The Auto-Cycle Union was founded in 1903 as a Branch of the Royal Automobile Club and is the Governing Body of British Motorcycle Sport. The Union has regional committees and ours was founded in 1921.
2011 saw the 90th Anniversary of the formation of the South Midland Centre Auto-Cycle Union, and over the years meetings have been held in various locations, the City of London Club, a splendid early Victorian building frequented by the ‘great and the good’ with a sweeping Downton Abbey type staircase with Al Woollard as CEO (complete with bowler hat and rolled umbrella) refreshments on the day being cucumber sandwiches and drinks (very posh we get tea/coffee and biscuits now); the Victory Club on Hyde Park Corner (where there was a very nice Bar to help proceedings along), the RAC Headquarters in Pall Mall which at one point was under the scrutiny of the Press when Tubby Rixon of Leatherslade Farm was a Comps Member, meetings have also been held at the Kings Arms in Tring, the Council Chambers in Abbots Langley, we now hold our Management Meetings at the Berkhamsted MCC Club House near Kings Langley.
There have been many hard working individuals in the Centre over the years, J. C. (Bob) Lowe as Secretary being one, Bob was also Chairman of the old A-CU Competitions Committee before it was split into different disciplines, but possibly more well known in the Centre was his wife Doris (Dunstable Club) who as well as acting as Assistant and Centre Secretary, and Benevolent Fund Representative was also a Vice President of the A-CU, she also wrote a column in the now defunct South Midland Centre Review – Doris’ Deliberations – going back over the earlier years of the Centre, others who have taken on the mantle of Centre Secretary are Ted Wilson, Myrna Green, possibly the best of the present era, she certainly did not suffer fools gladly, Terry Golds followed Myrna, he was succeeded for a short period by Clive Mallett, then Judith Ayres combined the job with the position of Centre Treasurer, and the present incumbent is again Terry Golds. Mary Driver (Wood Green) an excellent Trials Rider was appointed Manager of the A-CU Competitions Department in 1966.
The Competition Committee had some very colourful characters over the years, some that stand out are Pat Hadingham and Roy Brown who was also Editor of the SM Review for many years; way back in 1953 Monty Banks – Grasshopper Club was Chair of the Comps Committee, another long serving member from the days of the Competition Committee is Fred Sparkes, and Dave Porter has now rejoined the Management team, not forgetting of course Colin Moram and John Coles.
Centre Chairmen – Harry Clenshaw was Chairman in the 1960’s, Colin Sweby has acted as Chairman for a number of years, Val Webb of the Luton Club took over from Colin, another one in the mould of Myrna, and John Coles is now in charge (or thinks he is).
We are a very small Management team with President Colin Moram at its head, Colin has been a member of the Centre’s Management Committee (previously known as the Competition Committee) for over 51 years. He is an ISDT Gold Medallist, Trophy Team on three occasions plus Army Trophy team during National Service, has ridden National Trials, Clubmans TT, and Centre level Grass Track and Scrambles before silencing was thought of and when starts were “Le Mans style” by lowered or raised Union flag. A helper held the dead engined machine by the rear mudguard, riders sprinted a short distance when signalled by the starter, a later method was bike in neutral engine running left hand on helmet. The change to drop down gate starts and of title from Scramble to Motocross took place during his Chairmanship of the A-CU Committee. Colin is an Honorary Vice President of the FIM and a Vice President of the A-CU, was for 24 years on A-CU Management, is a past Chairman of the Motocross Committee and was Chairman of the Technical Committee for over 20 years and has served on the Speedway Control Board, FIM Technical Commission and FIM Board of Management. He still undertakes Stewarding jobs in all off-road disciplines within the Centre and is a stalwart member of the Farnham Royal Club and observes in their trials. We feel we are very lucky to have Colin as our President.
Also on Management over the years we have had Brian Valder who was Stewards Co-ordinator he took on the job of Course Recorder in 1967 and is now a Life Vice President, Lesley Hubbard took over his job for a short while before Roy Watson offered to do the job when Lesley retired, Chairman John Coles did the job of Competitions Secretary for many years,(actually since God was a boy), now is the time to remember Al Woollard who ran a very tight ship when he was Comps Secretary, Andy Martin is the present Comps Sec and he has embraced the new technology and is dragging us all in the 21st Century, we also have on Management Roy Humphrey past Chairman of the A-CU Moto Cross Committee, Roy is still a member of the MX Committee and is in charge of the Timing System for the MAXXIS British Championship, the longest serving member of the Trials Sub-Committee at present is Bob Twigg who is Secretary, Chris Mawer took over as Chairman when Vice President Laurie Erwood retired, not forgetting the person with the most important job, our Assistant Secretary who takes all the Minutes and knows all the Rules, Mary Martin. On the Grass Track side former recorder Brad Davis has retired and Dave Porter has taken on this role Dave also represents the Centre on National Council, we then have Fred Sparkes who always has a question in Any Other Business and is the Centre’s co-ordinator with The Sporting Motorcyclist, not forgetting myself Judith Ayres, Treasurer since Jim Parker went on to higher things at Rugby, and Moto Cross Recorder since Val passed on.
