Film ID:
NEFA 21286



Visitor Tabs


In October 1961, 75 hardy motorcycle riders gear up for the rough-and-tumble of the national Travers Trophy cross-country motorcycle trials (also known as Travelers Trophy) from St John’s Chapel, Weardale, organised by the Newcastle and District Motor Club. One of the earliest “scramble” competitions, the Travers started up in 1921, with endurance trials and hill climbs pictured here in old lead mine country, the riders on now classic British machines. The film was commissioned by the promoters, St Andrew’s Motors, and produced by George Cummin (Conway Films) and members of the Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers Association (ACA). The commentary is by George Cummin.

Credit: Conway Films Presents

Title: ‘SAM at the Travers – 1961’ (A St Andrew’s Motors Film)

Credit: Photography by Ian Davidson and Reg. Townsend

Credit:  Produced by George Cummin

The film opens at the village of St John’s Chapel, County Durham, on a sunny morning in October 1961. Spectators and competitors gather for the start of the Travers Trophy trials, cars and motorbikes parked along the road at the back of the Kings Arms Hotel.

A motorcyclist races off-road on the course down a steep dirt track, riding into the distance.

Back at the King’s Arms Hotel and PRHA garage, spectators, starters and stewards are gathered at the meeting point for competitors. Competitor No. 9, Dave Davey, prepares at the start of his run. The commentator makes a joke about his hair ensuring he won’t need a crash helmet. Other riders, Nos. 54 and 56, are awaiting their turn.

A small crowd watches as competitors begin their runs, Nos. 27 and 28 getting ready at the top of the steep dirt track from St John’s Chapel. The official starter, Charlie Fairburn, sets them underway “on the usual 37-mile course, with 32 observed sections at some dozen points around the course.” He signs them off on his clip board prior to their run. Competitor No. 20 waits his turn on his motorbike.

Overhead shot of spectators and motorcyclists including competitor No. 36 straddling his bike. Competitors are started off on the trial course by Charlie Fairburn. These include No. 28, Ken Franklin from St Helens on a Dot motorbike; No. 29, Brian Holden on a Greeves machine; Arthur Brown of South Shields; and No. 32, a Scottish entrant.

Back at the King’s Arms hotel, a small crowd of people are gathered to watch the trials, some consulting sheets of information on the Travers Trophy trials.

More riders get underway in the event. These include competitor No. 45, Walter Dalton of Eastgate on a Cotton and No. 46, Bill Wilkinson from Kettlewell in Wharfedale.

Motorcyclists in oiled jackets, safety helmets and goggles, and other young men at the event as spectators, gather at the PRHA garage. Competitors No. 50, Gordon McLaughlan from Thornaby, and Gordon Blakeway from Darlington, “very much touted as today’s winner”, are amongst them. Another competitor makes his way down the steep off-road dirt track and rides into the distance.

The scene shifts to one of the observed sections on the course. Motorcyclists appear over the brow of a hill. A good crowd are watching motorcyclists negotiating the rocky path of the Harthope Burn down a steep valley. One competitor picks up penalty points when a boulder brings him up short. No. 50, Gordon McLaughlan, is riding skilfully down the burn. No. 64, Ken Holloway, uses his foot to push off down the burn and collects penalty points from a steward observing the section. Another motorcyclist struggles down the path of the burn. A small group of spectators watches from the hillside. Another competitor wearing a tartan flat cap struggles with the section and comes off his motorbike at a boulder. He gets back onto his bike to finish the section. He makes his way back to the road and a timed section. Competitor No. 67, Bill Myer from Gateshead, rides the Harthope Burn section, using his foot once to steady himself and collecting a penalty point. Competitor No. 74, Jimmy Herron from Washington, makes it to the road.

Travelling shot along the Harthope Road to the top of Harthope Moss. Competitor Robin Andrew, on an AJS, steers his motorbike to the top of the moorland hills.

One of the stewards, Tom Heedon, watches the progress of motorbikes to a high level observed section of the course, standing with two other competitors. Competitor No. 21, DW Corbett, struggles up a good part of the course. Portrait shot of a man taking a photograph. A young rider, No. 32, Butterfield from the Consett area, rides through the section with skill, standing up on the bike to negotiate the rocky section. No. 64, Ken Holloway, rides the same section. Overhead shot of competitor No. 41, Bob Pringle from Gateshead on a Greeves machine, as he rides up the rocky section and onto the road. Close-up of No.43, Cartwright, as he rides over the course safely on a Greeves motorcycle.

