Hi all, hope you are ok watching these nice riding weather days slip past!, Dermot has asked me to publish the address he was going to give at our AGM which of course could not happen due to covid so here it is:
have been pondering the apparent health of the club and our section in
We, or at
least I imagine most of us, voted a few days ago in the club national AGM. There was a
couple of things in this process which stood out for me. The first was that
every one of those seeking election sought to promote his individual talents in
respect of halting the decline in club membership. This is a fine aspiration worthy of support. But again in every instance, it was claimed that the remedy
for the our ills in this regard is to be found in the club embracing younger
generations. This I found rather disturbing.
We are dying
off – that’s disturbing too! - and it has been clear for a long time that this
natural wastage is not and will not be offset by younger people signing up. It seems amazing now, but the Japanese have been here since the late
‘fifties, firstly with small, utilitarian machines that Edward Turner and other
manufacturers’ board members (notably those at BSA) thought would never offer any challenge to the
British industry. Well, they got that a
bit wrong! Not only did the Orientals conquer British Industry but have all but
annihilated that of the rest of the world as well.
Just as, by
and large, we now ride the machines we would like to have owned when we were
young but could not then afford, so younger people, quite naturally, behave
similarly. But in their case, two generations of them have grown up since the
appearance of the first Japanese machines in this country. Due to the rapid demise of the British
manufacturing industry, these people have had little choice but to buy Japanese. As a consequence and not surprisingly,
membership of the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club is burgeoning whilst that of
the VMCC is declining. All very
is no appetite among younger people to engage with older bikes of a European
tradition wholly alien to their experience, so it is pointless the VMCC chasing
what for us is a non-existent market. I
regret that despite the copious amount of writing on the wall, Allen House still fails
to recognise this. In my view, pursuing the current course will have the same level of
success as King Canute’s confrontation with the tides.
As is well
known, I have long been a detractor of the 25 year rule; the rule being
introduced to address the problem of declining membership. But as will become
increasingly evident with time, this merely tries to mix oil with water. Ultimately
we shall see the complete eclipse of the type of machines we currently enjoy.
It’s partly natural evolution and partly the influence of such instruments of change as the Greta child and the obsessive green lobby.
observation arising from the national AGM was the extraordinary spectacle of a
recently-joined candidate putting himself forward although never having
attended any club event. Regardless of whatever commercial expertise he may have
offered, he failed to get my vote.
It was with
all this in mind and with wanting to gain a sense of direction that I took a
look back at the degree of support attending some of our past events.
of the most obvious changes in the section’s involvements in recent years is
the apparently reducing level of enthusiasm for club activities. Certainly, the
Scrumpy Run has fallen from its position of eminence but participation in this had
been declining for some years before the Committee decided to pull the plug on
an over-weening Ilfracombe council.
At our last
Christmas lunch, we awarded 3 trophies for outstanding performances. By
contrast, in 2009, 9 pots were presented by Ray’s grand-daughter – The
Chairman’s Shield, the Ron Ley Cup, the Thelbridge Trophy, the Reed’s Motors Tankard,
the Woodman Shield, the Francis Cann Cup,
the Les Soper Tankard, Jean’s Trophy and the VMCC Post War Cup,
currently on my shelf.
A couple of
years ago, the committee decided that so many trophies no longer were
appropriate – few could remember who donated them or why. It has been a long
time since we could field a decent turnout of girder forks and now, with Ray’s
going, there are none, so the Jeans’s Trophy and Thelbridge Cup for example, can no longer be awarded. And so the obscure and forgotten were weeded out to leave the few
for which we now compete. But I think this is an exaggerated view of decline.
2010, we staged 31 club runs. The average annual total for the last 10 years is
30. In 2018, we had 29 runs; last year we managed only 24, almost exclusively due to
general level of organised activity has not significantly diminished. What have fallen are the numbers attending
these events. Admittedly, at 33 guests, we were fully subscribed for the last
Christmas lunch but the one held in 2010 attracted 45 to the Fingle Glen Golf
been noticeable during my time is the turnout for many of these riding events
which regularly used to attract attendances in the upper twenties. Now as few
as six is not uncommon. I think this is a reflection of the changed personal
circumstances of many of us rather than a declining interest. Inclement weather also has been a major
factor. I’m quite content to be seen as a “fair weather biker”. 60 years ago I had no choice but things are
different now and I am able to avoid the wet and cold. I make no excuse for
doing so and I don’t criticise others for taking the same view. We do however,
need a better means of communication to alert people of ride cancellations and
However, in most
respects, I have been surprised to see that things generally have changed not nearly
as much as I had expected. In looking back, it seems that our activities are
not very different from those in which forebears like Merv Pearce, John Brunyee
and Mick Glossop engaged. Steve Griffin
and Mick Addison no longer ride with us and others have become absent for any
number of reasons, most of which are consequences of advancing age.
suspect the original ethos lives on in a section largely independent of and not
much interested in the goings on up the road at Allen House.
quiescence of the rank and file of local membership might suggest that the Committee, in seeking to steer the fortunes of the section, has got the balance
club nights has followed the trend of reduction in numbers and continues to be
a disappointment, but there’s not a lot we can do about that – these things are
what people care to make them.
But all in
all, I think we have reached a point of balance which satisfies most people and
provides a platform for continued enjoyment of club activities, so I’m
relatively sanguine about the section’s foreseeable future.
We have yet
to have our first run of 2020. I hope this and its successors will be in super
weather. Perhaps the millions wasted on the new super-computer at the Met
Office in Exeter will be able to provide better than the rotten fare served up
here’s to it!
Thanks Dermot, now it occurs to me that we do not make enough use of this medium at this time so if antone wishes to have a story published here why not E mail it to me at email@example.com and if suitable I could publish, it would be a way to keep in touch until we all ride again.