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Roy Bateman

On 15 May 1994, Roy Bateman. Scunthorpe veteran ex-scrambler turned trials rider, was awarded the major trophy by the AJS/Matchless Club Poachers section. He had lost no marks in their trial at Biscathorpe, near Louth. Lincolnshire.



Fifty years earlier, on 6 June 1944 ('D' Day) eighteen years old Roy Bateman had left Scunthorpe and joined the Army; and in post-war Germany he had his first taste of two wheels and an engine. The corporal in charge of the motor transport section let him loose on an M20 BSA. An 'excursion off the road' ensued, and the BSA was returned with buckled front wheel and bent forks.


There was talk at the time that the corporal and Roy would never see demob! Luckily for them the Royal Electrical and Mechanical E.ngineers came to their rescue with the necessary replacements and all was well!


In 1948, and back home in civvy street, Roy purchased a new 350cc BSA B3I and joined Scunthorpe MCC. The 'off-road' episode with the Army's M20 hadn't deterred him; it had merely been a practise-session for the future.


At this time, one of Roy's brothers, Bill, was away on National Service and his 1939 BSA Silver Star was standing idle. Co-incidentally the Scunthorpe Club were running a scramble .... temptation being what it is, a rear knobbly was fitted and Roy entered the girder-forked BSA. The bug bit deep that wet and muddy day, and during the winter the Silver Star was also ridden in a couple of trials. These escapades were brought to a sudden halt when Bill arrived home on leave from Northern Ireland. He apparently didn't have sponsorship in mind!


There was nothing else for it, a proper competition model, a 350cc Gold Star, plunger frame and fitted with trials tyres, was bought. Roy still has a vivid memory of practising on the Gold Star in a local iron-stone quarry on an October's day, and getting hopelessly stuck. Darkness had come down before the bike was extricated!


Soon the machine was used in anger in competition. 'Motorcycling' recalls the Lincolnshire Grand National, held on 12 October 1952 at Cadwell Park as 'warm and sunny, with racing over the one and a half-mile circuit and a crowd of 4,000 at the event organised by Louth and District MCC.'


New sections 'Lover's Leap,' where riders cleared the width of the road circuit near the Mountain. and the 'Wall,' a short steep section near the Pond. were popular vantage points. Third in the non-winners race was one Roy Bateman 350cc BSA.


Roy competed in no less than ten Lincolnshire Grand Nationals. and with considerable success; second place in the 500cc class in 1958 is remembered with justifiable pride.

The plunger Gold Star gave way to a Matchless scrambler, one of the first of the swinging-arm models. At a scramble near Sheffield, Roy rode the new model into second place behind David Tye on a works BSA. But Gold Stars were still a favourite and. by the following year. 1954. Roy had a 350 scrambler on order. There was a five-month waiting list and to fill the gap, a four-speed rigid 197cc Norman trialler was acquired.


The new Goldie duly arrived and made its debut at that year's October Lincolnshire Grand National. Roy recalls it as a very muddy event and, in practice, he couldn't get to grips with the new machine. So the little Norman was pressed into service to compete in the up to 200cc races.


'At one of the Ponds. I was bogged up to the seat.· recalls Roy! With that year's scrambling season now at an end, the Gold Star was laid-up until the following Easter. and the Norman was used as daily transport and in trials at the weekend.


Scrambling always came first as far as Roy was concerned. but the Goldie was also campaigned on the grass and in sand racing. A 500cc motor was purchased from Small Heath. An ex-works engine, complete with carburettor and magneto. it was all ready to go for eighty pounds. But Roy had some of his best rides on the 350.


The first time he went to Post Hill, near Leeds. he could hardly believe how steep it was. but managed to get into a couple of finals. "I remember Arthur Lampkin coming past me. I was braking coming down the other side. He was still on the throttle!"


At Boltby. near Thirsk, Roy finished runner-up to Arthur in the 350cc Final. and again at Low North. Scarborough. But at Ripon Sports Day. in the handicap final, it was Roy Bateman Ist. Arthur Lampkin 2nd!


In 1958. Roy built his first outfit, based on a Triumph Tiger TII0 frame and powered by a 500c JAP ex­speedway engine. Regular passenger for Roy was the late Dennis Clarke. an Army pal, who also hailed from Scunthorpe. They raced on the sands and on the roads at Cadwell. Brough. Mallory Park and New Brighton. near Liverpool.


