Section History - Part One

Vincent Owners have been meeting regularly in the Coventry area since Thursday 10th December 1953 when they held their first meeting at the Phoenix pub (now the Wing Wah Chinese Restaurant) on the Coventry by pass. In 1953 there were few sections, only five British sections, London, Liverpool, Oxford, Bristol and the Midlands and just one overseas Section, the Canadian and US section. Until then local members had been attending Midland section meetings but in Midland survey in MPH 58 it was announced that year there was to be meeting at the Rising Sun, Bedworth on the 14th October “for members who find it difficult to get to Wolverhampton but who would like to meet weekly”. This move was in fact in response to previous meeting of local members at the City Arms, Earlsdon.  Following the Bedworth meeting it was stated that meetings would continue to be held at the Rising Sun until suitable premises could be found in Coventry. From that Phoenix meeting it was run as section in its own right organising its own programme. The first Coventry Section Survey appeared in MPH 71 “we are now operating as a separate entity and a cordial invitation  is extended to all members in the vicinity”.

The Early Years

When the section was formed Vincent’s were still in production. Ross Motors at Hinckley were enthusiastic main dealers, some members had bought their bikes new from them, others second hand but the average age of all of them could not have been more than four,  in fact Series B’s with their Brampton forks were decidedly old fashioned. The herd instinct was strong, new members were always being sought and Ross Motors did their bit by putting a club membership form with every bike sold.  Section activities reflected the fact that for most members the Vincent was their sole means of transport. Weekend runs, evening runs, that sort of thing. With fewer meetings and fewer Sections, when a meet was organised by someone in the club then there would be a run to it.

The fact that it was a club for the riders of current motorcycles is demonstrated by a special supplement on glossy paper in the very same MPH that carried Coventry Section’s first review. MPH 71 for November 1954 coincided with the launch of the Series D, “Startling Vincent Developments” to quote Motor Cycle for November 4th.  The MPH supplement gave the Editor’s impressions of a spin up the Great North from the works on a Series D. and a brief description of its main features.  The following April when it was reported that Paul Richardson would be coming to the Phoenix on a Knight thirty six members turned up to greet him.

Despite the stated purpose of the Rising Sun meeting being to provide local weekly meetings the initial pattern was for fortnightly meetings with runs out to local pubs in the intervening weeks.  It was not till much later, the middle of 1957 in fact, that it was decided that henceforth, when British Summer Time ended, that the section would meet, a) weekly and b) on a Friday, a practice which has continued up to the present day.  In the early programme the evening runs were typically listed  as  Ron’s Ride or Fred’s Ride, leave HQ at 7.30. On the 3rd December 1954 John Timms led the ride to the Shoulder of Mutton at Stretton on Dunsmore. At the very first meeting a year previously, A Cawley had signed in three non members, J. Timms and the Misses Jones.  When John became a member he was signing in one of the Miss Jones himself; they became the Mrs Timms and Cawley respectively.  As an aside one of my first Vincent memories was riding pillion on Tony’s Cawley’s Comet when a fellow apprentice, his younger brother Vin Cawley, borrowed it one weekend for an Apprentice Association Navigation Trial.  Tony is still a life member living in Australia now.    

From the beginning meetings followed the normal noggin and natter pattern with the occasional invited speaker.  One such was Roy Charlton who was one of the first to race a stripped down Vincent, Rumblegutz, in sprint meetings with great success.  The main suppliers were also active in supporting the club and could be relied on for speakers in the winter session.  Also in the case of Avon a visit to their factory became a well remembered event.  In December 1954 they had their first Annual Dinner, to be followed by “fun and games”. It was the next one in January 1956 which was first to be christened the Godiva Banquet, events which were to become such a feature of  the Section history, not least the fun and games after the meal.

By February 1955 that they actually got round to officially electing a committee with Geoff Milson as Organizer, Jim Clift as Treasurer, Jim Randle as Social Secretary and John Edwards as Sports and Entertainments Officer.  Meanwhile things were stirring in the East.  Following a meeting on the Victoria Embankment, Trent Bridge on May 15th the East Midlands section was formed with Doug Hart as their Section Organiser with a home soon to be found at the Fox Hotel Loughborough.  The times they were a changing. In December Bazz Arnold introduces himself as their new acting Organiser, Doug Hart being off to pastures new, Africa in fact, and was encouraging the rest of the section to go to Coventry for Geoff Milson’s Godiva Banquet.  Except in fact as Acting Organiser Allan Nash explained in his first survey in February that on the day Geoff was nowhere to be seen having rushed off down to West Country to take over the Kings Arms at Bradford on Avon.

Rather fittingly the first Godiva banquet was held at the Leofric Hotel and was a complete hat trick of firsts.  It was the first function to be held at the newly opened hotel which was itself the first newly built major hotel to be opened in the UK since the war. When the prizes were given out the Treasurer’s dad, Jim Clift senior no doubt got his for winning the first navigation trial. The following year Pat Cusson would be the first recipient of the Navigation Trophy Shield for winning the 1956 event. This shield is still competed for to this day. The Godiva Banquets and Navigation Trials, together with the Stan Powell dimension merit their own stories and will be told separately.  This particular Banquet is a convenient point at which to end the tale of the start of the Coventry Section. 

George Spence.  April 2012.