Owls of pain

BBC History Magazine - - History Now / Backgrounder - News story sourced from british­news­pa­per­ar­chive.co.uk and re­dis­cov­ered by Fern Rid­dell. Fern reg­u­larly ap­pears on BBC Ra­dio 3’s Free Think­ing Glouces­ter­shire Echo 31 Oc­to­ber 1931

Althoughthe first Har­ley David­son rolled out of its work­shop in 1903, it wasn’t un­til after the First World War that the mo­tor­cy­cle be­came uni­ver­sally pop­u­lar. By the 1930s, more than 80 dif­fer­ent makes of motorbike were avail­able in Bri­tain, from the recog­nis­able Tri­umph to the more ob­scure SOS.

Mo­tor­cy­cle fever soon hit, as ev­i­denced by TE Lawrence dy­ing due to a mo­tor­cy­cle crash in 1935 and Joe Pe­trali set­ting a new land speed record in 1937. But the dan­ger­ous glam­our of the motorbike may have been lost on Lu­ton’s Mr Louis Lin­nett, who suf­fered what he de­scribed as a “sav­age at­tack” on his bike, near Gren­don, Northamp­ton­shire in 1931. The per­pe­tra­tor? That well-known ter­ror of the Bri­tish coun­try­side – an owl. Mr Lin­nett claimed the owl flew into the ma­chine and slashed at his face “with beak and claws”, caus­ing him to drive into the hedge.

Al­most blinded by the blood from his wounds, Mr Lin­nett threw him­self face down­wards on the grass, where he was found later in a semi-con­scious con­di­tion. He then stayed the night at a nearby cot­tage, and was taken to Lu­ton by car, suf­fer­ing from se­vere cuts on the head, face and hands, per­haps never to ride his mo­tor­cy­cle again.

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