We now come to the Jim phenomenon, before he became Chairman of the A-CU 2004-2010, he ran the position of South Midland Centre Treasurer (and trying to get expenses out of him was a nightmare) with his New Era Club and membership and Chair of the A-CU Road Race Committee, he not only made radical changes in the A-CU he “practiced” in the South Midland Centre first, Jim is now MD of A-CU Events Limited.
Club Affiliation has dropped off dramatically over the years, certainly in the 1950’s and 60’s the Centre ran many Grass Tracks and Scrambles along with the ever present Trials section, unfortunately however, over the years these Clubs declined with the loss of land and organisers, we now only have 2 adult Moto Cross Clubs – Luton and Northampton who run approximately 16 events between them, we also have 2 very active Schoolboy Clubs, Kensworth and Peterborough Junior, running over 20 events and they always include Adult races in their programmes. On the Grass Track side for many years the only active Club in the Centre has been the Hayes & Southall Club with former rider and A-CU Track Racing Committee Chairman Colin Sweby at the helm, but they did not run in 2011, again a lack of help in putting the event on, but on the brighter side Fenland Grass Track Club have come in and are running in deepest Cambridgeshire, also a new Club for 2012 Heart of England which is based in Daventry. We have two Clubs who are more than 100 years old, Northampton formed in 1902 and the Berkhamsted Club in 1908, the first Meteor Group Trial was staged in 1946 this Group was instigated by Fred Pinhard (in whose memory the Pinhard Trophy is still donated), the Centre has had several winners of the Pinhard Trophy possibly the most famous being in 1958 Mike Hailwood (Oxford Ixion), this was followed in 1959 by Dan Shorey (Banbury NOBAC) and recently Alexz Wigg, winner also of 2 FIM World Trials Championships.
Centre Champions over the years have been - on the Trials side John Lee has been Champion 10 times and in 2011 his son Chas won this Championship, other multiple winners have been David Rolls (Cambridge Matchless) who held the Trophy 9 times, Richard Allen on 6 occasions, and Chris Koch the present Inter Centre Trials Manager for the Centre Adult Team won the first of his 3 titles in 1982 again in 1983 then after 27 years in 2010.
Motocross has seen 1966 British 250cc Champion Fred Mayes (Cambridge Centaur) win the Expert Trophy 5 times in the 1970’s, most prolific winner however has been Ryan Griffiths (Northampton) he first won in 1991 and the last of his 7 wins was in 2010, Ryan is now a motorcycle Stunt Rider. 2010 was a good year for the older riders in the Centre Championships as Chris and Ryan can testify. There have been a lot of Scrambles/Motocross families over the years within the Centre, possibly the most famous from the 1950/60’s were the Curtis family from Oxfordshire, Dave was an A-CU British 500cc Champion in the 1950’s he also represented his Country in the Trophy Des Nations, his brother Mike won the Centre Championship in 1964 and 65, other brother Roger was also a good Scrambler who later on became a Centre MX Steward, and cousin Bob also an Expert Scrambler completed the Curtis picture. Into the 1970’s and 80’s Paul and Steve Harrison, and The Hanson Family from the High Wycombe area must rate a mention, Greg Hanson winning the British Veterans MX Championship in 2011.
Grass Track – Firstly the considerable talent that was Simon Wigg – uncle of Alexz – he won the World Long Track Championship on a number of occasions, also the British Masters and was 2nd in the World Speedway Final. Dave Brown from Chesham (former Scrambler) won the 250 cc National Grass Track Championship, another ex Scrambler who took to Grass Track rather well was John Underwood winning the Centre title several times, but possibly the most prolific Centre Champion was Colin Sweby, and not forgetting John Halsey a demon in the Sidecar department, at the present time Harland Cook is waving the flag for the Centre in the National Track Racing Championships being winner of the Jim Rendall Trophy.
The above is only a snapshot of officials and riders who have been associated with the South Midland Centre over the years, and our thanks must go to everyone involved in keeping the Centre up and running for 90 years.
To celebrate our 90th year the Centre organised a Buffet Lunch before the AGM on Remembrance Sunday, this was very well attended by Club officials and riders from the past and present, and we understand enjoyed by all.
Colin Moram - SMC President and ACU Vice-President with the 90th anniversary cake
Thanks to the following contributors, Colin Moram, Colin Sweby, Fred Sparkes, Roger Curtis, Bob Twigg, Martin Greeves for the photograph and Myrna for the proof reading.
2012 – The Centre decided after much thought and discussion to invest in a Transponder system for the Motocross Clubs, for use in 2013, Roy Humphrey was in charge of training of various helpers to keep this system up and running.
Up date in 2013 – Many congratulations to the Inter Centre Adult Trials Team of Rob Warner, Sam and Tom Haslam, Bradley Cox, and Alexz Wigg who finished in a splendid 2nd place behind Yorkshire on June 30th, and thanks to Chris Koch for picking and managing the team. The Transponder system has now been in use for approximately half a season and seems to be working well, with most of the riders welcoming the extra information it provides.
This article was written byJudith Ayres (Hon Treasurer)