Jock Wil­son

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS - Words: John Mof­fat

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!

Down South

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.

Sport­ing Deal­ers

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.

In­flu­ence

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.

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