Thursday 30 November 2023

Rally - Whisky and Books

Perfection … The telephone rang. The voice was awfy familiar, but there were no yapping wee Corgi dugs in the background – so it couldn’t be ‘her’. However, it was indeed rallying royalty

“Hello, John. I’ve got just the very thing,” said the voice, “what better way to sit back, relax and read your books than having a wee dram in your hand to savour the taste while appreciating the content?

Of course, she’s right. And to celebrate the 33rd anniversary of her winning the 1990 FIA Ladies World Rally Championship, indeed the first Brit to win a world rallying title, Louise Aitken-Walker has launched her very own whisky brand.

But this is no ordinary whisky. This is not ‘drinking’ whisky, this is ‘sipping’ whisky. Unlike the traditional Highland or Lowland malts, Louise has opted for a rather special and exclusive grain whisky blend curated for her own personal taste.

It is also sumptuously packaged and available for us ordinary mortals to purchase, but with one proviso. There will be only 490 bottles and that number is already reducing.

To order a bottle (or two) don’t expect to pop into the garage at Duns and buy one when filling the car with petrol, do it on-line here:

Furthermore, it is whispered in learned whisky circles that this may be very similar to the nectar of the gods, primarily the ancient Scottish deity, Queen Beira herself, also known as the Guardian of the Life Force. And so it is fitting that this rather special and palate soothing potion will indeed provide the ideal accompaniment for those of you sitting back with a copy of ‘The Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989’ and to make it last longer why not also buy a copy of ‘Knockhill, 50 Years of Racing’.

So get your chill-out kit here:




Tuesday 28 November 2023

Racing - Knockhill - The Book

More reading material … As if one book designed to trigger the old memory box wasn’t enough, along comes another one, this time from Stuart Gray at Knockhill, and what a trip down the memory pit lane and racetrack that provides. It nearly brought a tear to my eye.

The ‘Knockhill 50 Years of Racing’ book will mark the circuit’s official 50th anniversary next year and is available now. You can order online, phone Knockhill on 01383 723337 or pick up a copy from the Circuit Office.

I’m still working my way through it because every few pages I have to stop and have a ponder. In fact I had to buy a box of Kleenex Man-Size tissues just to cope with the multiple flashbacks as I flicked through the pages, recalling the names, remembering the sights and re-imagining the sounds.

What some of you may not know is that I used to commentate on some of the early race meetings at Knockhill, long before it became Scotland’s National Motor Sport Centre. Back then, individual car clubs ran the meetings while the circuit provided the venue, so there was no ‘resident’ individual commentator. As a race reporter for ‘Motoring News’ I was often asked to provide the commentary and that led on to commentating on rallies when the circuit hosted special stages or complete rallies, so the circuit means a lot to me.

But amongst the memories that Stuart’s book has stirred up was one where a bloke called Andy Jeffrey was racing in the Production Saloon Car class at one race meeting. Andy was a car dealer in the far east (Edinburgh area) and mixed in dubious company (including one J C Cleland Esq) and so I knew him quite well. Well enough to indulge in the tiniest wee bit of slagging about his driving prowess.

Anyway the race ended, and as Andy’s BMW pulled up in the Pits, the door was flung open and a wee figure jumped out still wearing its crash helmet and stomped over to the circuit barrier, vaulted it and strode purposefully across the track heading for the chicken shack on stilts (the original commentary box) then across the grass to climb the shoogly ladder to my elevated position where he proceeded to harangue the aforesaid commentator about his bias, disrespect and criticism of his excellent car control and skilful racing manoeuvres.

Apparently, Andy had been driving with his window down and had heard every word over the circuit loudspeakers because the Production cars were all virtually silent!

Now it has to be said that I accidentally and inadvertently – to be sure - kept the microphone open so the vast (?) crowd heard the slagging match that was going on in the commentary box throughout this discourse on Andy’s driving ability and the commentator’s colourful race descriptions.

I can’t imagine that being allowed these days, Derek would have a fit, but Andy and I remained pals after it – I think!

Knockhill has certainly changed out of all recognition since those early days a tribute to Derek and his hard working team and one of which they can all be proud. Stuart’s book charts the progress and the rise to become one of the country’s most accessible circuits providing the best spectating opportunities and some of the best racing in the country whether on two, three or four wheels.

You know what? I have to admit Stuart’s book is nearly (very nearly!) as good as mine. But then of course, I’m biased – just ask Andy Jeffrey.

And if you want to beat the Christmas post, best act sooner rather than later:

Thursday 23 November 2023

Rally - R.A.C. Rally

Change of Plan …. Plans to be out and about this weekend on the rally with a stock of books in the back of the van have had to be shelved. Apparently it will be too cauld and wet for auld gits, so how the rest of you will manage I have no idea. Still the thought of mixing with the expected hordes of anoraks and bobble hats is going to be hard to resist although the assorted variety of coughs, sniffs, sneezes and dripping noses are best avoided at this time of year.

Having said that, the Ford Motor Company must be turning in its electrified junction box of a grave at the thought of fleets of Ford Escorts charging through the weather and the woods long after they were supposed to be destined only for museums, private automotive collections and the scrappie must be hard to bear. Despite the millions that were originally spent on designing the Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts to be perfect saloon conveyances for the masses, private enterprise and ambitious individuals have stepped up the development to another level to create a sporting thoroughbred. Today’s ‘modern’ Escorts are but ghostly silhouettes of past life.

Not only that, the anticipated thousands who will be attracted out of centrally heated homes and away from large screen TVs will be celebrating not just Ford’s icons from the past, but those automotive products of rival manufacturers – and of course, certain other manufacturers who are no longer manufacturing!

