When David and I were staying in Landeck we went over the high Timmelsjoch pass into Italy stopping at the amazing motor museum at the border. David immediately spotted the N.S.U. moped.
My father had one too in the 1950s for commuting. I clearly recall my mother on frosty mornings grilling the spark plug, like a sausage, so that the little two stroke would fire up without oiling up! My mother held yesterday’s Sunderland Echo in front of the coal fire in the scullery to act extra insulation under my father’s army trench coat! Happy Days!
The article that David wrote about his earlier motorcycling days described David’s humour and personality well. We reproduce that article here in full and in David’s own words as tribute to a valued and much missed member and former Chair of Northumbria Advanced Motorcyclists.
My Early Years (by David Henderson)
Reading Tony Forster’s exploits in the May/June 2008 issue of Riders' Chronicles prompted me to think about my biking history, particularly his mention of the ‘Red Hills’.
I thought that I was the only one to have had the experience of riding around the ‘hills’ and I was quite amazed at someone else knowing about them.
I moved house when I was 10 years old to North Kenton. This move enabled me to experience the joys of the countryside. Not on a motorised bike but on my beloved Raleigh racing bike. One of my regular haunts was to go to the aforementioned with newly-found friends.
The ‘hills’ were only two to three miles away from my house but it seemed to take forever to get there.
When I think back to riding through those country lanes it was brilliant.
As many [subscribers to the Riders' Chronicles] have pointed out, no traffic to speak of, birds and other wildlife in abundance in the hedgerows. Happy days.
This all took place circa 1954/55 and the hills could still be seend from the A1 until very recently but, unlike Tony’s theory of the being red clay, I put their colour and shape down to them being slag from the mines which had smouldered (they were warm to the touch) over a long period of time to change the appearance to what became known as the ‘Red Hills’.
Moving on to my motorbiking experiences, my introduction to bikes came about when I left school at the tender age of 15 and started work as an apprentice motor mechanic.
My place of work was in Back Goldspink Lane in Sandyford and, although it was primarily all about cars, the owner had a pal who was the foreman of the motorcycle side of St. Andrews Motors in Gallowgate.
He was known as Norman (Tuby) Harrison. He used the workshops where I worked to do ‘guvvy jobs’ along with buying and selling bikes and that led to my first introduciton to bikes.
My first bike, if you could call it that, was an N.S.U. Quickly 49cc moped. Unfortunately, it was an insurance write-off having caught fire and was being disposed of by the insurance company. I became the new owner for the princely sum of £2.
With an abundance of guidance from Tubby I stripped, re-sprayed and rewired it to make it roadworthy again. I used to commute to work on it and eventually passed my test on it (first time!)
Trying to give right turning hand signals and maintain speed was a bit of a nightmare so it was time for me to part with the moped and move on to bigger things.
I sold it to a window cleaner from Low Fell for a whacking £18. The bigger thing was in the guise of a B.S.A. Bantam 125cc. Life with the Bantam was uneventful other than it had the infuriating habit of when putting it into first gear it would go backwards (yes backwards), which could be disconcerting especially when there were cars behind you.
I can’t remember how I disposed of the Bantam but better things awaiting. It had what would now be described as the ‘wow’ factor. Come in my next bike, the Triumph Cub 150cc. It seemed sensible at this stage to give the old head a bit of protection and I became the proud owner of my first crash helmet. I must have looked a picture when wearing it. It was made of thick cork and in the shape of a basin! It doesn’t bear thinking about now.
It proved to be a good investment at the end of the day as two spills soon put it to the test.
First one a Morris Minor Estate pulled out in front of me on Clayton Road, Jesmond. I hit it side on and vanished over the top of the car.
With head in one piece but masses of bruises I was taken to the R.V.I. in an ambulance and eventually passed off as fit enough to be sent home.
This was about 1962 and I received a bill from the ambulance service for attending the accident for £7. So being charged for emergancy assistance is nothing new.
My second was at the junction of Jubilee Road and Salters Road when the front wheel went over a manhole cover. And I lost control. I was very briefly knocked out this time but passers by helped me to the roadside and once I got myself sorted I carried on to work.
At the time I couldn’t understand how I cam off and I went back to see why I cam a cropper. It was then that I saw that the manhole cover top was in fact wood blocks. It was like that for many years and may even be like that now.
Once again it was time to move on from the Triumph which I sold but I didn’t bother replacing it, although helping Tubby with his sideline I got the opportunity to borrow many makes of bikes, manufacturers of which I remember but individual models escape me now.
The only one that has stuck in my mind was having the chance to ride a Ducati 125. Whizzing around on that red bike was exhilerating to say the least.
Because of other things happening in my early days (girls for one!) motorcycles did not seem that important any more and I drifted away from them and eventually moved on to four wheels.
I did eventually come back to bikes but that’s for another time perhaps.