The world of off-road motorcycle sport has been made all the richer with a variety of personalities and characters over the years, many of whom were closely connected to or part of the motorcycle trade. One such character was at the very heart of the off-road scene for many years being a competitor, trade baron, team manager and much more. He was one of the sports most respected and knowledgeable individuals. Son of the local postman, Peter Cameron, ‘Jock’ Wilson was born on 13th January 1934 at Oakbank, Bridge of Balgie, Glen Lyon in rural Perthshire. His resourceful father made use of motorcycles as his mode of transport to deliver the mail in the glen.
An early initiation to off-road motorcycle sport with the Scottish Six Days Trial which practically ran past his doorstep, the observed section called ‘Meall Glas’ was but three quarters of a mile from his parent’s house. Coupled with the fact that the primary school children were granted a halfday from classes to watch the SSDT, how could the young Wilson resist the call to the sport?
Glen Lyon is a beautiful part of the country, it is one of Scotland’s longest glens with the River Lyon meandering eastwards throughout its length to join the much larger River Tay. Wilson was educated locally at Innerwick Primary School, Glen Lyon followed by Breadalbane Academy in Aberfeldy.
Like most schoolboys he was always interested in all things mechanical. His first motorcycle was an elderly BSA which he obtained as a non-runner. It was this machine on which he cut his teeth and opened up to him the world of motorcycle mechanics. Much of this was by trial, error and experimentation and very much ‘self-taught’. He even fashioned his own set of piston rings for funding was scarce and ingenuity was very much to the forefront!
Known to all his friends and acquaintances as Jock, which was bestowed upon him during his period in National Service in the British Army, this was usual for a Scotsman living and working in Southern England at the time. Wilson soon became a well-known face at trials and scrambles events throughout the country. On leaving school, Wilson commenced employment locally as a lumberjack followed by the then compulsory National Service at Aldershot Garrison in Hampshire, the recognised ‘Home of the British Army’.
It was during his time at the famous military establishment serving in the Royal Army Service Corps, or RASC for short, under the guidance of commanding officer, Captain Eddie Dow, that Jock met many of the factory trials and scrambles stars of the era through his National Service. Jock met and rode with Roy Peplow, Ron Langston, John Giles and many more. Wilson not only learned new skills but also forged lifelong friendships in the sport during his military service and participation in army trials.
His good friend in the army, George Morrison, from Aberdeen was nervous about going on a date, asking Jock to go in his place and that is how he met his eventual wife Patricia, a local girl from Surbiton. Romance blossomed; they married and moved to London to live permanently.
On leaving military service, Jock took up employment at Arthur Cook Motors in Kingston-Upon-Thames followed by a move to the then well-known large scale motorcycle dealership Comerfords Ltd based in Portsmouth Road, Thames Ditton, Surrey, joining them in 1957. Jock started out at Comerfords as a motorcycle mechanic in their workshops quickly progressing to workshop manager. When he became bored with that job he moved into sales under their highly experienced Sales Director, Bert Thorn, who became a close friend and riding partner in many Southern Centre trials.
Comerfords took great pride in promoting themselves as the rider/dealer style of organisation. Employees were openly encouraged to participate in all forms of motorcycle sport on their weekends. Thorn was an accomplished trials rider as were Wilson’s work-mates, Reg May, Roger Davy, Derek Cranfield, Peter Hudson and Don Howlett, all of whom were in the employment of the company.
One of Wilson’s specialties was modifying AJS trials machines; he replicated many of the factory modifications by making them lighter and more tractable. At one stage, Jock had an ultra-short barrel fitted on his personal 16C, which had one cylinder fin less than the factory barrels issued to the team riders.
Gordon Jackson, Gordon Blakeway and Gordon McLaughlan who rode for AJS as a factory team in those days were all friends of Jock. During the 1963 event at the top of Grey Mare’s
Ridge, Jackson asked why Jock’s wife was not at the trial. Wilson recounted: “I replied that Pat was expecting our second child”, to which Gordon Jackson replied, “Well if it’s a boy you should call him Gordon”. And so the Wilson’s second born son was aptly named. The Wilson’s had two sons, the first born being Andrew.
When Sammy Miller defected from Ariel to Bultaco in late 1964 his two HT500 machines were put up for sale in Comerfords, who by that time were funding the Miller/Ariel trials effort. Both his machines registered GOV132 and 786GON were up for grabs. Wilson liked the idea of riding one of these machines himself. But it was the second string 786GON that Jock purchased from his employers. Jock recounted: “786GON had most of the lightweight alloy parts installed when it was brought in for sale, plus it was advertised at a much cheaper price than GOV132, it was a no brainer really, so I bought it”.
Jock rode the Ariel in the SSDT twice, in 1966 and again in 1967 winning the 500cc cup that year.
In the 1960’s Comerfords had a very close relationship with the Greeves factory at Thundersley supporting many local trials and scrambles riders on the Essexbuilt machines. One such rider was Scotsman, Vic Allan, who had moved to Surrey from his Garlogie, Aberdeenshire home in early 1967 to race the Challenger models and then the later Griffon motocross machines. Vic Allan was the reigning Scottish Champion in 1966 and was keen to enter the cut and thrust of British motocross. He was a hard riding and boisterous character back then and took great delight in a bit of show-boating by pulling wheelies down the start and finish straights. It was Wilson who had a quiet word with Vic and ‘calmed him down a little’. The advice was taken totally in the spirit intended and Allan started getting much needed results for both Greeves and his employers, Comerfords.
