Wirral Branch TOMCC – the first 30 years
John Pierce Jones wrote to the local paper in 1979 asking for anyone interested in starting a Wirral
branch to turn up at the Railway Inn at Meols. Pam recalls ‘We went to the Railway, asked about the
Triumph owners and were met with blank looks – then my hubby spotted some bikers in a back
room and we got chatting and founded Wirral branch there and then’.
The first branch report appeared in the April 1980 edition of Nacelle and advised that meetings were
henceforth to be held every Thursday at the Mersey Arms in Birkenhead’s dockland. It was no
coincidence that ‘Scotch Alan’, the landlord was a Triumph owner! The chairman then was Tommy
Reid, secretary John Pierce Jones, Pam Woods treasurer and Chris & Swamp runs captains.
In the summer of 1981, I parked my Bonnie next to another T140E in Chester and later met the
owner, Paul Whetnall, who told me about the Triumph owners club. I popped down to the Mersey
Arms the following Thursday and have been a regular ever since.
There was a big rally crowd in those days; the report of 1981 Blow your own Trumpet rally in
Matlock talked of ‘the forty-strong Wirral branch who really do enjoy a good old sing song’. The first
Squirrel rally was held that year at Mere Brow, near Southport.
1982 was a busy year with 30 members camping at the Dragon; five of us rode to the Yorkshire Post
‘Bike 82’ weekend as guests of Andy from West Riding and the branch also got roped into marshal
at the Hoghton Sprint after rudimentary training at Jim Baxter’s Lark Lane motor museum. MAG
demos were very popular then – some of us got done for riding lidless at the Manchester event at
As well as our Squirrel rally, Wirral organised the Britannia rally at Billing Aquadrome.
Dave Houghton, who held the world sprint record for a 500cc bike (a Triumph, of course!), joined
Wirral branch and in July Scotch Alan left the Mersey Arms and we moved to the Castle, by Laird’s
The first rally I attended with the branch was the 83 Dragon. My Bonnie packed up a few days before
so I cadged a lift-off Dave Bott and shared Dave Welch’s tent. Our Squirrel rally was at the More
Arms in Shropshire. As the rain poured down and tents got waterlogged, landlord Bob Harrop kindly
let us crash out in the function room. We went to plenty of events; the TT, MAG’s 10 th anniversary
rally in Somerset, the demo from Speke airport to Southport, our camping weekend at the Puffin in
Llanfairfechan as well as a few runs out. In July we turned up one night and found the Castle closed
so meetings were then held at the Britannia in Tranmere.
Attendance gradually dropped in 1984; admin skills were not a strong point of our then secretary and
membership cards were lost and Nacelles not handed out. A couple of disgruntled ex-members
defied club rules by founding a Liverpool branch, just across the river from us. A dozen diehards
went to the Dragon and eight to the TT. Meanwhile, the Liverpool branch took off and they won the best
attendance at our Squirrel rally.
We had a visit from the Manchester branch who got lost when the Birkenhead tunnel was closed, with
two of them falling off on the dockland railway which shared the road over the bridges! Venue
changed again in November to the North Star in Cleveland St, with attendance down to single figures
Sue Blore took over briefly as a secretary before handing over to Taffy Saul but the damage
was done and the missing branch members had either disappeared or defected ‘over the water’.
The 1985 Squirrel rally was a disaster; someone had bought a catering pack of soup under the
impression it was cup a soup – rallyists were welcomed with a cup of hot water containing bits of
powder, and with the More Arms function room booked for a wedding we all had to cram into the
little bar and make a bit of room for Sam Plank’s disco. When criticised, landlord Bob Harrop
produced a letter from our ‘organiser’ telling him the rally was the weekend after!
The few survivors got around a bit, with trips to the Thunderbird and Tiger rallies and the Rockers
Reunion ride to Southend. Meetings were held at the Wheatsheaf in Ness in a move upmarket.
John Carroll became secretary in 1986 and the meetings were held in his local, The Victoria in
Tim Hulley from the Manchester branch offered to provide a venue and help out with the
Squirrel rally. It was held near Oldham in October to coincide with the Classic Bike Show at Belle Vue.
Not too many TOMCC folk attended after the debacle last year but numbers were swelled by local
clubs and we broke even. This was to be the last Squirrel rally and Tim organised rallies for
Manchester branch after that. Both Tim and John went on to write for Back Street Heroes magazine
under the pseudonyms Timbo H and Caz.
We moved back to the Mersey Arms in 1987 and mustered 11 riders for the Dragon rally, starting
the tradition of meeting up at the Eureka and stopping at the Sportsman’s Inn en route. A 25%
increase in subs decimated club membership nationally, with three branches deserting en masse and
Liverpool branch folding up amid a welter of recrimination. Caz filed his last report as he moved to
Yorkshire and Fiona took over as secretary but rarely turned up.
