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Epoch-making machine

Friday, 7 May 2021 at 21:54

Scott motorcycle on Dr John Dunn. Pictured: a Scott motorcycle from 1914

Epoch-making machine

Further to my previous post (see in 'Thought blog'), I have added a few more words from Ixion's Motorcycle Cavalcade (published: 1950).

This is all about an event that took place in the village of Newnham, near Daventry. My interest was prompted by a blue plaque in the village which celebrated the prescence of one A. A. Scott at a motorcycle hill-climb back in 1908. I did some video recording in the village recently, which I will be posting on YouTube before too long.

The mere look of his epoch-making machine was sufficient. Gleaming with silver plate and purple enamel, its sheer beauty immediately vanquished the onlookers. It made three ascents of the hill. We all felt that a new era had dawned on our world. He started the machine by a gentle depression of a short pedal - none of that ungainly run-and-jump business. He had haughtily scorned to fit pedals. The smooth cat-like purr of the two-stroke engine put to undying shame the staccato chatter of the super-tuned four-strokes which had mustered to steal all the day’s glory. Amidships, the trim little projectile housed a two-speed gear, complete with clutch, daintily operated by a single rocking pedal. Finally, the entire drive was by very light chains. [And this at a time when most other machines were still driven by leather belts to the back wheel.]

John Dunn.

Scott's triumph

Thursday, 6 May 2021 at 21:34

A. Scott on Dr John Dunn. Scott's triumph

I recently motorcycled over to Newnham village, near Daventry, to ride the course of the famous Scott motocycle victory in the 1908 hill-climb. There is a blue plaque to celebrate Alfred Scott's presence in Newnham on what was once an old inn. I captured a little of my day out on video and will transfer the results to YouTube before too long.

Here is what Ixion had to say about the 1908 event in his Motorcycle Cavalcade of 1950.



Each spring the Coventry club was accustomed to hold a hill-climb at Newnham, outside Daventry. The hill was not especially formidable or interesting. But just as Ascott races are the great day of London dress designers, so the Newnham hill-climb used to tempt our motorcycle designers to unveil their novelties. Everybody in the trade crowded to watch. Alfred Scott of Saltaire chose the 1908 climb for the debut of his open-framed two-stroke twin-cylinder, and won three classes on the efficiency formula.

In envious company it is seldom that spite and criticism automatically surrender to worship. Scott in ten minutes conquered the motorcycle world…


Posted by John Dunn.

Sutton pack-horse bridge

Sunday, 2 May 2021 at 21:58

Sutton packhorse bridge on Dr John Dunn. Whilst motorcycling in north-east Bedfordshire to see Cockayne Hatley and its delights, I thought that I would add a small titbit to the adventure by dropping in to Sutton to see its famous packhorse bridge. I captured something of the experience on my vlog. Below is a slice of the appropriate commentary to the video for YouTube, which will go public on Sunday 2nd May.

A postcard from 1964.

Sutton pack-horse bridge

So, it’s one last look at Cockayne Hatley Hall and back to the bike.
…and out through the gateway.

Back down the rough track.

A moments pause to consult the map.

I’m looking for a route to the village of Sutton.

Whilst out this way, I thought I’d take a look at another local landmark of a very different kind, even though it might have been built when the foundations of Cockayne Hatley’s church were being laid.

It means riding across these open Bedfordshire claylands.


And here I am riding through Sutton village.

Here is the landmark that I came to see.

In the middle of Sutton between the church and the main village, the Sutton Packhorse Bridge is a small two arch construction crafted from local sandstone sometime in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

I’ll cross over the ford and park up.

Taking a walk in the footsteps of those medieval packhorse drivers… complete with thumb for company - only for a short while, I promise.

Ah, the friction rustle of motorcycle trousers and thump of heavy boots…

And there’s a view of the brook and ford next to this medieval packhorse bridge.

The bridge can be dated largely by the pointed shape of its arches. Stone bridges after this time were built with semi-circular arches.

The bridge is believed to be the only surviving bridge of its type in Bedfordshire. Originally only pedestrians and packhorses had the right of way but over time this was extended to include cyclists.

The bridge was part of one of the most frequented packhorse routes from the south to the north, and was also situated on an important trade route to wool towns such as Dunstable and Bedford.

You might wonder why such a shallow ford needed such a relatively elaborate bridge. Well you only need to look back to this same scene in the winter of late 2020, and the flooding of the brook will explain the need.

Back across the bridge… there can’t have been that much traffic over the bridge in the Middle Ages, nevertheless, there is the pedestrian refuge, just in case a serf found himself stranded half way as the pack horses passed over.

…to the close.

And one last look at a piece of transport history.

For now, I’m done…

© John Dunn.

Open, honest

Saturday, 1 May 2021 at 21:42

Campbell by John on Dr John Dunn. The poet Roy Campbell by Augustus John (Date: c. 1925)

Open, honest

Roy Campbell’s epic poem of the Spanish Civil War, Flowering Rifle.
 The reading continues.

Divine intervention in support of the just cause is conflated with the superior use of topography, notably the rivers, which to the Rightists were ‘allied’. This is possibly a reference to the opening of dams as a weapon of war at the decisive Battle of Ebro by Franco’s forces. Be that as it may, lost comrades swept away to the sea are lauded, by Campbell, as heroes. The galloping riders of the plains conjures up the Reconquista knights of old.

The plains and valleys fought upon our side
And rivers to our Victory were allied
That (loosed to whelm us and the land)
Were parted like Red Seas on either hand:
Our comrades’ blood, still conscious in their veins,
Headed the waves away with curling manes,
And swerving on both sides to let us free,
Galloped them foaming headlong to the sea -
In death still present, hand upon the reins,
Such friendship links us riders of the plains.
Nor can a clenched left fist create or fight
With the calm patience of the open Right
Nor help a needy comrade, as we see
Each time they leave their wounded, when they flee,
When to remove their numbers to the rear
Might sow the grey, demoralising fear.


The symbolic clenched fist reappears and is associated with the Leftist’s failings in creativity, patience and valour, in contrast to the side of the open palmed salute, which succeeds in all these attributes.

Salutes are used symbolically to compare the closed, constricted and sinister nature of the Left, with the open, honest endeavour of the Right.


© John Dunn.

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