Eric Har­ri­son: 90 Years young

Many will re­mem­ber Eric Har­ri­son and his out­fit, num­ber 123, at meet­ings far and wide. His daugh­ter TRI­CIA REUST shares some of those mo­ments with us.

Old Bike Australasia - - OUT’N’ABOUT -

Eric Har­ri­son’s rid­ing took him through New South Wales, Queens­land, Victoria and South Aus­tralia. Based at the BP Ser­vice Sta­tion in Cabra­matta, NSW, the bike that be­gan the rac­ing ca­reer was one he and a few men from the garage, in­clud­ing Ron­nie El­liot who re­mained his me­chanic through the en­tire rac­ing his­tory, put to­gether. A mem­ber of the South­ern Dis­tricts Mo­tor Cy­cle Club, he suc­cess­fully raced lo­cally un­til the club had to close as they had no money to obey the new fenc­ing laws re­quired by the NSW Speed­way Act, after which he joined Wil­loughby MCC. His swingers in­cluded Ray Ward, Eric Smith and Al­lan Hep­worth. Dur­ing one meet at Moore­bank he went through five pas­sen­gers – they kept fall­ing off or jump­ing off! Some of his many rac­ing achieve­ments in­clude the SDMCC Ju­nior Cham­pi­onship in 1958; sev­eral NSW Hill Climb plac­ings, sev­eral Li­lac Time races at

Box­ers Creek (Goul­burn) with wins in 1963 and 1964; Oran Park a favourite from 1957 on­wards; 1st Side Car Scratch race Goul­burn 1961; 2nd Aus­tralian Short Cir­cuit Cham­pi­onships on the Gold Coast 1965. Be­cause his many suc­cesses were mostly on dirt, the two most sat­is­fy­ing were at Bathurst on tar. In 1964 he fin­ished sec­ond in the Bathurst TT on Easter Sun­day with swinger Ray Ward with the Nor­ton and then in 1965, first in the Bathurst SESQUI Cen­te­nary TT on Easter Satur­day, with swinger Al­lan Hep­worth. The record books of the National Mo­tor Rac­ing Mu­seum record this win by four sec­onds, the “High­light of the week­end”. The first re­built bike was one pur­chased from Johnny Carr – a Tri­umph in which they placed a Bon­neville mo­tor. The last bike had a Tri­umph frame with a Manx Nor­ton mo­tor, which they had turned into a kneeler.

Eric’s favourite com­peti­tor was Stan Bayliss – he would run over to Eric and say: “Didn’t you hear I was rac­ing to­day? You could have saved your­self a trip!” He fondly re­calls Jimmy Airey, and Gor­don Gausco.

Eric says prob­a­bly Box­ers Creek was his favourite track (mine was Moore­bank – I loved the scram­bles, watch­ing the side cars in the air over the hills and so much mud and slush!). So many tracks – an old air­field out the back of Lid­combe; Tam­worth; Liver­pool show­grounds; Calder; Lake­side; Gunnedah; New­cas­tle and so on. His most frus­trat­ing race was in South Aus­tralia at Vic­tor Har­bor. His swinger Ray Ward had had a cou­ple and on the home stretch thought they had it in the bag so started play­ing up to the crowd – and fell off! Eric went on to win the race but they took the plac­ing off him as he had crossed the fin­ish line with no pas­sen­ger. Eric talks of the days the drum brake wouldn’t last too many laps, so he had to sit up or stand, to cre­ate wind re­sis­tance to slow down the bike. The cor­ner at the bot­tom of Bathurst’s Con­rod Straight was pretty bad – with­out the brakes you ended up duck­ing un­der the fence rail and sail­ing off on your way “to visit Bathurst”.

Eric and his wife Shirley had eight chil­dren. The mem­o­ries of grow­ing up in this bike rac­ing en­vi­ron­ment in­clude reg­u­lar week­ends in the car off to watch dad win (or more in­ter­est­ingly crash); wak­ing sleep­ing ba­bies and tots to get them in the car dur­ing the night to travel great dis­tances, eas­ily done back then as there were no seat belts; mak­ing zil­lions of curried egg sand­wiches so that there were enough to share; mum buy­ing rolls of striped cor­duroy to make us trousers to wear at the races; be­ing al­lowed, back in those days, to go round the race track at Bathurst on the bike with dad; hud­dling in the tent dur­ing rain but not be­ing al­lowed to touch the can­vas be­cause that made the tent leak; the smell of strong lin­i­ment com­ing from the par­ents’ bed­room with dad get­ting over re­cent in­juries; hold­ing hot chips out the win­dow on the drive home to cool down for the tots to eat; Mum tak­ing tons of 8mm movies. These movies were all lent to the Bund­aberg Mo­tor Cy­cle Club and never re­turned – if any­one can help out in their re­turn as our fam­ily trea­sure please make con­tact! Eric was never much of a drinker, but when the first boy was born, after five girls, the men at the garage got dad su­per drunk with lots of “now you’ve re­ally made it! Now you’ve proved your­self.” What we girls thought of these com­ments will re­main un­writ­ten. This birth of a son how­ever, co­in­cided with Ron­nie El­liot mov­ing on to a new work po­si­tion, so with los­ing this trusted me­chanic fi­nally the bike was sold and the rac­ing ca­reer ended. Eric turned 90 in Novem­ber and lives with his daugh­ter and son-in-law now, and greatly rel­ishes telling the grand­chil­dren (he has 19 and also 14 greats) sto­ries of his rac­ing days. The ar­rival of the Old Bike magazine is her­alded with cries of recog­ni­tion on see­ing names and tracks men­tioned. Thank you for bring­ing such joy to him.

Eric and Al­lan Hep­worth at Ama­roo Park Short Cir­cuit.

LEFT Eric leads Ge­orge Heg­gie at Salty Creek, New­cas­tle. RIGHT En­ter­tainer Bobby Limb (right) pre­sents Al­lan Hep­worth and Eric Har­ri­son with a sash at Box­ers Creek, Goul­burn.

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