On this Day 28th October 1921

And They're Off - Roaring Away from Newlyn

2.00 precisely on a Friday afternoon – surely a time when a respectable person should be able to peaceably digest her lunch, or go about her business. But outside the Newlyn Art Gallery today was a noise like the cacophony of Hell itself – and that is a word I do not use lightly.

The old building has seen a thing or two in its time. But nothing, surely, like this.

1921 Quadrant motorbike (photo: Wikipedia)I am told that I have witnessed the start of the “Penzance and District Motor Cycling Club’s Sporting Reliability Trial”, which I must say makes the event sound very much more worthy than it actually was. I say “Club”, but they have thrown the event open to all and sundry, no doubt fearing that there are not sufficient motor cycles within the locality to adequately disturb the peace. I am told that there were only 30 contestants. But it sounded more like 300.

Off they roared – up Paul Hill, then – I am told - across country to Sennen, round to St Ives, and back to the Pavilion over in Penzance, where I venture to suggest they are more accustomed to this kind of thing. Apparently – although I most assuredly was not there to see it – gold and silver medals were handed out at the Pavilion. There has been talk of “the very trying nature of the course” and the high marks given to those taking part indicating “a highly creditable achievement”.

Motorcycle racing 1921 style. This is Graham Walker on a Norton at the Isle of Man TT. (photo; Wikipedia)

Personally, I blame the RAC, which I had always thought of as a body of respectable motor-car owners, for giving their seal of approval to such a carrying-on. But the most disappointing aspect of the event was surely the willingness of quite respectable people to go along and gawp at the motors – to cast approving glances, to wave, and even to point out details of the instrumentation and to compare the attention lavished by owners on their chrome trim. The fiddling around with the carburettor; the rattling chain; the engines sputtering – then roaring – into life at the kick of the rider’s boot - all seemed to elicit approval in some quarters. I am sorry to report that there was quite an acquisitive gleam in the eyes of some I could mention.


Cornishman, Wednesday 2nd November 1921 page 4

See here to watch a 1921 Triumph being coaxed into action, and here for footage of a 1921 motorcycle trial event in Newcastle

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Penwith Local History Group
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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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