In 1971 Vic joined the mighty BSA concern, primarily to contest the Grand Prix series, during which time he crashed heavily at the Italian round on the factory 441cc Victor. Allan badly smashed his hip and was sidelined for several months. It was during his convalescence that BSA closed the Small Heath competitions department. Being a professional rider and now effectively unemployed Allan reverted to race once again for Comerfords but this time on the Spanish Bultaco, eventually becoming the British 250cc and 500cc Motocross Champion in 1974 riding the Pursang models in both classes, the last rider to do so.
Vic became very close friends with Jock Wilson who was effectively his mentor in the early days and during his British
Championship efforts they lived only two streets apart. They have great respect for one another. Jock recalls: “The only time I ever had a cross word with Vic Allan was at Farleigh Castle when the Greeves broke down. Vic literally threw the bike on the ground in disgust and was about to storm off. It happened right in front of me so I went up to him and said, “If you are going to treat a motorcycle like that you can bugger off back to Aberdeen right now!”
In 1968 when Comerfords had become UK concessionaires, having taken over the UK importer-ship from Rickman Brothers of the Bultaco brand, Jock Wilson became heavily involved in that side of the business supplying the dealer network and operating a first-class spares service.
Now with Bultaco UK, Wilson was responsible for negotiating and setting up the contracts with the Comerfords supported riders in both motocross and trials.
Having competed in the Scottish Six Days several times Jock was a very useful ‘support man’ for ‘Team Bultaco’ at the annual Highland event. The bright red Comerfords’ Ford Transit piloted by Wilson could be seen at several points daily throughout the event, always bang on time to catch the Comerford and Bultaco runners as they came off the rough with spare parts and sustenance for the Lampkin brothers, Malcolm Rathmell, Yrjo Vesterinen and anyone else entered by Comerfords or the Bultaco factory. Jock Wilson’s personal SSDT and ISDT experience was invaluable when giving support to the factory men. He was trusted and kept many of them both on time and focused on the job in hand, in many cases to win the event!
The International Scene
Jock went on to manage the British International Six Days Junior Trophy and Trophy teams. His knowledge gained by riding in the ISDT many times himself on AJS and Triumph machinery gave him a valuable insight into this part of off-road sport and was a very highly thought of manager by not only the riders but the ACU.
The initial suggestion of Jock’s involvement in team management came in late 1977 from fellow Scot, T. Arnott Moffat, the honorary secretary of the Scottish ACU. The persuasive Moffat phoned Jock up with the deliberate intention of making the idea become a reality. Jock Wilson recalls the conversation: “It was one of Arnott’s legendary long telephone calls but he did a good job of convincing me to take up the challenge, I had a lot of respect for him and trusted his judgement”. Moffat swiftly convinced Jock that he had all the necessary skills and experience needed for such a weighty task. Wilson cut his managerial teeth by taking charge of the Scottish ACU ISDT squad in Sweden at the High Chaparral, Varnamo in 1978.
He quickly earned the respect of the riders and team supporters but the ACU were in the wings watching closely and had taken note. A short time later the ACU enlisted Wilson’s services to manage their GB ISDT Junior Trophy and World Trophy teams, taking on the job from Ian Driver.
The SWM Connection
With Bultaco finances already showing signs of stress, Jock left Comerfords employment in 1979 starting out in business to import the Italian SWM trials and enduro machines, this was achieved by forming a partnership with the accomplished trials and ISDT competitor, Mick ‘Bonkey’ Bowers from Studley, Warwickshire.
Wilson and Bowers, trading as SWM UK Limited, quickly established a country-wide dealership network which included the former World Trials Champion, Martin Lampkin who by that time was competing on the brand.
Two years prior to SWM’s eventual cessation of motorcycle production in 1984, the SWM UK partnership was dissolved and Jock reverted to self-employment, working from his home in Tolworth, repairing and tuning motorcycles and repairing damaged wheels for local dealers, as he was a self-taught ace wheelbuilder.
Now in his eighties, Jock Wilson is retired, still living with wife Pat in Tolworth and can reflect on a lifetime of achievement as a rider, first class mechanic, salesman, team manager, importer and all round good-guy, who contributed so much to the sport of British motorcycle sport.
1956 Army Trial 350 Matchless G3L. Photographer: Len Thorpe, Finchley, London.
1962 Sidcup Sixty Trial: Jock Wilson (AJS 350) followed by Comerfords Sales Manager Bert Thorn (Ariel). Photo: Motor Cycling.
1962: Jock at the rear of Comerfords with his ultra-short stroke AJS 16C. Photo: B.R. Nicholls.
Jock Wilson (350 AJS), Registration No: SMW581: Clayton Trial, Section: Cheeks 05-08-1962. Photographer: Unknown.
Jock Wilson (350 AJS), Registration No: VYW659 (Ex-Gordon Jackson factory machine): Southern Experts Trial 16-12-1962, Hoad Hill section. Photographer: Unknown.
1963 SSDT Jock Wilson (250 Greeves), Grey Mare’s Ridge. Photo: Don Morley.
1965 SSDT: Callart, Jock Wilson (Ariel HT5, Registration No: 786GON – ex-Sammy Miller). Photo: Brian Holder.
Group photo taken at SACU Presentation of Awards when Jock Wilson was Guest of Honour. Location: Golden Lion Hotel, Stirling in 1978. L to R: Margaret Allan, Ronnie Wright, Alex Phillip, Robbie Allan, Charlie Bruce, Tommy Milton, Anne Allan, Jock Wilson.
Comerfords employee group photo from 1968. Source: Dave Campling, Faringdon, Hampshire.
Jock Wilson. Workshop, Tolworth. Photo: Mike Rapley.
Jock and Dave Clinkard shake hands on an SWM deal.