Another steward, Bob Stoggs (?), watches his section where competitor No. 44, Eric Adcock of Royton on a Dot bike, moves up the course with no trouble. Spectators are clustered on a hillside watching riders compete as No. 48 from Guisborough moves up the course. Competitor No. 45 also clears the section and rides onto the bankside. A motorcyclist on an Imperial machine comes off his bike on a tricky section. Close-up of competitor No. 38, Bob Whinny from Consett on a Dot bike, as he picks his way through the rocky path but has a problem climbing a muddy bank. A female steward marks him down with a penalty point.

Competitor No. 59 struggles along a gully (possibly at Fairless Pasture or Grass Hill Common). Competitor No. 71, Joe Carr on an AJS (a member of the Consett Number 2 team), pushes off with his feet “to add leg power to horse power” on this section. Overhead shot of a Bristol motorcyclist as he climbs the section quickly. Joe Carr is in action again on a winding upper section of the course. Competitor No. 75, John Hynes (?), fails to make it up this section, stalling at one point. Other competitors who have completed the section watch from a grassy bank as Hynes (?) reverses his bike to take another run at the course.

Onto the next observed section where Mrs Fife and Mrs Form (?) invigilate. Competitor No. 40 from Wetherby and No. 30, Arthur Brown, negotiate a track uphill, completing it and riding onto the grass hill section.

The next point of interest is known as Haggs Mine. A few cars are parked by the roadside but most competitors have not yet arrived. Some of the competitors take a look around the next course. Riders seen negotiating this tricky hill climb are Arthur Rownsley from Bradford, Keith Burnside on a DOT motorcycle, and competitor No. 14, Harry Wood riding a Greeve, who is marked down with a penalty point by steward Ted Waite. Peter Ogg from Stocksfield doesn’t clear a tricky spot along the course. Competitor No. 24, Wade from Northallerton, is also documented making his attempt on the course.

Another rider drives up to the moor top and back down to a place called Shaw Side. Various riders attempt a muddy climb, which catches many of them out. They include Wallace, a Scottish motorcyclist, Robertson, and George Graham. A rider with a tartan flat cap is fixing his bike. Gordon Braithwaite has no problem clearing the climb.

The No. 1 competitor, Keith Burnacle (?) is back at St John’s Chapel. A man with a pipe is trying out his cine camera, standing with three other men. A Newcastle ACA member, Reg. Townsend, is having a cup of tea in the street with a few other men. Some of the motorcycles are now parked on the street. Two women share a joke. Competitor No. 58 is crouched beside his motorcycle. Four men are checking out a map.

The next steep downstream section is at a place called Killhope Bottom. Riders head down in succession, including No. 57, Gordon Blakeway, and Middlesbrough team mate No. 50, Gordon McLaughlan, also on a Triumph. One rider gets stuck on the section.

Gordon McLaughlan heads to the roadway where motorcyclists are now climbing the rocky burn, including competitor No. 56. Two stewards are watching this observed section. The next competitors to negotiate the section are No. 54, Shepherd from Durham city, and No. 57, Sewell.

Travelling shot on the road to Cowshill.

A group of onlookers and motorcyclists – Les Stockhill, Roy Martin and Webb Dawson – wait beside a fence. Motorcyclists here negotiate a section called the Frog Pond, a part of the course that is causing riders much trouble, with several competitors coming off their bikes, including No. 39, Brown of Sunderland, and No. 41 who pushes his bike through a section. Joe Dixon invigilates from a grassy bank.

General view of a lonely moorland landscape where a road leads to Shiel Close.

Two motorcyclists perform a river crossing.

Motorcyclists climb another observed section of the trial. Gordon Blakeway makes his way through this last section. Next, we see Blakeway and his colleague McLaughlan giving competitor No. 55 a tow. [a little out of focus]

Back at St John’s Chapel, riders are signed off after finishing the Travers Trophy Trial. Competitor No. 35, Colin Ward from Stanley, and No. 61, Mitchell from Bradford, arrive back “nice and clean” despite the mud along the course. He signs off with the official starter, Charlie Fairburn.

Shot of the Golden Lion pub sign. Muddy motorcyclists congregate outside the pub, signing off after the competition. Bikes have been loaded onto trailers.

Charlie Fairburn points towards the Travers Trophy Cup on a car bonnet, his colleague Les Stockhill indicating where the winner’s name, Gordon Blakeway, will be engraved on the trophy

Title: The End

A S.A.M. Film