of scooters. Two young boys grab advertising brochures from a stall. Two browsers wearing bobble hats quiz an assistant at one of the stands.

Back in the committee tent, two caterers dole out tea.

The scooter team race gets underway. An overhead shot gives a good idea of the complicated obstacle course, with relays of riders performing a task at each stage. These include changing a plug and negotiating the forest of flag poles in rows. The fourth rider on the team fits himself through a tyre and gets a table tennis ball out of a bucket of water without using his hands. There is a group portrait of the Club Northumbria who win the event. Shot of the engaged audience.

The Mayor of Whitley Bay walks around admiring scooters on the field, there to pick out the “Queen of the Rally” or “Scooter Girl”. The judges are also marking their score cards. The women ride a short course as part of the contest. Contestants are judged on condition of scooter and on personality. Competitor No. 165 is selected: Margaret Feldham Blyth (?) is a member of a Vespa Club [sound jumps on name of club] and a nurse.

There is a large audience for the presentation of a sash to the new “Queen of the Rally” by the Lady Mayoress of Whitley Bay. The audience applauds. Group portrait of the Scooter Queen, holding a bouquet, beside her team of family and friends.

The final race takes place. Riders compete for flags in a game based on “musical chairs”. Scooters drive round in a large circle and pillion riders race to the centre to grab a diminishing number of flags to stay in the game. Gradually competitors are eliminated and leave the field. An undignified scramble for flags takes place as less and less flags are there to be grabbed. Some of the men crash into each other as they dive for flags. The commentator says: “I am beginning to see that the blood transfusion people being here may be a good idea.” Some of the men wrestle a little to reach the final flags. In the last round, there are just two men scooter pairs left. Two men race from opposite sides of the ring, one making a very exaggerated dive as his opponent reaches the last flag first. A Mr Lansdown of Wearside is the winner.

The rally begins to wind down. Riders and audience start to leave the rally. The last man climbs down from the observer’s tower with its Shell banner advertising. The ground begins to empty at Langley Park.

Title: The End. A S.A.M. Film