Cyril ‘Sam’ Hughes A life in service of the sport
The name Cyril Hughes is certainly not well known in racing circles in Launceston, but he has spent a lifetime in the sport in virtually every facet.
“Sam made a mighty effort to miss him, but in putting out his left foot he placed it on the primary chain, ripping his boot off.”
As a teenager Sam would ride his push bike from his home to watch grass hill climbs, but his love of bikes was certainly not shared by his parents as they banned him from owning a bike until he turned 21. As a booking clerk for an auctioneer he started saving to buy his first bike soon after his 21st birthday, but doesn’t remember the early 600 BSA Side Valve fondly. Later, as a sales rep for Castrol Oils Sam decided to try racing , beginning with a beach race meeting in December 1952 at Greens Beach where he got the taste for winning on a 498 Matchless.
The start of the Longford race meetings (from 1953) saw Sam, along with so many others, spend a great deal of time helping to set up the track for racing. In fact, he was involved as a track preparer, official or rider at every Longford meeting except the last when bikes were dropped from the program. Major preparation included the laying of the cables needed for communication; two for the public address and two for the phone line to provide communication to the major flag points. That meant four laps of the 4½ mile track, or well over 18 miles of cables. Then hundreds of hay bales had to be placed for the riders’ protection, and then after the meeting everything had to be removed.
Sam decided that a new 500 AJS would be best for 1955 and ordered one from his ex-employer Trevor Jowett, the AJS agent at Jowett Bros. Unfortunately, a 350 turned up and he was talked into taking that and regrets it to this day. Sam had taken to scramble racing and was often winning at Lock Bay and Baskerville, on a new Matchless G80 CS (Competition Spring frame). When the 1957 Longford meeting approached Sam decided to give it a try on his Matchless G80 CS which required some effort to get it ready to road race, in between winning countless scramble and beach race events.
Good friend Dave Perry had purchased a very trick 350 Manx with a close ratio gearbox, but was struggling to come to grips with it so put Sam on it. Eventually the Manx defeated the team and it was sold to good friend Ian Tilley who had his father Bill, a long-term Norton racer, as the mechanic and the combination worked. In 1960 Dave Perry asked Sam if he would like to ride his 350 Manx at Symmons Plains at a major meeting – two weeks before his wedding. Results were great up to a feature race where a WA rider dropped the bike at pit corner. Sam made a mighty effort to miss him, but in putting out his left foot he placed it on the primary chain, ripping his boot off. That was the last race meeting for quite a few years.
Although racing had virtually stopped he was to continue as a committee man with the Tasmanian Motor Cycle Club. Racing was about to move to a new decade and slightly new structure with Stewards appointed from outside the organising club. Les Walkden was appointed Clerk of Course and Sam Hughes was Chief Course Marshall. The two clicked and stayed in those positions until the start of the 1990s. A major endorsement to the way Les, or “Boris” as he was known, and Sam worked together was when many top line mainland riders contacted the Competition Secretary about entering a meeting the first question was, “Are Boris and Sam running the meeting?” If the answer was yes, the usual response was OK I’m coming down for the event. The ultimate endorsement from the Tasmanian Motor Cycle Club for his riding and officiating was to award him Life Membership.
Graeme White, “Dicky” Lee and Sam Hughes at the completion of a 12 Hour Road Trial. On his muchused Matchless G80 CS at Longford. Displaying his speedway style in a beach race. Sam tinkering with his new AJS in 1954.