Which brings thoughts of the 1970s to mind with their predictions and surveys which suggested that at its peak the RAC Rally would attract some two million souls to jam the roads and throng the woods in pursuit of watching this exotic machinery in its natural habitat. And not just the machinery but the stars of their time who captivated, thrilled and enthused with their skills, antics and endeavours.

And it seems it is happening all over again going by the crowds who turned out in Wales at the R.A.C. Rally Start while social media is awash with fans old, young and new seeking to make the effort to don boots, wellies, scarves and gloves to brave the elements. That all evokes memories of sleeping overnight in cramped cars with ice encrusted condensation dripping on the occupants just so that a good spectating spot could be found ahead of the crowds and at the front of the queue.

Then in the morning the senses were alerted with the firing up of the gaz or paraffin pressure stove and frying pan with its assortment of sizzling and singed, bacon and sausages to be stuffed into dry rolls and washed down with scalding tea. Sights, sounds and smells we’re unlikely to experience ever again – but maybe this weekend?

Anyway, the reason for this trip down memory stage is that way back in 1995 the World Rally Teams Association commissioned a survey which found that the Network Q RAC Rally attracted 2.1 million spectators of which 85,000 paid for entry to the ‘spectator specials’. The survey concluded that rallying was the biggest spectator draw in most countries the FIA World series visited. However, it must be said that perhaps ‘the Colin factor’ played its part in those numbers!

No matter, this weekend might just prove something about the sport, not just to our own dearly beloved Motorsport UK but to the blinkered and blazered coterie of motor racing afficionados in Paris, France. But are they listening and watching?

Anyway to those of you who might be denied the opperchancity of purchasing a book for cash live in the open air, you’ll just have to settle for going on-line!

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Eric Bryce, 1937-2023

Another sad loss, and it’s a wee bit personal … Back in the days when cameras used roll film, had no automatic focussing or exposure setting, and lenses were all fixed-focus and apertures had to be manually set, photography was a skill and an art form in its own right.

There had to be technical knowledge too, choosing the correct ‘speed’ of film and processing procedures to minimise ‘graining’ in the final shots and then long hours in the dark room developing the film before printing the actual photographs themselves. Having mastered the technical expertise a photographer then had to be able to choose and compose his/her required shots, position him or herself in the right location to capture an action shot and then be quick enough to press the trigger once the aperture and speed had been set.

The difference between a good photographer and an excellent photographer could be measured in thousandths of a second back in the early days of motor racing and rallying and Eric Bryce was not just a good or an excellent photographer, he was a master of his technology and art.

A farmer by day and photographer for fun Eric spent most weekends in the 1950s and 1960s photographing motor racing at Charterhall and Winfield as well as local car rallies and in the process capturing the early motor sporting forays of a man called Jim Clark and other local hot-shots.

When the Borders circuits finally closed, Eric started attending the new circuit at Ingliston in the late 1960s where he encountered a cheeky young would-be photographer and reporter. Unlike some of the other more established ‘professionals’ at that time Eric was not in the least bit wary or jealous of any newcomers.

A quiet, polite man, he wasn’t openly helpful and didn’t try to teach, but he would chat and make suggestions and answer any questions that were asked. That was surely the best way to teach and advise a newcomer – being ‘taught’ without being ‘instructed’. He was always willing to show off his equipment and he always had the best of Nikon gear.

Apparently this came from another local source. Andrew Cowan did a lot of business in Japan and was perhaps better known in the far east for his rallying exploits than he was here at home but each time he visited Japan he came back with the latest Nikon gear for Eric. Oddly enough, there was never any mention of cost for this most expensive equipment – or whether taxes and duty had been paid!

As Clark spread his wings Eric followed him south and photographed many races and grand prix chronicling Clark’s rise through the ranks, but he didn’t venture abroad. He was first and foremost a farmer, working the family farm at Gordon near Duns.

He also photographed local shows and Point to Point horse races throughout the Borders, as well as the Jim Clark rallies, so his output was both varied and prolific.

He spoke quietly which made folk think he was shy, but there was a twinkle in his eye and his stories were full of fun and mischief of those early days and once he started talking time just slipped away.

The last time we met was at a Club Lotus ‘do’ outside the Museum in Duns. The original cloth cap or bunnet had given way to a much-faded baseball cap, but otherwise he was just the same kindly man who had been so generous to an upstart fifty years before.

His files will provide an undoubted treasure trove of images gathered over the years and hopefully we’ll get to see some of them. There is however a book which was recently produced by the Jim Clark Trust called “Clark Through the Lens” which features some of Eric’s photographs and that is now on my Christmas list:

Sadly, Eric passed away quite suddenly last week. He was 86, a lovely, kind, gentle, polite and helpful man - and a really great photographer.

Monday 20 November 2023

Rally - A nice wee surprise

The mark of a true gentleman … This morning a wee surprise turned up in the post, a handwritten note in a hand written addressed envelope from ‘The Boss’.

Last week I delivered a copy of ‘The Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989’ book to Tunnock’s Bakery in Uddingston to thank them for their support and thought no more of it - till this morning.

It was a wee note from Boyd Tunnock himself thanking me for the book and added some personal, very kind and supportive comments. What a thoughtful and gracious gesture.

Or maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, what else would one expect of Saint Tunnock’s of Biscuitry?

Friday 17 November 2023

Rally - Book selling fast

Phew! … barely two weeks since the book launch at the Coltness Car Club open night and a third of the books are now gone. Feedback has been embarrassingly positive but there have been two main requests for the next book – more stories and more detailed photo captions!

However there is one story in the current book which has prompted one question – is it true? It concerns young Colin’s first drive on a special stage on a rally. Was it on the 1985 Kames or the end of season Galloway Hills? It couldn’t have been before those two events, could it? He was surely under age?

