recollections by Geoff Harris
is of Cyril Morgan’s motorcycle dealer shop in Caerphilly, with the
Delivery 1932”. The photographer was F. W. Gatehouse, the long time
chemist. The store still exists but is now a carpet retailer. It was to
us, as young motorcycle
enthusiasts in the early 1960`s, the absolute Mecca.
an apprentice electrician in 1961 in the Cardiff
steelworks commonly known as the “Dowlas Works” as it was moved from
near Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff
in the latter part of the previous century.
introduction to motorcycles was looking with envious eyes at the older
apprentices riding into work on their BSA Bantams as I sweated in with
assembled pedal cycle. Those Bantams looked so large and powerful; I
to have one. This was a major problem, because as a first year
wages were £2. 17s 00d from which my mother, quite correctly, required
contribution to the family living costs. This left me with £1.10s,
fortune for a 16 year old.
A chap in
street had just realised his life time ambition and bought a 600cc
and side-car. His very used and battered 1952 D1 Bantam was for sale at
10s, just within reach. I saved like mad. When I had just enough for
purchase but not tax or insurance I approached my “Mam” and told her I
to buy a motorbike. The exact words of her reply are lost from my
this is an
example of the bodies self defence mechanism, in removing the most
and unpleasant memories, limiting the long term psychological damage
trauma can have on one so young. Suffice to say the reply was most
followed leaves me, to this day, filled with wonder at my own
courage, for the next day I went out and bought the bike. Never have I
out a more dangerous or courageous act, and to my utter astonishment my
let me continue breathing.
month I had the bike taxed and insured and was mobile. The
it all was soon brought to reality when it became clear that the Bantam
much faster than my push bike. But I proceeded to improve its speed by
and polishing it and by applying lots of chrome tape.
test as soon as possible and looked around for a bigger bike. My
friend, trying to keep in my good books, told me of a chap in Penarth
who had a
Norton for sale. (Have you noticed how useful your sister’s boy friends
In order to stay sweet with her, they were forced to be nice to you)
turned out to be a 1956 Domi 99. The asking price £38. As I was now a
year apprentice earning £4. 5s. 00d a week with the opportunity for
overtime, the bike was as good as mine after some months saving. Please
all this saving did me no harm; it taught me that abstinence and
their own reward, some thing I have never ever repeated.
in a pretty poor state with very rusty exhaust pipes and silencers and
scratched petrol tank. I later found out that the previous owner was a
rider when he was in the RAF and with a little encouragement would ride
down Penarth Road standing on the tank. That explained the scratches.
saving saw me with enough money to buy a set of new exhaust pipes. In
we had to work a 48 hour week. This included a Saturday morning 8.00 to
So at 12.00 still dirty from the rolling mills and in my apprentice
overalls I set off at speed for Cyril Morgan's to buy my exhaust pipes.
Remember, that most shops then, closed on Saturday afternoons, so I
be smart off the mark and not hang about.
shiny pipes were laid on the counter I touched them with my finger tips
would a holy relic. How to
them home was no problem. Tied around my waist with a bit of old string
pipe slung back across each shoulder, I was away.
them and anticipating that with these shiny new pipes, I would be the
my friends and how they would further enhance my sex appeal to all the
simply flew along on a cloud of dream like enthusiasm, long hair
blowing in the
wind. Travelling down North Road in Cardiff,
I came across a line of slow moving cars. Down a gear, I smartly
lot in one graceful Hailwood like movement, only to discover a
policeman on his
Triumph in the middle. I
did what all
would do. I reduced my speed, pulled into line, looked straight ahead,
pretended to be innocent and prayed.
the policeman was alongside signalling me to stop. With pounding heart
in, stopped, cut the engine and hung my head. The policeman stopped his
and put it on the stand. Slowly he walked up to me.
if you can, this pathetic
figure. Still grubby from the steel works, in dirty green overalls with
word “Apprentice” i.e. “Idiot” written in large yellow letters across
breast pocket, with
two exhaust pipes
sticking above my bowed and repentant head. He walked around me and the
tutting all the time, but managing not to laugh. He then proceed to
give me the
“Mother and Father” of a rollicking, to which I nodded with acquiescent
agreement to each and every point he made. Finally after promising to
ways and never do it again, he sent me on my way. I left, thanking
heavens and all
my ancestors for their kindness in giving me a policeman with a heart
sense of humour.
forgotten him and although I must admit that I did not always comply
instructions to keep the speed down. It’s only now many decades later
wisdom of age and fear of speed cameras, that I obey the speed limits,
most of the time and, I still have the Norton.