Gaven Dall’Osto wasted not a moment during his trip to the 2017 Isle of Man TT. As well as taking in the races on the occasions when the track was dry enough to permit them to take place, Gaven sought out all sorts of museums and other Manx attractions… I
Although it was a wet start to my day in Peel during TT week, there were plenty of indoor attractions to explore. The Leece Museum is a municipal museum devoted to local Peel history and is located in the narrow but long three-level old Court House building. Story has it that in 2015 the curator Roy Baker asked long time TT race sponsor and motorcycle collector, Wobbly Bob Taylor, if he could lend a motorcycle or some memorabilia to the museum for TT week. He brought along his Slippery Sam Replica. Wobbly looked into the cave in the museum basement and asked Roy what was down there. Roy said that it was the court house prison cell called the ‘Black Hole’. Wobbly suggested that it would be a great museum for motorbikes and so it has been furnished with a collection of motorcycles ever since. The ‘Black Hole’ is really a tunnel with the walls and ceiling forming a large arch. With a narrow central board walk and a row of motorcycles down each side it is cosy to say the least. On the flat wall on the far end is a painting in wonderful perspective of the TT circuit looking from Creg Ny Baa up the hill to Kate’s cottage. In the painting, the tarmac is widest at the bottom where a painted floor mat continues it on complete with the white centreline and synthetic grass each side. Two BSAs are parked on the mat looking like they are on the circuit having just raced down the hill. You are welcome to sit on these bikes for that “I’ve raced the TT Classic” photo.
The Museum is free to enter with donation buckets placed around the site for contributions. The collection is ever changing as most are from Wobbly Bob and other owners who support the display by providing machines from their collections. Most motorcycles have a story board. There are also tributes to brave souls who once rode the display bike, and sadly some of them are no longer with us. I include a little on my favourite machines: – The Triumph triple-labelled Slippery Sam needs a mention. Famous for its many victories including five straight years (1971 to 1975) in the 750cc class at the TT, it got its name from a not so glorious occurrence. During the 1970 Bol d’Or 24 hour race an oil leak blanketed both riders with a layer of nature’s ancient fossil remains. No one named Sam was riding but there is no doubt where the slippery came from. They still managed to finish the race in 5th and as slippery as the situation was, the name stuck and the words ‘Slippery Sam’ were later included on the motorcycle livery. Wobbly built the replica with a high degree of authenticity and you are welcome to sit on it while urged for a donation. Some of Wobbly’s other displayed bikes included a 1937 Matchless G90 Super Clubman, an early 40’s M20 BSA inscribed with ‘Bloody Sore Arse’ on the fuel tank, a Triumph Tiger 100 Compy, a pre-unit Triumph powered Norton featherbed (Triton) and a 1929 500cc Rudge Whitworth racer which he rode on a commemorative lap at the TT centenary in 2010. Barnes Race bikes included a 1997 Honda RS125 and Yamaha R6 (co-sponsored by Wobbly Bob’s business Atherstone Accident Repair Centre) all in striking metallic orange. A few Team Collins and Russell Kawasaki Race bikes were displayed. Des unfortunately passed away at the beginning of 2017 but has left an amazing legacy. He was really a sailor but got involved in supporting motorcycle riders from 1970. He loved the sport and, along with his business partner Percy Wilson, supported no fewer than 54 riders. They tuned to a sole Kawasaki outfit from 1995 and in 2011 Dessie formed Team Collins and Russell (TCR) with Ronnie Russell who Dessie sponsored as a racer many years before. The 1966 Kawasaki 250 A1R, two cylinder two stroke and a 1972/3 Kawasaki H2R 750 triple were imported from New Zealand and restored by Dessie. The latter had (now local Queenslander) Kork Ballington’s name on the screen. Kork was given this bike to ride a few laps at the 2013 TT Classic. Upstairs was a group of black bikes all sporting girder forks. Along with Wobbly Bob’s G9 and Rudge Whitworth there was a 1935 Velocette MOV 250 owned by Jim Blankhard. It’s placard stated that it was the precursor to the Velocette Mac and was the
first motorcycle with a four speed foot change gearbox and fully enclosed overhead valves. Alongside was a beautiful 20’s Rex Acme TT racer. Small and quaint this museum may be but it is definitely worth a visit. It’s opposite the Peel Marina and close to Peel Castle so the boats, seafood and local beer can also be enjoyed.
ABOVE Unique perspective of a painted TT backdrop featuring Kate’s Cottage, and a couple of BSAs. BELOW Early British girder fork motorcycles.
TOP Impressive row of bikes, Japanese and British. ABOVE Kork Ballington’s 1972/3 Kawasaki H2R 750 triple. BELOW Modest facade hides some real treasurers.