Oddly enough, the ‘other party’ who was involved in this escapade was at the book launch, and he’s still not saying!

Saturday 11 November 2023

Rally - Buy The Book !!

A dedicated sales portal (that’s computer jargon!) for sales of the book ‘The Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989’ has been created. Subsequent books in the series, as and when they become available, will also be made available on this specialist web site.

The site looks a bit plain at present but some chrome trim and dangly dice will be added in days to come. Just want to make sure it is fully functional before we make it fancy. The new site is live NOW!

The price is £35 per volume, plus £5 P&P per book, so anyone looking for a copy/copies of this unique 216 page publication (with over 350 photographs) from now on should use the link below:

And the name? The ‘Fife Motor Sports Agency’ (FMSA) was created way back in 1980 to handle all types of motor and motor cycle sporting press, promotional and PR tasks but rather faded into the background as full time journalism took hold. So this new venture was as good a reason as any to revive it for this new internet presence.

Retirement? Nope. I quickly realised that I can’t stop writing – and I’ve got a couple more ideas up my sleeve.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Rally - Book launch success

Overwhelmed … surprised, delighted, extremely grateful and most definitely embarrassed. I really didn’t expect that folk would want their books signed. I always thought ‘book signings’ were for famous authors and sporting stars. Yes, I did have a pen with me, but that’s because I always carry a pen - and a notepad! Old habits die hard.

Last night exceeded any expectations I may have had. The Coltness Car Club monthly gatherings regularly attract 20 or 30 diehards and more, but last night the place was fair hoachin’ wi’ fowk from all over. Past and present rally champions, club members and visitors, from Elgin and Insch in the north to Duns and Dumfries in the south, gathered together in a bowling club tucked away in a wee village in Lanarkshire. What a motley gathering. My only complaint was I couldn’t get round them all to have word – I sat on my *rs* all night signing bluidy books!

I arrived ahead of schedule intending to put up some stakes and rally arrows to help guide the visitors but there was already a queue at the door! I don’t know how many folk were there, but the function suite seats 90 and there were lots of standing huddles as folk mixed and chatted, catching up with long lost friends and acquaintances.

But what a wonderful show of support with James Gibb, the book’s sponsor, even dropping in on the gathering, Malcolm and Robert all the way from Mabie and Fergus dropped by too, but was teacakeless!

Mind you, it was all due entirely to them that the book made it to the printers. My grateful thanks to 5 Star Vehicle Deliveries, Tunnock’s Bakeries, Dommy Buckley at RSC, Andrew Wood Motorsport and Pirelli, Molplant Construction, Mabie House Hotel, Royal Aero and of course the Scottish Rally Championship itself. Without them it simply wouldn’t have happened. And of course, a special thanks to Big Jim and The Bears for arranging the venue and allowing me to gatecrash their monthly gathering.

As for those who were’nt there I’ll let you know when the advert goes live on Ebay and possibly one other website which is currently being worked on.

What also might be of interest is the Veterans of Scottish Motorsport Assocation AGM and Dinner this Friday night the 10th of November at the Radstone Hotel. I have been allowed to attend the pre-dinner arrival to deliver some ordered books so if anyone else wants one while I’m there I’ll have a supply with me!

However, it looks as though there will be a cost. I might just have to join the Association -  even though I’m far too young for a ‘Veterans’ club.

Meanwhile I’ll get on with the Ebay and ordering arrangements – watch this space.

And finally, my most sincere thanks to all who attended last night, “you made my day!”

Thursday 2 November 2023

Rally Book - Great expectations

Some folk seem to be getting awfy excited about this book and I just hope they’re not too disappointed when they get it!

What started during lockdown as a single volume look-back on sixty plus years of the Scottish Rally Championship quickly evolved into a multi-volume record of past championship seasons. That was because of the amount of information that was being left out and so a plan to produce one volume for each decade was evolved. Trouble was there was little in the way of paperwork and records from the early days so a lot of digging and chasing around has been underway and is ongoing.

However, it was easy to start with the 1980s since I had personally kept everything from then until I retired last year. 

Having decided that, writing commenced. Early drafts were shown to close friends. Changes were required. It was too dry, more like a historical reference book than a romp through rallying so a compromise was sought and a format confirmed.

This first volume therefore comprises four sections. Totalling 101 rally reports the first section includes a report on each round of the annual series with top ten results and class winners.

Please note the use of the term class winners. In most rallies the front runners are often excluded from class awards at prizegivings. That can cause a headache for championship co-ordinators as championship points are scored by actual class winners, not class award winners. There is a difference.

Although intended to be a work of reference and a factual record of events, the content also had to be readable and attractive so long reports and long lists of results was a non-starter. I just hope folk agree that the mix is now right.

As for the other three sections they are all photography based. No doubt there will be some folk who feel aggrieved that they are not included but I could only use what I have. I didn’t set out all those years ago to take pictures of everybody, every car and every event for the purpose of writing a book, so it was simply matter of making a selection from what was available. In my defence some folk were more amenable and approachable than others!

I make no apology for introducing a separate ‘McRae’ chapter given the family’s impact on the sport whilst the other two sections simply feature a variety of photographs which hopefully will trigger each individual reader’s own personal memories and recollections of people and events long since passed. For that reason I have deliberately included many of the clubmen and women who make up the majority of rally entries and not just the rally ‘stars’.

Perhaps of particular interest the book notes the beginnings and rise of three of our four world rally champions, Colin McRae, Derek Ringer and Robert Reid with never before seen photographs and tales. And although she commenced her rallying career in the late 1970s, Louise Aitken-Walker’s rise through the ranks is also noted.

Scotland has so far produced nine World Champions on four, three and two motorised wheels, of which four were World Rally titles. That’s not a bad record for a small country of some 6.5 million souls on the north western edge of Europe. 

