Down among the fairies

Old Bike Australasia - - MEGURO AUTO RACER -

JOHN DAL­TON vis­its Peter Mur­ray at his won­der­ful mu­seum be­side the fa­mous Fairy Bridge on the Isle of Man. Peter Mur­ray the owner of Mur­ray’s Mo­tor­cy­cles, was born in Athe­ston, War­wick­shire, Eng­land in 1939, the son of Charles and Emily Mur­ray. In 1953, they de­cided to move to the Isle of Man, into a prop­erty known as ‘San­ton Villa’, in the vil­lage of San­ton. This was the lo­ca­tion for the start of the Mur­ray’s Mo­tor­cy­cles. Peter’s dad Char­lie started to col­lect mo­tor­cy­cles and mem­o­ra­bilia for the mu­seum and the first mo­tor­cy­cle he bought, from Tom Moore of Bil­lown, was a Coven­try Ea­gle, built in 1903. The regis­tra­tion MN 30, was put onto Peter’s van be­fore the bike was sold, and is still there to­day.

Af­ter col­lect­ing mo­tor­cy­cles and mem­o­ra­bilia for 10 years, it was time to look for a big­ger place for the col­lec­tion, but he con­tinue to live at San­ton Villa. The Mu­seum moved to Chris­tian Street in Peel in 1964, and stayed there for 5 years. Re­stric­tions on the mu­seum ad­ver­tis­ing in Peel be­came a sore point, so it was time to move on yet again – to place a that was to be­come the world fa­mous Mur­ray’s Mo­tor­cy­cle Mu­seum at the Bun­ga­low on the T.T. course. For mo­tor­cy­cle en­thu­si­asts and as a tourist at­trac­tion, it was the place to visit, with lots of very rare mo­tor­cy­cles on dis­play, as well as plenty of mem­o­ra­bilia. How­ever as time went on it be­came more and more ex­pen­sive to run the mu­seum, as the costs were paid by the Mur­ray fam­ily, with no grants or fund­ing what­so­ever from the Isle of Man. The lease on the build­ing was due to be re­newed, and the rent was to in­crease. The only money com­ing in was via a do­na­tion box on en­ter­ing the mu­seum, and the buy­ing and sell­ing of some of the stock. So af­ter 37 years, Peter de­cided to move from the T.T. course lo­ca­tion. In 2006, Peter got in touch with Steve Grif­fith, who is the son of the late John Grif­fith, the road test jour­nal­ist for ‘The Mo­tor­cy­cle’ mag­a­zine, and an avid col­lec­tor of rare mo­tor­cy­cles. Steve, who is also a mo­tor­cy­cle and mem­o­ra­bilia dealer, was called upon to help sell some of the bikes that had been in Mur­ray’s Mu­seum. The sale would help fi­nance the move and re­stock the mu­seum with road and race bikes from a more mod­ern era. One of the mo­tor­cy­cles that proved to be the most sought af­ter, on dis­play and for sale, was a Honda works 125cc twin cylin­der racer from 1961. This bike was given to Char­lie from Mr. Honda’s pri­vate col­lec­tion. In the mid ‘70s, Mr Honda was on a world tour and made a visit to ‘Mur­ray’s’, whilst on the Isle of Man. Char­lie asked Mr Honda through an in­ter­preter, if it would be pos­si­ble to have a Honda race mo­tor­cy­cle for the mu­seum. When he re­turned home to Ja­pan, he sent the 125cc racer as a gift. Dur­ing the sale the mo­tor­cy­cles in 2006, Peter got in touch with Honda, and they in­formed him that they would like to ‘buy’ back the bike, so a price was agreed and the bike went back to Honda Ja­pan. The mo­tor­cy­cle was prob­a­bly the one Ku­nim­itsu Taka­hashi rode when he won the 1961 Ul­ster Grand Prix, and not the bike that Mike Hail­wood rode when he won the 1961 T.T. About 80 mo­tor­cy­cles were sold over a short time. Peter then moved what mo­tor­cy­cles he man­aged to keep, along with a lot of new race and road bikes back into the place it all started, Peter’s home at San­ton Villa. It’s now called ‘Mur­rays Mo­tor­cy­cles’, and is lo­cated just be­fore the Fairy Bridge, on the New Castle­town Road, head­ing out from Dou­glas. It has now gone a full cir­cle back to where it be­gan. Ask­ing Peter who was his favourite mo­tor cy­cle racer, with a big smile he said ‘Bob McIn­tyre’, who rode for Honda at the T.T. in 1961 on a 250cc 4 Cylin­der. He didn’t win the race af­ter he broke down, but put up the fastest lap at 99.58 mph. Mike Hail­wood won with a speed of 98.38mph. Although he was the first man to put in a lap of 100mph, in 1957 on a 4 cylin­der Gil­era, to date he has not had a cor­ner named af­ter him on the T.T. course.

Mur­ray’s Mo­tor­cy­cles is still open, with a £5 en­try fee which in­cludes tea or cof­fee and bis­cuits and sou­venir badges. Pro­ceeds from the mu­seum go to­wards the run­ning costs of the mu­seum and the Joey Dun­lop foun­da­tion as well as the Hyper­baric Cham­ber in Dou­glas, which is a great help for all kinds of in­jury for peo­ple on and off the Isle of Man. So, Peter and his wife Sarah will make you most wel­come when you call into Mur­ray’s Mo­tor­cy­cles, Isle of Man and you’ll get an even big­ger wel­come from theirs lit­tle dogs, Penny and Lulu.

ABOVE Peter with his me­mo­rial to his favourite TT rider. RIGHT Peter’s un­cle Harry with the Zenith (right) and Char­lie Mur­ray with the Coven­try Ea­gle. BE­LOW RIGHT Char­lie Mur­ray and his son Peter.

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