The Nurs­ery Ho­tel

John Dal­ton is a long-time res­i­dent of the Isle of Man. Here he re­counts a story all-but lost in the an­nals of time.

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story John Dal­ton

The Nurs­ery Ho­tel in On­chan (near Dou­glas) was built in the early 1800s and was owned by the Spit­tle fam­ily. It was orig­i­nally a house (Birch Hill House) for the head gar­dener, a Mr Peter Polind. Be­fore it be­came a ho­tel, the grounds around the house were used as a gar­den nurs­ery, hence the even­tual name for the ho­tel. The house and grounds were later sold to brew­ers, Castle­town Ales, and the house con­verted to a 12-room ho­tel. The build­ings be­hind the ho­tel were used as work­shops at TT and Manx GP times by many in­di­vid­u­als and teams, in­clud­ing the Ve­lo­cette works team. Castle­town Ales was later bought out by Her­ron and Brearly who con­tin­ued to run the Nurs­ery as a pub, but un­der their own­er­ship the man­agers changed quite fre­quently. The ho­tel was closed down in 1988 when a new pub called the Archibald-Knox (named af­ter a lo­cal artist) was built in front of the Nurs­ery. In 1959 when Honda first en­tered the TT, they stayed at the Nurs­ery, bring­ing their own food and a cook. As the Ul­tra Light­weight TT was held on the shorter Clypse Course (which ran through On­chan) rather than the Moun­tain Course, the lo­ca­tion was ideal. Honda brought with them four Benly Su­per Sport mo­tor­cy­cles which were fit­ted with 150cc bar­rels and pis­tons rather than the stan­dard 125cc,

their rea­son­ing be­ing that the ex­tra ca­pac­ity would help them climb the moun­tain to Creg ny Baa. This was the first time that th­ese mod­els had been seen out­side Ja­pan and they caused quite a stir. The team bikes were five RC141 mod­els, with DOHC twin cylin­der en­gines, six speed gear­boxes, dry clutches and Kei­hin flat-slide car­bu­ret­tors. Two mo­tor­cy­cle re­porters of the time, David Dixon and John Grif­fiths, were lucky enough to be given a test ride on the Benlys. They both gave the bikes glow­ing re­ports in their mo­tor­cy­cle pa­pers of the day. In­ter­est­ingly Steve Grif­fiths, the son of the late John Grif­fiths, is now a mo­tor­cy­cle trader spe­cial­is­ing in find­ing rare parts for the Honda Benly Su­per Sport model which was pro­duced only from 1959-1964. Steve is a very help­ful chap and has helped me find parts for my own Benlys. None of th­ese 1959 TT prac­tice ma­chines are known to ex­ist. At the time the bikes were also used as run­abouts dur­ing the TT week. In the pho­to­graphs of the Benlys, taken by ex-racer Jeff Bain, it shows the air scoop fit­ted to help cool­ing for the rear of the en­gine. Th­ese bikes had alu­minium al­loy fuel tanks, al­loy rims, front mud­guard, tool box cover and bat­tery cover. The hubs and brake plates were made from mag­ne­sium al­loy. By 1961 the ‚

fuel tank had been changed to steel and through the years some of the other parts also changed but the bike re­tained its rac­ing lines to the end in 1964.

Three years ago I was liv­ing just half a mile from the for­mer Nurs­ery Ho­tel and I worked for Manx Glass who are the big­gest glass com­pany on the is­land. A work col­league at the time was Mr Roy Moore who is a well-in­formed and wel­com­ing voice on Manx Ra­dio for the Manx Grand Prix. Roy men­tioned that when he was a young lad he col­lected au­to­graphs from TT rac­ers and had in one of his books some of the Ja­panese rac­ers from the 1959 TT. In 1959 the Nurs­ery Ho­tel had two paths up to it. The longer path was never used and had a closed gate at the end. Early one morn­ing a race bike was started up. Two young boys lived across the road from the ho­tel and went to in­ves­ti­gate this mo­tor­cy­cle noise. They saw the bike be­ing warmed up and then rid­den up the long path at quite a pace, but with leaves and moss on the un­used path­way the rider came to the closed gate at speed, hit the brakes, and down he went. This was Honda’s first crash in the Isle of Man, and the boys who wit­nessed the event were none other than Roy Moore and Ge­off Can­nel, who be­came the “voice” of the TT and mem­ber of the House of Keys (Manx Par­lia­ment). Dur­ing TT week in 1992, I held a Vin­tage Ja­panese Mo­tor­cy­cle Club get-to­gether in the grounds of the closed and boarded-up Nurs­ery Ho­tel. I took a photo on that day of three Honda Benly Su­per Sports bikes be­long­ing to mem­bers who had come to the site. Quite a few VJMC mem­bers came to the Nurs­ery Ho­tel on that day. Late in 1992 the lo­cal Sho­prite chain bought the ho­tel and its grounds, which was fenced off and knocked down in 1993 and the plot cov­ered in tar­mac. In 1999 a new store was built on the site. It is a pity that Honda could not have had the fore­sight to buy the ho­tel from the Isle of Man with their bless­ing and turn it into a tourist at­trac­tion/ mu­seum as Honda’s first step to the TT races. In 2009, as part of Honda’s 50th an­niver­sary in the Isle of Man, one of the team’s orig­i­nal rid­ers – Naomi Taniguchi, who fin­ished 6th in the 125cc TT, earn­ing a Sil­ver Replica – was stay­ing at a ho­tel in Dou­glas with friends from Ja­pan. I had rid­den my own CB92 Benly Su­per Sport to the ho­tel and Mr Taniguchi came out of the ho­tel to view the bike, so I asked him (through an in­ter­preter) if he would like to ride by CB92 for a lap of the Clypse Course. He replied that he would be happy to do so, and had brought along his leathers and hel­met. I ac­com­pa­nied him on my C72, and Mr Sakamoto who is Editor in Chief of Yaesu Pub­lish­ing in Tokyo took pho­tos of the lap. At 73 years of age, Mr Taniguchi kept him­self slim and fit so he can still ride mo­tor­cy­cles. What a TT week for me in 2009 – price­less, but the Nurs­ery Ho­tel in 1959 was the place to be to see the new Honda rac­ers and the start of it all.

BELOW The Honda team at work in the grounds of the Nurs­ery Ho­tel in 1959. The race bikes with­out en­gines are RC141 mod­els which have had their 2-valves per cylin­der en­gines re­moved. With new 4-valve en­gines fit­ted, they would be re-clas­si­fied RC142. One of the RC142s was raced by Taniguchi. 1959 Honda team rid­ers au­to­graphs in Roy Moore’s al­bum.

ABOVE & OP­PO­SITE John Dal­ton’s photo taken in 1992 of the boarded up Nurs­ery Ho­tel and VJMC vis­i­tors’ 1964 Benlys.

Naomi Taniguchi reac­quaints him­selfwith the TT course in 2009.

ABOVE Air scoops fit­ted to help cool the rear of the cylin­ders on the 1959 TT prac­tice Benly.LEFT John Dal­ton with Naomi Taniguchi.

Kiwi TT star Bruce Anstey tries out au­thor John Dal­ton’s CB92 at the 2014 TT.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.