Unfortunately, Roy was laid low by a bout of glandular fever in 1960, and this just about finished his much-loved scrambling career. The faithful Gold Star, after five years of hard use, was sold. No sooner had it gone than a letter arrived from the East Midlands Centre inviting Roy to represent the Centre as a member of the solo grasstrack team.


Without a suitable machine, reluctantly, he was unable to take up the opportunity. However, another outfit was on the stocks; a Norton Featherbed frame with shortened forks. 16-inch wheels and a 500cc Gold Star engine. Roy and Dennis competed in many sand races with this combination, and also on the tarmac at Mallory and Cadwell.


The Wirral I00 Motorcycle Club sand races. held on Saturdays. were events not to be missed. Dennis would be picked up straight off night shift at six in the morning, and off the pair would set in Roy's ex­-WD Standard van across to the west coast. Dennis getting some much needed shut-eye en route, only to be rudely awakened by a ritual baptism of Irish-sea water administered by the irrepressible Bateman to signal their arrival!


It would be midnight before they'd get back to Scunthorpe. Winning rides at the Wirral were matched by more of the same at Dewhurst Bay and Redcar. Saltburn and Southport, Whitby and New Brighton.


Grass-tracking on three wheels was appealing more so now. and work began on constructing an outfit using a crashed 650cc BSA A 10. Dennis decided that the rough and tumble on the grass was not for him. and called it a day! Gordon Nottingham, later to ride side-cars himself. held down the third wheel for two seasons. Another brave man was Richard Munday. Geoff Gawley also learnt a few lessons from Roy on the sands, and went on to become a successful road-racing sidecar rider with a Rennsport BMW and BSA A65.

In 1967 Roy opened a shop repairing and supplying spares. Not just a shop. but a meeting place for local youngsters. Many would get their first taste of motorcycling here. Local Club stalwarts will tell you that Roy was not just a friend to them. but with bits for this and bits for that. and sometimes nearly complete machines at no cost. he was an eternal sponsor. Is it any wonder that many good riders emanate from the Scunthorpe district?

One in particular. often to be found in Roy's shop in his early days, went on to become a road racing star. Rob McElnea, who's pretty good at keeping his feet up in the sections as well!


Time spent in the shop meant the curtailment of racing; but Roy was 'still into trials.' He rode in the Manx Two Days that same year, on C 15T, and went on to compete in that event eight or nine times, the last being in 1986 as he was approaching sixty years of age.

In the 'recent' past twenty-seven years or so, Bultacos, Yamahas and Montesas have all been tried, and he still keeps a Bultaco handy. But British machines have never been far from the scene, and Roy has built up three BSA C I5's, including the one ridden in the '67 Manx, and a brace of Triumph Cubs. A Bantam D 14 engine in a Saracen frame. and a D7 frame with a 197 Villiers, are a couple of the specials to have emerged from the workshop. Building and modifying machines has long since been his trade!


Although an ardent four-stroke man, finally he rode a very competitve 9E. Francis-Barnett, mainly for its lightness. Its central-­plug cylinder head is evidence of some resourceful school-work at the local Technical College night classes!


Roy obviously thrives on the feet-up game, and distance is no object. This year he drove himself down to Devon at Easter to take part in the three-day trial. 'Very wet and muddy' and set off for home straight after finishing on the final day. He was also in action at the Northallerton Three-days in August. A spirited attempt up a rocky section, on the difficult first day, ended in a series of unrehearsed backward somersaults, and then punctures on the final day led to his retirement. Another rider lent Roy his machine in a bid to get a 'finish' but then the handlebars broke!


Two weeks later it was the Captain's Trial, run by the Yorkshire Classic Club at Castle Carr. Halifax. Roy rode the Barnett into fourth place. The sections continued to beckon this determined competitor from Scunthorpe and it appeared impossible to keep him off the foot­rests. What's his secret? "I've never stopped, and therefore have never had to restart". he said..

Five decades, on two and three wheels, bear testimony to that. Roy's next trial was seldom more than a week away; and if he's wasn't riding, then it was route planning marking-out the sections and observing! The Whole Works! And for many years, Christmas Day for Roy was not spent in front of the fire after dinner, but out trudging in all weathers marking the sections for Scunthorpe MCC's traditional Boxing Day event. There was no stopping this popular Scunthorpe veteran.

PHOTO: Roy in action in the Scarborough two-day, one f his favourite events where the natural sections were. This was posted yesterday

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