The remarkable story submitted by Peter North (see Out & About, page 80) concerning the intrepid exploits of his father Percy in scaling Barrington Tops on a 350 AJS in 1925 rekindled some less ancient memories for me; of a slightly similar personal ordeal in 1970. I was working at the time for John Harris, the irrepressible Honda and later Husqvarna dealer in Belmont, south of Newcastle. One weekend we decided on a spot of R&R in the form of an expedition to Barrington Tops on various trail bikes. From memory there were five or six of us including John himself, my brother Peter, local panel beater ‘Digger’ Mountford and one or two others. As we slithered our way up the icy slopes in constant drizzle and clouds laying so low you could almost chew them, we became separated and when some hours later most of us re-discovered each other, there was no sign of Digger. With darkness fast approaching we had no choice but to head for Dungog to seek a hotel for the night, whereupon the Search & Rescue people were scrambled. This was dangerous stuff; people perish up there in a region where winter temperatures of minus 10ºC are far from uncommon.
It was too late to do anything but wait until first light, but unbeknown to us Digger had ridden right over the range to emerge on the Scone (western) side, where he had run out of petrol. After hoofing it for some distance he spotted a shed, which he soon discovered was occupied by a large number of extremely fierce dogs, each secured to the walls of the shed by a length of chain. And at the very end of the shed stood the prize; a can of petrol. Very carefully Digger crept down the exact centre of the shed, with slathering fangs gnashing within inches of his flanks, accompanied by a cacophony of yelping and barking. Gingerly grasping the precious can, he hoisted it onto his shoulder, precisely pivoted, and crept down the same perilous centre line and outside to freedom. By morning, rescue aircraft were buzzing about, searchers were swarming the peaks and trails, and Digger was in Scone – dry and hungry. His safe presence was quickly relayed to the authorities on the other side of the mountains and the search called off. It was not your average day of trail riding and it was 48 hours before we were once again all together.
Adventurous yes, fraught with danger, also yes. Foolhardy? No question, but a mere bagatelle compared to the determination of the pioneers of yore. Now turn to Page 80 and you’ll have even more admiration for what Percy North achieved 91 years ago with a now-veteran motorcycle, a gallon or so of petrol and a few spanners. No wonder the newspaper report suggested “there was a large streak of insanity within the family.”
JIM SCAYSBROOK Editor
Andre Deubel’s 1972 Moto Guzzi Eldorado 850.See feature story on P58.OUR COVER