Not bad at all.

Sunday 29 October 2023

Rally - Book Launch

The Book … Not so much an ‘official book launch’ more of a convivial gathering amongst like minded souls and friends, but Coltness Car Club is hosting an Open Night on Monday evening, November 6th and all are welcome.

This open invitation is being extended not just to all CCC Members but to all other car clubs and even to non-club member rally fans who wish to come along.

The principal reason for this open night is to allow rally fans to get their hands on the first copies of the book “Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989”.

I will be there in person with the first copies, hot off the press, for sale at 35 quid a copy. No discount, no free gifts and no special offers – the money’s needed to help finance the next book in the series!

A word of advice. Best bring cash – I have invested in one of those infernal portable card terminals which supposedly takes debit/credit card purchases but I haven’t been able to try it out for real! Hence the pricing simplicity, no odd numbers or odd pence sums!

The venue is Dalserf Bowling Club, Ashgillhead Road, Ashgill, Larkhall ML9 3AF. Drop in any time from 7.30 pm. The Club is licensed to sell alcoholic refreshments if you’re not driving but also has both leaded and unleaded Irn Bru plus a variety of other soft drinks, and boatles of waatter if you must, so you can sit and have some craic with like-minded folks.

The village of Ashgill is easily accessible heading east from Junction 8 on the M74 at Larkhall.

There’s a set of traffic lights on the A71 between the Motorway and Garrion Bridge but turn right at the lights towards Ashgill and most certainly NOT Larkhall!!

Those coming from the east would most likely use Garrion Bridge (over the River Clyde) on the A71 but there are planned roadworks on the bridge from Oct 30th.

One other thing, if you haven’t been to a CCC club night before you will drive past the entrance to the Bowling Club at least once before you see it. So dinnae worry, we’ve all done it! It’s a tight left on to an unsurfaced narrow road between the first and second wee hooses. There’s a fairly big car park at the foot of the lane on the right with access to the Bowling Club entrance from there.

If you can’t make it on the night, full details will be published here on Tuesday 7th November of how to purchase copies on line at £40 incl P&P 

Please note: Any early critics of this publication will have to remember the author is on ‘home territory’. If you inadvertently upset one Coltness bear, you upset them all. Be warned, stay safe.

Thursday 26 October 2023

Lock Horsburgh, 1947 – 2023

Scottish motor sport suffered another sad loss earlier this week (Monday 23rd) when Lock Horsburgh passed away. The shock all the greater because it was so unexpected as he was last seen as busy as ever on the Isle of Mull at the Mull Rally – as usual – just four weeks ago. It is said that no-one is indispensable and whilst that may be true, there is another saying that some folk are irreplaceable. Lock Horsburgh was such an individual.

His is not a name which will be instantly recognised by many folk within Scottish motor sport but all too familiar to those who organise and run clubs and events throughout the country.

A founder member of Glenrothes Motor Sport Club which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, Lock was a Marshal, Stage Commander, qualified Radio crew volunteer and event organiser as well as club committee member and a long serving and valued member of the Scottish Association of Motor Sport Clubs (SAMSC) committee and latterly sat on the Motor Sport UK Regional Committee. His contribution to the sport is quite simply incalculable.

As secretary to the SAMSC he was also able to bring other skills to the role. He founded his own Lomond IT Services Ltd company almost twenty years ago which offered a bespoke software development and support service for all sizes of business as well as local government and housing associations. As such he was well placed to design and maintain the SAMSC website, no mean feat for such a disparate and diverse organisation.

Interested in motor support from an early age he got involved in the road rally and navigational rally scene in the 1970s both as navigator and driver. In 1981 he registered in the Scottish Rally Championship as a co-driver while continuing his own interest as a driver first with a Mini and then a 1300cc Vauxhall Nova. Even when he stopped competing as a driver he continued as a co-driver both on navigational and special stage events.

His competition appearances started to dwindle in the early 2000s as his marshalling and organisational duties assumed an ever more time consuming role, particularly the role of Chief Marshall for numerous events, not just for his club but many others. Assuming responsibility for sourcing and managing dozens of volunteers for an event is no easy task, often likened to herding sheep at best, putting toothpaste back into the tube at worst!

In fact his efforts merited a mention in a 2014 issue of ‘Mull Murmurs’ the on-event news and scandal sheet which was circulated during rally time. The rally and its stalwarts were hit with particularly wet and windy weather that year:-

“ Despite the weather (because we're used to it?) the rally ran well and there appeared to be enough Marshals (just) although Lock Horsburgh was seen deep in despair at times as he shuffled available manpower around the route. Being Chief Marshal is not a position to be envied. That said, the spectators behaved themselves (mostly) and it was encouraging to note that they were standing rather farther back than in the past.”

Lock was more than a Marshall, he was an ‘instructor’, advisor and a source of information and help to newcomers to the dark arts of marshalling. That’s because he was only too well aware of motor sport’s ongoing need to introduce new folk to a sport which is entirely dependent on volunteer helpers. 

He was also an opinionated debater and engaging conversationalist although it has to be said, sometimes too engaging! A simple chat or telephone call could often develop into a full blown debate, exchange of ideas, suggestions, solutions and often additional topics which had little to do with the original reason for the discussion.

He could also be quite infuriating at times, but no-one should confuse ‘nit-picking’ with ‘attention to detail’. It was perhaps his computer software experience that ensured his plans and preparations were usually meticulously planned although sometimes, just sometimes, where there was a choice of doing things the right way or the wrong way, the desired outcome was accomplished ‘Lock’s way’!

‘Irreplaceable’ is certainly the word!

Our thoughts and sympathies go out to Maureen and the family at this very sad time.

