Sunday 24 December 2023

Rally - Murmurs on Mull

Daft idea time … Mull’s Holy Grail! You’ll never guess what I’ve found whilst working on the next chapter of the ‘Scottish Rally Championship’ history. The first book as many of you will know (currently available to purchase now!) covered the 1980-1989 decade whereas the one that is currently underway on will cover the 1990s.

This meant a return to the loft where the meticulously filed records (boxes stacked high from rafters to roof beams and from which all the sticky contents labels have fallen off!) have been stored patiently awaiting this great historical undertaking. 

Anyway, amongst the 1993 boxes I came across a little bit of ‘lost’ history – the 1993 collection of ‘Mull Murmurs’, the very first year which this on-event scandal sheet was first introduced, compiled, published and produced on the island. This means I now have the complete set covering the period 1993 to 2010 and I don’t think anyone else has a FULL set? 

With that in mind I had the daft idea of compiling them into one wee book and just wondered if there would be any interest in such a publication?

It wouldn’t be as glossy as the planned series of Scottish Rally Championship books currently underway but it would provide a permanent and written record of more innocent times in a far-flung land.

The late Brian Molyneux’s books covered the period from the first rally in 1969 to 1994, so the ‘Murmurs’ volume would bring the story more up to date covering the years 1993 to 2010.

The idea I’ve had is to print them as they stand. Complete with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, there would be no corrections, because this would mirror the actual conditions and timescale under which the original ‘newsheets’ were produced.

For those of you who don’t know, information was gathered during the actual running of the rally itself and every time there was a lull in proceedings, this information would be typed by manual typewriter on to ‘skins’ which were then wrapped around the ink filled drum of a Gestetner or Roneo duplicator machine. This was then handcranked to print off dozens of these rally updates for distribution around the route to both spectators and marshals as well as dropped off in hotels and restaurants where they could be picked up free of charge by everyone and anyone.

This was in the days before mobile phones, the internet and social media and came from an idea invented and pioneered by Brian and Liz Patterson who provided an on-event Bulletin service for most Irish rallies as well as the British Rally Championship and on the RAC Rally.

Distribution was made by volunteers visiting spectator areas and from cars running ahead of the rallies to drop supplies off with Marshals for onward distribution to spectators. If it sounds a bit of a Heath Robinson operation then it very much was, but also, it was a very effective way of providing all those involved in this wild and nomadic sport with fairly up to date information on the progress of a rally and who was winning, who was not and why not!

As such it served the Mull Rally rather effectively during that 18 year period. It wasn’t so much a planned system as more panic-driven. First of all the information had to be gathered either by interviewing crews at stage finishes or catching up in service areas, then quickly compiling the notes, typing them up and printing them off in time to get ahead of the rally cars and keep folk informed. Hence the many mistakes and typos which featured in the final bulletins, but most folk forgave such idiosyncrasies as it was the only means of on-event information available at the time. I was also told that was all part of their charm!

Anyway I reckon a nice simple wee book could be compiled for a reasonable price if I thought there would be a demand - and all profits generated would help out with my main task of recording the history of the Scottish Rally Championship!

So, what do you think?

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