The life and times of ‘Torrens’

Although the memories of Arthur Bourne, the legendary ‘Torrens’ of The Motor Cycle fame from 1928 until 1951, were written more than 40 years ago, only now have they finally been published – but it’s certainly been worth the wait, writes Pete Kelly.

The one and only thing that Arthur Bourne and I had in common was that we each found ourselves editing The Motor Cycle (abbreviated to Motor Cycle during Harry Louis’ reign) while we were still in our twenties – but there all similarities end!

Although the photograph is not dated, a young Arthur Bourne seems a very contented passenger in the Auto-Cycle Union sidecar outfit during a 4060-mile Land’s End-John O’Groats Standard Norton observed trial.

Thrown in at the deep end as a 25-year-old acting assistant editor, Arthur was promoted to editor at the end of 1928, and soon the hallowed weekly magazine was at the peak of its influence and prestige, boasting a heady circulation of 168,000.

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By the time I took up the challenge 45 years later, our home-spun motorcycle industry was breathing its last, lots of colourful new bike magazines had appeared on the market, and the circulation had halved. The old ‘Blue Un’ had not only merged with Motor Cycling, its rival of more than 70 years, but had also changed to newspaper format in a desperate attempt to match the burgeoning success of Motor Cycle News, which had been launched in 1955 with an emphasis on motorcycle racing in all its different forms.

Other things that Arthur and I must undoubtedly have shared were endless sleepless nights wondering where the title was going, and occasional confrontations with management when our ideas conflicted.

I was elated when I first heard about the publication of Behind the Scenes in the Vintage Years, Torrens (Arthur Bourne), whose memories, written more than 40 years ago have been so skilfully edited by his son Richard.

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