Sunday 15 October 2023

Rally - King Fergus

King Fergus II ?

Mixed thoughts and emotions over the weekend. I missed Mull. It’s majesty, mystery, motor sport, mayhem and magic, and of course the memories, but I said my goodbyes last year. It occurred to me that I have actually spent more of my birthdays on the Isle of Mull than anywhere else, and that includes home!

I reckon I am now officially in ‘auld git’ territory. No doubt the arrival of ‘grumpiness’ will be the next trait in the aging process as I remain truly impartial and un-opinionated in all matters!

Even so I watched and listened to Mull from afar and was enthralled, as ever. Whilst a sense of sadness prevailed for all those who didn’t finish the rally, there were humungous amounts of delight at those who accomplished one of the most impressive feats of motor rallying in Scotland, make that the UK. Nope, even that doesn’t cut it, one of the most impressive stage rallying feats in the world – by finishing the Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally!

So full praise for King Fergus and Prince Craig. What a marvellous result for the Barlow boys. Over a minute clear of the opposition. And you know what, I wasn’t surprised in the least because some years ago a cocky young tyke barely out of school uniform told me he would win the rally one day. He repeated that prophecy at the Mull Targa three years ago, so how could it ever be doubted?

And just in case you wonder at the title of this latest rumination, ‘King Fergus’ was in actual fact the first King of Scotland. He actually came over from Ireland and helped the Scots in their fecht to gub the Picts and Britons and duly became King Fergus 1 of Scotland. So now we have King Fergus II of Mull.

If I was delighted with the Barlow brothers’ result then I was really pleased to see James Ford with Neil Shanks in second place. James is one of those overlooked UK talents who could be on the world stage if only he had the budget. And didn’t Neil Roskell go well with Andrew Roughhead? Despite his lack of experience of rallying in general he has exploded on to the national stage and third place just proves what he lacks in youth, he makes up in skill and talent.

There was also great pleasure in seeing Scott MacBeth with Hannah McKillop in fourth place. We’ve all known that Scott has the talent but rarely the luck and all too often the mechanical disappointment. Just missing out on the final podium place will be hard to take but fourth in such illustrious company is one heckuva result.

In fact the top ten was just full of magic, with Jonathan Mounsey’s latest bid to win the one event he so dearly wants to win frustrated yet again and Ross Hunter doing what he does best, driving brilliantly in changing weather conditions. Rally car builder Wayne Sisson finished ninth sandwiched between the glorious Mk2 Ford Escorts of Stephen Thompson and Stewart Morrison. All of them, those magnificent men in their flying machines.

Two other results stood out like fiery beacons in a dark and murky nightscape, ‘Dangerous’ Des Campbell’s 12th place and young Ally Currie’s 21st place. I really don’t know how their respective co-drivers, Craig Forsyth and Alex Hill, could sit beside such driving dementedism (I just made that word up!) as Des is in a humble Peugeot 206 and Ally in a Peugeot 106. I simply can’t visualise how these diminutive machines can be propelled so quickly but it does recall one phrase to mind – “if in doubt, flat out!”

But really, everyone who finished the rally is a real star, and those who didn’t, deserve a medal anyway for just turning up and having a go ‘at the best rally in the world’.

And another impressive thing. Out of 119 starters there were 26 ladies and lasses taking part, a fact few other stage rallies could manage. Although having said that, there were countless womenfolk helping the rally crews and service crews, and of course the marshalling crews who turned out in their dozens to ensure the continued success of this event.

One note of concern though. I noticed on social media that some folk were disappointed in the Salen Re-Start ceremony on Saturday evening. Apparently it seemed to lack the sense of occasion and celebration that it has done in the past. We have to remember that rallying is not just about the winners and the losers, but all of those in between, those clubmen and women who bolster and support every rally entry list. Each and every one has an essential part to play in the drama and action. Perhaps it needs the return of ‘the prat in the hat’!

Or failing that, maybe we could ask Eddie O’Donnell to take on commentary duty because he’ll never get a car built in time for next year, even if he starts now, will he?

I just hope that Mull never loses its unique social atmosphere and competitive blend of fun and sporting enjoyment because that’s what it’s all about. Unique because it all takes place on a relatively small island that is so friendly, welcoming and easily accessible - when the ferries run! CalMac does have its critics but it’s not all their fault. They have been badly let down by those who are supposed to govern our country and help our fellow countryfolk, and that includes the islanders even more than the mainlanders.

Politics over, hail King Fergus.

P.S. I’ve just had a very worrying and disturbing thought. Just suppose Fergus was indeed made King of Scotland. His qualities shone through on that recent CalMac documentary on the telly. If you didn’t see it, it’s well worth a catch-up and watch.


Thursday 12 October 2023

Rally - No going back

The deed is done! The text for the book entitled ‘Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989’ was signed off at the printer’s on Monday and this morning the final hardback cover design was signed off. The printer reckons it will be a three week job but more likely to be four weeks, so early November is B-Day – not to be confused with bidet!

It’s now too late to make any changes, but if I was to do it again, would I make changes? Put it this way the format for the next book ‘SRC 1990-1999’ will remain broadly the same but I think I am going to have to include more tales and stories as opposed to simply recording hard facts and written rally reports. Whilst those who have seen sections already have liked the history, there seems to have been a desire for more personal stories and insights.

Of course there are already a few in there, but the trial ‘audience’ seemed to want more. On that basis there are likely to be more in the next book or maybe there is a need for an additional ‘final’ volume in the series that simply records and re-tells all the scandal, scuttlebutt and silliness which has entertained as well as enthused and informed.

The whole idea behind this project at the outset was to record the history of the Scottish championship before we lose special stage rallying in the forests – which might be rather more imminent than some people may imagine – and we are left with closed road rallying.

