Down among the fairies
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.