Ted Bemand concludes the report on his National Autocycle and Cyclemotor Club branch’s foray into Northern Ireland.
Patrick McAlister became a wheelchair user following an accident in his teens, but that didn’t stop him enjoying life to the full. Sadly, at 44 he traded in his wheels for wings, and now (hopefully) flies with the angels.
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I never knew Patrick, so why am I telling you this? Well, his funeral was, by all accounts, such a splendid affair that they slightly over-catered, and as the guests left the church hall the Wirral Wobblers appeared and parked up outside, waiting for the back markers, the two-strokes yelping like a pack of eager hunting hounds.
The noise brought the church ladies out and, not wanting to bin all the surplus grub, they invited the Wirral waste-disposal team in! No lunch stop needed – and I’m sure Patrick would have approved.
One of our riders, Gaynor Peers, had been in and out of the recovery car for the past couple of days with a fuel blockage problem, but our Irish host, John McAloran, kindly took it home, fixed the problem and returned it to the hotel that very morning. What would we do without these NI guys?
Riding his LE Velocette, Ron Lane had done a morning oil top-up, but the cap wasn’t tight enough and it came off, spewing hot oil all over his overtrousers, which looked like patent leather when he arrived, with an air bed stopper acting as a new plug.
While we waited, Anne Hansen ruefully examined the slightly abbreviated legshield on her Sky, and the rest of us placed bets on how long it would be before the manky rear tyre on Martin’s Excelsior autocycle would split open.
Our NACC guides Don and Tim had lined up a couple of treats for us. A friendly contact opened the door to a private collection of bikes – I’m not at liberty to say who or where – because ‘Mr A’ didn’t want unwelcome visitors.
He did, however, give us free rein to explore his collection, which ranged from push bikes to full-blown race machines and made a mind-boggling display, from absolutely mint to awaiting restoration.
Our host had laid on refreshments, and we thank him sincerely for his hospitality to complete strangers.
We set off again to visit another collection belonging to ‘Mr B’, whose first name was William, and what a kind and unassuming man he was. It was no use counting the bikes and they ranged from very rusty, naked flat-tankers (bought for £1 each before they went into the skip) to amazing race bikes.
Once again, refreshments were laid on, so thank you, William. You are a real gentleman.
Hammering along on the long ride north, the LE Velo finally cried ‘enough’ by sending out steam signals when the head gasket let go, so onto the trailer it went.
Then we came to crash number three. On the long pull Pete Nolan, riding Eric’s bike (don’t ask) came upon Pat Keeling, as usual getting some leg exercise on the single-speed Mobylette.
Pete thought a bit of a push would be in order (he’d seen Pat’s husband Dave do the same) but as he got into position the Moby’s turbo cut in and Pete found himself pushing fresh air.
One or other of Newton’s laws came into effect and he over-corrected, and his intimate contact with the road resulted in a bent footrest, scraped paintwork and dented ego.
When we returned to our Belfast hotel the car park was full, but being assured by a staff member that it would be OK to park up in a nearby piazza, we did so – only to find a nice present from the National Parking Agency next morning in the shape of 17 parking tickets on our seats.
It was time for the charitable pensioners to put in a quick call to BBC Ulster’s news desk…
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