So far no-one has attempted to keep a record of the sport in Scotland (and down south!) which is very sad. Surely a sport which we have all enjoyed so far and still enjoying now is worth creating a permanent record for future generations of motor sports fans?

It’s one thing looking at those internet sites which store rally results, it’s quite another reading how those results were physically, mechanically and competitively arrived at on the ground on the day.

So it’s now out of my hands and others will judge. I’m sure mistakes will have crept in despite the never-ending proof-reading sessions and whilst positive criticism will be welcomed, the detractors and faultfinders will need to be sure of their arguments if we ever meet face to face!

Just remember my big pal Jaggy is not the most forgiving type.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Rally - the bright side

Given the amount of waatter that has fallen on the west coast of Scotland and the sceptred isle over recent days there will be folk out there concerned about what may happen this weekend on the Beatson’s Tour of Mull Rally. Well, dinnae worry. It’s been bad before. In fact, way back in the Year 2000, the event was called the Rally of 1000 Puddles in tribute to Finland’s Rally of 1000 Lakes.

Apparently the pre-event Beer Rally was cancelled that year because the RNLI refused to come out due to the fearfully wet conditions.

It was on that basis that the 31st Philips Tour of Mull Rally took place on the tortuous winding canals of Mull. Visibility was further reduced because the rain was coming doon like stair roads and stotting off the tar so hard it was creating a mist. Wet? Some folk even resorted to calling it Mull's Rally of a Million Puddles.

The rally ended with a splash in the early hours of Sunday morning with Callum and Hugh Duffy stunning seasoned rally followers with a heroic and gutsy drive to clinch a last gasp victory.

Nine times winner Neil MacKinnon led the rally by 8 seconds after the first 50 mile Leg over Friday night and into Saturday morning. He led again by 6 seconds at the end of the second 50 mile daylight section on Saturday afternoon. But it was on the third and final Leg late on Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday morning that the Dervaig father and son team staged a remarkable and memorable fightback.

On the first stage of the night, Duffy snatched back a massive 24 seconds to take the lead. MacKinnon responded with a time 15 seconds better than his rival on the next. It was Duffy's turn again by 3 seconds on the third stage from last setting up a grandstand finish.

MacKinnon turned up the heat (steam?) yet again over the final two stages but it was on the last blast over the island's tortuous, winding roads, awash with rain-water that the deed was duly decided. Duffy's time of 11 minutes 39 seconds for the 14 mile stage was jaw-droppingly awesome.

The winning margin? 28 seconds after 152 miles of timed-to-the-second motoring over some of the most demanding roads in Europe in frightful weather conditions.

It was Duffy's second win on his home event and he denied MacKinnon his record tenth victory. To give some idea of the pace these two were setting, twice winner in 1990 and '91, Andy Knight was third, over 6 minutes behind in the leading two wheel drive car.

Even so, it was a remarkable 1-2-3 for the home based crews with Daniel Harper first of the visitors in fourth place with John Cressey fifth and John Swinscoe sixth and first rear wheel drive car in his awfy smart Mk2.

Stuart McQueen was top GrpN in the Lancer in 7th place and James MacGillivray sailed to victory in the 1600 class with 9th. Top 1300 runner was Chris Tooze in the wee Pyugget just outside the top ten in 12th place.

And the real heroes? Of course the event wouldn’t have happened without the dozens of waterlogged and wind-swept individuals who floated gently at anchor at their various marshalling positions around the island.

In fact my auld pal Jaggy Bunnet remarked on a most unusual and memorable sight over at Ulva Ferry where a pink blob like a cow's udder was seen running around. No, it wasn't the drink, it was the conditions - it was only a wee dug which had been blown inside out in the wind!

So it can’t be that bad again this weekend – can it?

Results after 18 Special Stages:

1, Callum Duffy/Hugh Duffy (Mitsubishi Lancer)  2hr 34mins 29secs

2, Neil MacKinnon/Mike Stayte (Subaru Impreza)  2hr 34m 57s

3, Andy Knight/Graeme Noble (Ford Escort RS2000)  2hr 41m 18s

4, Daniel Harper/Daniel Barritt (Vauxhall Astra)  2hr 42m 59s

5, John Cressey/Ian Grindrod (Vauxhall Astra)  2hr 44m 36s

6, John Swinscoe/Paula Swinscoe (Ford Escort)  2hr 48m 34s

7, Stuart McQueen/Alistair Green (Mitsubishi Lancer)  2hr 49m 21s

8, Roger Binyon/Nick Bray (Mitsubishi Lancer)  2hr 50m 05s

9, James MacGillivray/Brian Kennedy (Vauxhall Corsa)  2hr 51m 29s

10, Mark Jasper/Alan Snell (Ford Escort Cos)  2hr 52m 05s

Sunday 8 October 2023

Rally - The Black Rose

20 years ago rallying lost a true friend and passionate enthusiast on the Mull Rally. Co-driver Susan Cameron succumbed to injuries sustained in an accident when her Peugeot 205 left the road shortly after the start of Stage 3 and crashed into trees.

The rest of the rally was cancelled after that fateful evening but husband Duncan was adamant that the rally should carry on come Saturday, and it did.

As reported in ‘MullMurmurs’ at the time, no two people shared a stronger passion for our sport. Duncan and Susan had met at Aberdeen University some 25 years before and they joined the local car club. First they went marshalling and then competing  (in Duncan’s Mum's Mini without her knowledge!). They were wed on the first day of the International Scottish Rally in June 1980 and spent their honeymoon following the rally. That event ensured that they never forgot their anniversary, but they rarely spent it together as Duncan would be servicing and Susan officiating. It also meant Duncan didn't need to buy Susan an anniversary present as he didn't see her for a week!

