The event itself has grown and changed over the years, but the cause was just as poignant and hard-fought then as it is now.
Motorcycle clubs up and down the country took part in the National Children’s Day revelry, with the owners of sidecar outfits and motorcars lending aid to the Auto Cycle Union (ACU) as they did their part to ensure the day was as enjoyable and memorable as possible for all the children involved.
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The ACU decided that it would organise a number of excursions to the countryside, where children who had been deprived of even some of the most basic home comforts could enjoy some genuine leisure time – a rarity, even in the inter-war years. The role of motorcycling in this endeavour was essential; the sidecar outfit and motorcar owners were to be the chauffeurs that would bear the excited children. This photograph was taken in the centre of Keighley, where 150 children were treated to a day out in the surrounding countryside – they certainly look rather pleased about it!
Some of the other cities which the ACU outlined for its children’s day included London, Birmingham, Scarborough, Ipswich and Sheffield, among others. The order of proceedings for the London excursion involved a flotilla of sidecar outfits pulling into Eagling Row – a typically deprived East End area in 1924 – to find hundreds of eager children waiting to be swept off for a day in the English countryside.
The children were whisked away to Harpenden Common, where they spent an afternoon picking blackberries as well as enjoying a host of other activities. The kids received treats to take home with them, which included flowers, buns and chocolates, and ensured that they near-deafened their chauffeurs with their combined cries of thank you and farewell when they returned to the East End.
At Coventry, 1500 children were taken for an afternoon at Stoneleigh Deer Park where 70 sidecars, along with a fair few motorcars and even a lorry or two, were volunteered along with their riders to help transport the children. In Kendal, 100 children were ushered away for the day, in Selby a further 250, and in Redditch 300 children got to explore the surrounding countryside.
The event (or events, as the festivities spanned the whole country) took place in mid September and received some positive coverage in The Motor Cycle. A month later the same magazine published a letter from a Mr H P E Harding, chairman of the touring committee of the ACU, expressing his gratitude to the many hundreds of motorcycle and sidecar outfit owners who gave their time to help out on National Children’s Day. Mr Harding also wrote to Motor Cycling to offer his thanks for its equally generous amount of coverage of the event. According to Mr Harding’s heartfelt missive, nearly 10,000 children were rescued from their hardships and allowed to enjoy a day free of their usual daily struggles.
Also in Mr Harding’s letter was a heartening footnote about how though many sidecar outfit owners and motorcar owners officially volunteered, providing their name, address and how many children their transport could convey, many more simply turned up with their machines and helped out. Such devotion to the cause is extremely admirable, as I’m sure you’ll agree, and many more children got to enjoy themselves with their friends thanks to the chivalrous actions of these motorcar and sidecar outfit owners.
–º Classic images are avalable to view and buy from: Mortons Archive