The branch pretty much ran itself in 1988. We went to a very wet Dragon, the Mancunian, Riders
Rights day in London and the Britannia at Stafford County Showground, where a little known band
called Metallica were rehearsing in the next hall. The year was also memorable for my first branch
In 1989, with time on my hands after losing my job, I took over as secretary and found we were
down to 8 members and should technically have been stood down as unviable. With the Liverpool
branch gone, a few old faces were returning to club nights. I managed to persuade Charlie Royle to
run captain with Caroline social secretary and Nick Wootton as chairman and the branch began a
We moved venue again to the Castle and had a busy year; Dragon, West Coast (Colin rat
award), Mancunian (Taffy grot award), Wigan Peer & Concorde rallies and the Kent Show. Later in
the year, the Castle closed again so we met at the Tap at Eastham for a while, then the Royal in
Membership had risen to 15 by 1990 and we were trying different things to boost numbers. Paul and
Mick organised a stand at Chester Autojumble, we fielded a team at the Oulton Park marshal’s
association quiz night and organised a ride to the Classic Bike Show, now at Stafford. Charlie
organised visits to other clubs and Manchester and B’ham & Wolves branches, and by the end of this year, we had 47 members on the books and were runners up for That Trophy. The venue was back at the Mersey Arms.
In 1991 Charlie Royle was killed when a car pulled out on him as he rode home from marshalling at
Oulton Park. We gave him real proper bikers send off and when the service was over we rode one of
his favourite runs, to his mate Digger’s pub the Plough at Isycoed, for the wake. Nobody wanted to
replace Charlie as runs captain but we did plenty of rallies; Caroline organised the Royle rally to raise
funds to buy a trophy for the rider of the fastest Triumph at Oulton Park. We went to the inaugural
meeting of Merseyside MAG at the Admiral and in August John Cooper became the first member to
turn up on a Hinckley Triumph.
1992 saw six of us join the TOGA revival at La Bruyere, in Belgium, mounted on two T140 Bonnies, a
Daytona and a T160. I was running a Classic Bike workshop then and bought a T140 with a view to
doing it up, but it gradually disintegrated en route to the rally, with pushrod tubes leaking, the
number plate falling off, exhaust bracket shearing, carbs playing up and finally half a mile from home
a spark plug unscrewed itself!
Griffo was a scribe, Helen was secretary/treasurer, Nick chairman and Cliff and Mike runs captains,
which led to much confusion on our ride to Matlock as they organised two separate runs,
unbeknown to each other, both parties got completely lost and Cliff’s faction was delayed when his
bike packed up and he had to direct the run from the pillion of Carol’s CX500.
1993 began with a dozen of us going to the Dragon at Capel Curig, our favourite site. With ten of us
attending the Mancunian rally at Glossop, we won the branch turnout award. Pete Rainer, Graeme
Kenyon and Tommy Stemson joined the branch around this time and so began a long period of
stability lasting right up to the present day.
Cliff had a programme of one run every month for 1994 to places such as Rivington Pike and Matlock
(now he knew the way), but our trip to the factory had to be called off when Hinckley banned
TOMCC visits after being subjected to adverse criticism.
Bikes were vandalised one night at the Mersey Arms so we moved around the corner to Molly Malones, where we could see the bikes from the bar. The big Hinckleys became quite commonplace parked outside but the early bikes were top-heavy and many toppled over as riders manoeuvred into parking spaces etc. Tommy bucked the trend by having a Harley fall on top of him!
We had another visit from the Manchester branch drumming up support for the Northern get together
at the Charles Cotton hotel – four of us rode over to Hartington for the inaugural event. The great
days of Manchester’s rallies were over by this time – the Mancunian was cancelled due to lack of
For 1995 Cliff announced ten runs out with trophies for any rider who completed eight of them. The
rally crowd won the drinking contest and egg race and came second in the tug of war at the
Scrabsters rally in Whitchurch. We also did the Dragon and Stormin the Castle.
The following year saw us move to Prenton Park, next to Tranmere Rovers ground. Ken
proclaimed ‘We recognise that not everyone feels comfortable leaving their pride and joy outside a
pub in Birkenhead’s dockland’. Alan Jones joined the branch and revived the camping weekend and
also published a glossy branch mag called ‘Tiger Torque’, but it never got past the first edition as he
left the branch as quickly as he’d arrived! Triumph dealer Andy Woods gave a talk promoting
Hinckley models and reassuring us that the newly-formed Riders Association of Triumph was no
threat to TOMCC.