The following year Duncan returned to Mull with the number 84 yellow and orange Peugeot Rallye 205 but this time it had a black rose painted on the bonnet. As he and co-driver Andy Bull crossed the finish line in 29th place overall it was reported by one onlooker that he could have sworn he noticed a smack of pink lipstick on the front bumper. Maybe it was just a trick of the light – or maybe not?

Anyway, if you see any black roses on any of the cars on this year’s event that’s down to family friends Tom and Sue Hynd who are carrying a black rose on their own little red Peugeot in memory of a highly colourful and effervescent character whom we lost twenty years ago this year. A few others will be carrying the rose too, thanks to Tom and Sue, so keep your eyes peeled.

This year’s event gets underway next Friday the 13th, so be careful everyone, and have a safe and successful rally.

Friday 6 October 2023

Rally - The Tobermory 200

Rallying on Mull hasn’t always been on tarmac. In the early days it used some loose surface stretches of private road as well as public road selectives and it has also run a rallysprint on a stretch of Forestry Commission road. Less well known is Mull’s own special stage rally – the Tobermory 200.

Way back in May of 1991 James MacGillivray scored his first ever outright rally victory, on the Mishnish Hotel Tobermory 200 Rally. Unlike the main October event run over closed public roads this early season thrash featured 32 miles of special stages over mixed tar and gravel surfaces. Having replaced his Ralloy Escort's 1300 engine with a 1600 engine, MacGillivray was expected to be a front runner but there was some fierce competition in store from the other 31 runners.

Unfortunately, the previous year's runner-up, Eddie O'Donnell appeared late at the rally start (some things never change, eh?) with last minute problems in the Torosay Coal Escort. Even starting last car did not allow Eddie the time to effect a permanent cure and he retired after just three stages with a badly smoking engine.

Gordon Boyd had also struck trouble in the third stage with a spin resulting in a stalled engine, which then refused to fire up quickly. Then it was Robin Hamilton's turn. Flying over the ‘yump’ in Ardura (south of Craignure), the Sunbeam landed on its nose bending the steering and splaying the front wheels. This gave MacGillivray a bit of a breather at the head of the field but he too admitted to a fright in Ardura. His Escort had actually bounced off the road following the ‘yump’ but miraculously bounced back on again!

But they were the lucky ones, Alan Mair was fast losing gears in his Escort and retired at the half way halt while Graham Brown encountered a roadside rock in the first stage when flat in third. It was quite a sore one - from 80 mph to zero in a matter of yards! Chris Paton also retired with a broken distributor and Alan Brodie broke his diff. Jim Fergusson's rally started ominously with a puncture on the first road section then a steering coupling broke in Ardura, followed by a kindly inquiry from the local constabulary surveying the sorry looking front end: "You won't be going any further, will you sir?" He didn't!

Boyd and Hamilton shared the fastest times over the mist shrouded Genesis tests, named after the helpful Phil Collins (Yes, ‘the’ Phil Collins!) who allowed the use of his land (at Pennyghael), but MacGillivray was never far away and at the half way point was leading the field on 18 Minutes 14 Seconds from Hamilton on 18:22 and Boyd on 18:36.

Heading north back up the island over the same tests run in reverse Boyd grabbed another couple of fastest times but MacGillivray snatched three. Also showing well was the V8 powered Ascona of Mike McKenzie who was quickest over two of the tests and earlier in the morning had really impressed the locals with a time just 2 seconds slower than MacGillivray over ‘the Vets’, the road on which young MacGillivray had originally learned to drive!

Sadly for McKenzie, the best result of his career slipped from his grasp when the clutch failed on the final stage and he and Gordon Smith had to get out and push the recalcitrant beast for over a mile to record a finish! McKenzie's troubles gave young Graham Brown his chance to snatch 4th place in his Sunbeam ahead of team mate John McKenzie in the Opel Ascona while the car-pushing McKenzie dropped back to 7th behind Anda Campbell’s Sunbeam.

MacGillivray finished with a flourish fastest over the final return visit to ‘the Vets’ to take a highly deserved and popular first ever rally victory. This event was also notable for another reason. Finishing in eighth place overall in the co-driving seat was a youngster who was sorely desperate to be old enough to get his driving licence - and put on his driving boots!


1, James MacGillivray/Colin Kennedy (Ford Escort) 36:16

2, Robin Hamilton/Nicky Geddes  (Talbot Sunbeam) 36:44

3, Gordon Boyd/Callum Guy  (Talbot Sunbeam) 36:50

4, Graham Brown/Ian Wilshire  (Talbot Sunbeam) 37:58

5, John McKenzie/Trish Elder  (Opel Ascona) 38:19

6, Anda Campbell/Neil McKinnon  (Talbot Sunbeam) 39:26

7, Mike McKenzie/Gordon Smith  (Opel Ascona) 39:28

8, Alistair Ingram/Calum Duffy  (Sunbeam Lotus) 39:37

9, Ian Donaldson/Alex McNeill  (Ford Escort) 39:52

10, Steve Davis/Robert Mathieson  (Ford Fiesta) 40:55

Sunday 1 October 2023

Rally - Adventurous times

With the closed road 2023 Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally about to hit the tarmac in two weeks time, things were very different 50 years ago.

In 1972, just three years after its inception, the rally was included as a round of the Scottish Rally Championship for the first time. Sponsored by Shell Petroleum I was there ‘officially’ with my new boss, Bill Houston, Shell’s publicity and PR manager, but I travelled up with a chap called Jonathan Osborne. He was a journalist with the Scottish magazine ‘Motor World’ but also did some PR work for Shell and so I was tasked with ’assisting’ him.

