History books

Friday, 1 February 2013
James Robinson, editor of TCM
James Robinson, editor of TCM
I love old motorcycling books. While many new ones are superb – an honourable mention here to John Handley’s None More Brave, about his uncle Walter Handley, which I read over the festive period – others aren’t so great...

Old ones, though also of varying quality, always have something which one can take from them, normally a first person perspective, or something as simple as an aside or the mention of someone’s name, who until then has just been an impersonal initial… I still enjoy that moment of revelation when I find something out I didn’t know before, or see something which brings to life, adds more ‘flesh to the bones’ of a story I vaguely knew, and so further animates the past.

Very much in the same vein was the story of this month’s ‘glass plate’ feature – subject the 1925 Amateur TT. Having found the plates, I then did some research, fetching the race reports and such. The name of the winner (though no first name was given, just initials) was obviously prevalent – as were his navy connections.

The beauty of the internet is the ability to allow a brief search at our fingertips – and such a search brought up the name Hector Dobbs, of the same initial as our Norton-riding winner. It also showed up Dobbs’ subsequent career, as a ‘star’ racing driver in the 1930s, mainly in Rileys, and his nautical life. Now this all coincided with the Newark show, where I knew I’d see John Hannis, the Velo OC’s technical secretary – and also a Riley enthusiast. A chat with John confirmed yes, it was the same man (indeed, on Sunday John kindly brought me a photocopy from one of his Riley books, mentioning Dobbs’ two-wheeled achievements) and so I’d ‘fleshed out’ a person; the same cutting confirmed Dobbs rose to the rank of Commander in the Second World War, was made an OBE for his war service, and invalided out in 1944.

It was also interesting Dobbs was a Riley man – because so was TT winner Freddie Dixon, while the Handley book also revealed that Wal was a regular Riley driver (often in Dixon’s car) too. As far as I’m concerned, it all adds to the stories and fascination, making these names on pages more real – as do the old books. Indeed, in the course of the Dobbs research, a 1925 Model 18-owning friend has pointed me in the direction of another book to find, Roy Battson’s Land Beyond the Ridge which he says is: “A great little book.” Another one to add to the list, then…

James Robinson, Editor

The Classic MotorCycle Issue 42-01 - Jan 2015

Where legends come to life

About the Editor

James Robinson, Editor
James Robinson, Editor

James Robinson has been the editor of The Classic MotorCycle since 2002. Aged 34, he has possessed a motorcycle licence for 16 years and during that time has owned and ridden all manner of motorcycles, spanning over 100 years from oldest to newest.
Presently the custodian of a varied shed full of motorcycles, his overriding enthusiasm is for pre-World War Two sporting machines, with a couple of cammy Velos, a Rex-Acme and a Model 9 Sunbeam among those competing for attention.

Contact James

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