Dave Porter paid us a visit to publicise the ‘Bonneville Celebration’ to
commemorate the speed record attempt. Half a dozen of us attended this and the mass ride to the
The 1997 committee was Cliff chairman, Ken secretary/treasurer and Pete Rainer runs captain,
organising one run per month mainly to other clubs such as the AJS and BSA owners. We decided to
scrap the Christmas party as the social calendar was so crowded in December and replace it with a
curry night in January. We also voted to affiliate the branch to the Motorcycle Action Group.
Membership numbers peaked at 200, although we only ever saw the usual dozen or so regulars!
They say any publicity is good publicity; A photo of Cliff and Mike at Stormin appeared in Back Street
Heroes whilst in Motorcycle Classic mag there was a photo of Roy and Lindsay at the Bonneville
celebration and an article I wrote on SU carbs.
Ken was one of only 20 folks who went to the inaugural North Wales meet at Dil’s Diner in Betws y Coed. We fielded a team at MAG’s games night and came to a respectable 4 th out of 12 in the league.
Gradually the Meriden machines were getting relegated to the back of the garage as most members
bought Hinckleys. The January 98 Nacelle report has Chunky and Peter insisting their old Bonnies will
be up and running again soon – to date, they are still off the road! We had a stand at the Northern
Classic Bike Show at Hooton Park where Phil won a gong for his Meriden-built Adventurer.
The show was held there again in 1999 and Arthur won a prize for his pre-unit Thunderbird. Talking
of Thunderbirds, this was the year the rally was held at Longton rugby club, where we waited for half an
an hour every time we went to the bar before being served some horrible fizzy beer dispensed from a
watering can! We did quite a few rallies – the Dragon, Smoking Dog and NABD. Pete started the
branch website and runs departed from St Davids hotel at Ewloe, the Trooper in Chester or the Liver
in Crosby, all still used to this day as meeting points.
The Northern Classic moved to Aintree for the new millennium and Arthur won a highly commended
rosette. Pete added a few more runs to the list, including a joint one with MAG to visit the Jesters
MCC at Preston. The following year branch meetings were reduced to every fortnight with a run out
on the other Mondays. Our local Triumph dealer, Marriotts, lost the franchise and Ken blamed this
for membership falling to 120. With the bank balance healthy, we voted to have our annual dinner
paid for out of club funds.
The 2001 Dragon rally was memorable for an awful site and even worse weather! We faced a
blizzard riding across Snowdon and on arrival at the old Caernarfon airport Pete, Colin and Phil
turned around and headed home, leaving only five of us to brave the night there. With Franz trying
desperately to get a North Wales branch running, he queried the border with Wirral as he needed all
the members he could get, whereas Ken replied members could choose which branch they wanted
We had another change of venue in 2002, moving to the Wheatsheaf at Raby, a much nicer pub than
the Prenton Park evidenced by numerous awards from the Campaign for Real Ale. Initially conceived
as a summer meeting point only, nobody was keen to move back to Prenton so we ended up staying.
We also had our last annual dinner at the Ruhi Balti house when a change in management saw
standards fall through the floor. Ken’s Bonnie had to be brought back from the Dragon on a recovery
truck and has been at the back of his garage in disgrace ever since. I made it home with no clutch
when the main shaft nut loosened off.
The ‘Reilly ruling’ voted through at the AGM decreed that only Triumph-mounted riders would get
points for the runs trophy. Sadly for him, Keith Reilly’s Triumph bit the dust soon after and he has
never had a point since! Nobody would organise a stand at the Northern classic show but the
following year I put my ratty Beesa into the awards and found it was the only BSA entered. The
compere was reduced to practically begging for someone else to enter a Beesa! Eventually, an old
boy from the British Motorcycle Preservation Society, helped by his wife, pushed a non-running A10
combo through the cordon and was immediately presented with the best BSA.
At the BMPS show that summer we saw him and his missus heaving it off a trailer and pushing it into
the lineup at Colwyn Bay, and I couldn’t resist a jibe in my branch report about the trailer brigade.
Cue voluminous correspondence from Farnz to our secretary Ken demanding an apology and
explaining the BMPS guys all have two or more bikes so have to cart them around on trailers!
Shaun Grogan, Bryn and Annmaria Jones finally took the bull by the horns and founded the North
Wales branch this year, over 20 years after Farnz first called for the branch to be formed.
2004 saw Capel Curig declared the wettest place in Britain just as the Dragon was held there. The
roadway into the site was washed away resulting in no marquee, bands or extra toilets. Colin told
Ken to write in and complain to Conwy MCC, which he did, triggering another voluminous bout of
furious correspondence. We had a summer camping weekend at the Three Pigeons at Graigfechan
which was well attended.
The only other campers were a couple in a tiny camper van who had
parked right next to our barbecue. They soon got the thing going and moved to the pub car park
when we fired up the barbie after the pub closed. We had a ride to Myerscough to meet Cumbria
and North Lancs branch and went on a tour of Cains Brewery in Liverpool.
