For many of us, this time of year only means one thing, and it’s the same for Graham Baldwin, as thoughts turn to travelling over the Irish Sea to the road racing capital of the world.
Every year when May comes around my mind drifts back to May/June 1957 when Charlie, that’s Charlie Freeman, said to me: “Are you coming to the Island next week”? (the Island being the Isle of Man).”
I couldn’t refuse and so took a day off work which my manager had said was impossible because it was a busy day in the shop. I went anyway! I was a trainee butcher and had just turned 17 but, at the same time, I had a part-time job in a motorcycle shop.
Everyone knew it as Freeman’s but the proper title was Charles Freeman (Motorcycles) Ltd.
As an ex-collier he’d turned his passion for motorbikes into having three shops around Sheffield, North Derbyshire and another in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
I’d managed to get an evening job at the Whittington Moor (Chesterfield) shop cleaning the bikes when I was 15.
The shop was open until 10pm, so was a very popular place with aspiring motorcyclists who could, and did, drop in after tea! Many bikes were sold during these late hours.
Charlie raced his Norton/sidecar outfit with some success at local circuits and also the Isle of Man.
The highlight of the year for us was TT week and “Ropers Trip”. Ropers were also motorcycle dealers in Sheffield. This trip was great value, a day trip to the Island for Friday’s Senior TT, it went like this.
For £3 (my weekly wage was then £4-0-0) a special train left Sheffield Midland Station at 8pm on Thursday evening and went direct to the Riverside Station at Liverpool, which was alongside the floating dock where the IoM Steam Packet boats docked.
The last few hundred yards were extremely slow because, once the train had left the British Railways line and was on Mersey Dock territory, it could travel no faster than the man who was walking in front carrying a red flag. Strange but true.
Read more in the June 2019 issue of OBM – on sale now!
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