It was a good match. He was an avid bird watcher so the apprentice got to drive whilst he scanned the skyline and called out all the various birds he spotted. On Mull, he almost wrenched his neck counting the number of buzzards he saw sitting on fence posts and telegraph poles. The other good match-making point was the car was being crewed by two pipe smokers and when it stopped and the car doors were opened, a grey fug spewed from the interior with marshals thinking the car was on fire. It also ensured that no-one else wanted a lift in the ‘official’ Press transport!

The job was to try and interview competitors at Passage Controls and at the end of accessible selective or stage finishes for quotes which were suitable for printing in subsequent press releases and reports. Exciting times.

The 1972 event was also a counter in the Motoring News Road Rally Championship so the 100 car entry had attracted all the top clubmen and women from down south plus half an entry’s worth of Scottish crews, mostly contesting this new format Scottish championship round.

The other big surprise that year was the crew in the winning car. Alan Conley and Crawford Dunn in the Clan Crusader finished almost four minutes clear of the Ford Escort RS1600 of James Rae and Mike Malcolm. Powered by a 998cc engine, the works prepared fibreglass, half ton wedge literally flew round Mull seemingly spending more time in the air than on the tar. Few thought it would finish let alone win.

It was no fluke, Andy Dawson and John Foden had finished second on the 1972 Manx Rally in a Clan Crusader making its competition debut a few weeks earlier. In second place on that other island was the Ford Escort RS1600 of a certain Roger Clark and Jim Porter!

Back on Mull, Donald Heggie and George Dean finished third in the Ford Escort TC having led at one point on the Saturday afternoon but dropped back as night fell. In fourth place were Rosemary Smith and Pauline Gullick in another RS1600, but the most memorable thing here was the intoxicating and very pleasant fragrance which wafted along in the car’s wake. Unlike the fug which enveloped the gentlemen of the ‘Press’ carriage, when the ladies wound down their windows to chat, the rich smell of hot brakes, clutches and rubber was somewhat neutralised by the rather more pleasant and exotic perfume.

Invented in 1921, the French perfumiers had perfected their Chanel No.5 recipe to such an extent It was able to overpower the hot, pungent aromas of hard working rally cars. It was a helluva difference and a most welcome change compared to the nauseating whiff of sweaty bloke crews assaulting the nostrils!

Back to the rally. Stuart Brown and Ian Muir were fifth in their Cooper S despite the regular occurrence of the sun visor dropping down after every yump and obscuring the driver’s vision. There was no magic tape or tie-wraps back then! The BMW of Ron and David Smith was sixth while John Price and Mervyn Gerrish were a commendable seventh in the Alpine which had been hastily rebuilt after its Manx Rally roll.

Pre rally favourite Harold Morley retired with head gasket failure, Bob Jeffs punctured a tyre and slid off the road while Paul Faulkner and Martin Holmes who were down to enter did not take part. Apparently Paul felt the expense was not worth it, a disappointment for roving World Rally Championship co-driver and professional scribe Martin Holmes who had wanted to visit this new and notorious rallying outpost.

1972 Top Ten Results

1, Alan Conley/Crawford Dunn (Clan Crusader)

2, James Rae/Mike Malcolm (Ford Escort RS1600)

3, Donald Heggie/George Dean (Ford Escort TC)

4, Rosemary Smith/Pauline Gullick (Ford Escort RS1600)

5, Stuart Brown/Ian Muir (Mini Cooper S)

6, Ronald Smith/David Smith (BMW 2002)

7, John Price/Mervyn Gerrish (Alpine 1600)

8, John Burton/Brian Rowland (Ford Capri 3000)

9, Dave Stewart/Alan Murray (Ford Escort TC)

10, Alastair Kesson/Tom Baillie (Ford Escort RS1600)

Friday 29 September 2023

Rally - The Book

Nearly there! Last week the printer delivered a full ‘pdf’ of the book comprising its contents and layout. First of all my proof readers went through it and raised almost one hundred queries, then I went through it and found another hundred or so. All these changes had to be noted and passed on to David the graphic artist and compositor at the printer and another day and a half was spent on that this week.

It wasn’t all typos and mistakes that had to be altered but things like linebreaks and character spacing and every time you make a change it can alter the page layout and page breaks. Nit picking but time consuming.

As for the typos, even after all this time I’m still finding silly mistakes. However, the biggest problem has been sorting out all the Alastairs, Alistairs, Alisters and Alisdairs not to mention the Douglas’, Dougs, Dougies and Dugalds. At the last count there were four different Ken and Kenneth Crombies, three George Blacks and one George Blackie. And if you look through Entry Lists and Results sheets from the past, the spelling depended on who typed the names into the computer or which crew member filled out the Entry form. Some folk don’t appear to know their own bluidy name, never mind their driver/co-driver!

I reckon more time has been spent on checking and researching than writing but that’s it – finished. The whole job is now with the printer and he’s going to come back to me today with a final price. If it’s in-line with the original quote we’re ready to go, if not I’ll be looking for a paper round job 

The hardback covers will be printed off-site somewhere by another specialist while the pages are being printed in-house in Hamilton and then the two brought together for binding also in Hamilton. A fascinating process from what I’ve seen so far.

The 1980s were a transitional decade in many ways and not just in the sport of rallying. Black & White news photography was giving way to colour photography as the newspapers developed their own printing technology and the arrival of computers consigned typewriters and carbon ribbons to the museums. Then there were teleprinters and fax machines, photocopiers and the advent of mobile telephones. They all had an impact on news gathering and publication. Wondrous enough then, but the 1990s introduced even more technological marvels.

When this book covering the Scottish Rally Championship from 1980-1989 is finished, I’ll get on to the 1990-1999 volume. Which brings to mind the book sponsor’s question: “What’s the time scale?” I stupidly said: “Six months!”