Jackie went to her first Dragon rally in 2005 and despite vowing ‘never again’ she has been nearly
every year since! We walked to Cerrig and drank the Saracens Head dry but luckily there was
another pub around the corner. Carol organised a minibus back to the site, then got lost and spent
most of the night in the ladies trying to keep warm.
Peter’s ‘Oswestry obsession’ reached new heights, with nearly every run heading for the town.
Combo Colin led the ride to the Travellers Rest at a furious pace, resulting in two riders throwing
their bikes up the road as they struggled to keep up. Helen was helped to her feet and managed to
carry on, bloodied but unbowed, whereas poor Ian was carted off to hospital with a broken leg.
Merseyside police demanded a £20k fee from the organisers of the Wirral Egg run, leaving the
committee divided over whether to pay up or not. They chose not too and the run was declared
illegal with threats to arrest anyone in possession of an Easter egg. Riders took matters into their
own hands and rode to Clatterbridge hospital anyway, but for some reason, the police made a big
deal of it and scrambled the helicopter to report any sighting of bikes. Chunky was turned back at a
roadblock outside New Brighton and spotted riders gathering outside B & Q nearby, but next thing they were also ordered to move on by vanloads of police.
We had a lucky escape at the Farmyard party when the heavens opened on Sunday afternoon just
after we left and the site was flooded – the marshals who had volunteered to clear up were
rewarded by seeing their bikes sink under 3 feet of water!
Our rides out were beset by problems when, following the pub smoking ban, a disturbing trend
began of pubs closing down. After riding many miles to the Crown Inn at Llanfihangel , we arrived to
find it was shut. Then half a dozen rode to the Northern get together at Hartington only to find the
meet had been scrapped and no-one told us! At least the second unofficial egg run passed without
incident – and without any police attention.
2007 was notable for continental rallies with Paul, Keith, Shaun and I going to the Elefant rally (and
coming home crammed onto two bikes when the outfits blew up!) and four members attending
Tridays in Austria. With umpteen rides out every month, attendance began to dwindle, and it was
noticed that slower riders would turn up for a run, struggle to keep up the pace and never turn up
again. Chunky belatedly introduced a second man drop off system to ensure slower riders weren’t
left behind but by this time they had voted with their wheels.
We met Dave Porter at the 2008 Dragon and he agreed to come to the Wheatsheaf and give a series
of talks on the history of Triumph, which took place later in the year. Pete organised the longest run
ever to Clun in Shropshire, attended by only three diehards who arrived home in the early hours.
Stormin’ the Castle, held at a new site that year, made the Dragon look easy. It rained incessantly all
week then the rally was hit by Hurricane Gustaf. Our tent poles snapped as we tried to erect the
thing in the thick of it and after a soaking wet night, I was quite glad to leave with honour intact
when we were thrown off the site on Saturday morning as the Red Cross refused to work in the
One club night at the Wheatsheaf we were handed a message by the barmaid asking us to contact
BBC Manchester as they wanted bikes for a drama called ‘All the Small Things. Rob, Alf, Nick and I
ended up appearing briefly in episode 4.
Peter defied the low turnouts on runs by introducing a more ambitious programme for 2009, with a
the policy of going straight to the pub on the first evening run of the month, with a more roundabout
route on the next one, while John started a programme of Wednesday lunchtime rides. Ten of us
went to the Bonneville celebration at Gaydon, where the highlight for me was Craig Vetter’s talk on
his dealings with Triumph in the 70s.
There were a few firsts this year – Paul and I headed off for the Krystall rally in February but were
beaten back by the weather and the Scrambler breaking down. Jackie and I went to the Simmer Dim
rally in Shetland and five of us went to the Offa’s Dyke.
In 2010 Paul and I finally made it to the Krystall rally thus completing the ‘big three’ winter rallies of
Dragon, Elefant and Krystall which should be on any all-weather bikers bucket list. Sadly, the number
of runs organised seemed to be in inverse proportion to attendance and with high petrol prices and
no certainty of the pub being open when you got there, rides out were attended by just the same
few diehards. Ken was the only member at Monyash, with Paul sole representative at Bainland.
Which brings us up to 2011 and whilst numbers fluctuate on rides to the pub, other events are doing
well – we had a dozen attend the annual dinner and the Dragon rally, and seven of us trekked up to
the Shetlands for the Simmer Dim rally. Out of 80 current members between ten and twenty are to
be found at the Wheatsheaf on club night. The 2011 committee is comprised of Chairman Tommy
Stemson, Treasurer Graeme Kenyon, Secretary Rob Mitchell, Rally sec Paul Ashes, Runs Captain Pete
Rainer ably assisted by John Spall and last but not least your humble scribe Dave Pearson.