21 May 2024

How three owners of a 1949 Norton bonded for life

| John Thistleton
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Learning from mates and reading manuals, Geoff Bland restored all these bikes.

Learning from mates and reading manuals, Geoff Bland restored all these bikes. A member of the Classic Riders Club of Goulburn, Geoff bought a lathe to make parts and was given an old mill drill just about worn out and has a network of specialists to help recreate the classic British BSAs and Nortons. Photo: John Thistleton.

Each of the classic British motorcycles in Goulburn man Geoff Bland’s collection have been rebuilt from rusting piles of parts, spur-of-the moment deals and scouring swap meets far and wide.

The BSA and Norton machines remind him of grappling with 18 per cent interest rates while he and his wife Sue raised their family, of raiding his mother-in-law Betty’s funeral fund to buy a bike, and of mates sadly missed.

Of the 21 gleaming bikes he has collected, five will be part of a massive display in Goulburn of machines from all over the country on Saturday 22 June, for the 100th Anniversary of the First Australian Grand Prix.

But another bike elsewhere in the shed that carries its grime with purpose means more than the others. The 1949 Norton previously belonged to Wayne Adams, author of The Racing Boys, an authoritative book about Goulburn’s golden years of motorcycle racing.

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“Him and I were always together,” Geoff said. “He was here every day for coffee at 10 o’clock.”

Wayne had bought the bike from the family of Kevin Tully, another close mate who lived at Wheeo near Goulburn.

In 1949 Kevin rode his Triumph and sidecar to Sydney to buy the Norton, put it in a box and spent two days bringing the premier production road bike of its time home.

“We would have a (Classic Riders Club of Goulburn) club run out to his farm every year and he would wheel this bike out of the shed and we would all drool over it,” Geoff said. “Wayne would ride his old 1930 Norton out there and say, ‘Hey Kevin, us Norton blokes have to stick together, you know. Here, sit on my Norton,’” Geoff said.

Geoff Bland with his Y13 BSA motor bike

Geoff Bland with his Y13 BSA motorbike. While he has sold and bought bikes over the years, he will never part with this one. Photo: John Thistleton.

When Kevin grew old and went into a home, Wayne bought the Norton, after his mate’s family had offered to sell it to him, knowing it would not be on-sold to the highest bidder. Then Wayne died in a tractor accident on his farm on 15 December 2021.

“When we lost Wayne, I bought the bike off the family,” Geoff said. “When I go it will go to (another mate) Rod Temple and will stay in the club. That’s history for Goulburn, that bike. A lot of people wanted that bike.”

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Geoff began restoring motorcycles in 1984, after his younger brother and collector Peter visited Goulburn for a GP rally re-enactment. All the classic bikes and their throbbing motors left him enthralled. His chance to be a restorer and collector came later when, for two cases of VB, he got a trailer full of BSA Bantam bike parts from underneath a home on Finlay Road, Goulburn.

He restores a bike a year and laughs recalling the lengths he went to when he had little spare cash to indulge his passion. His mother-in-law Betty came to live with him and Sue and offered to pay rent, but he would not accept it. Nevertheless, each fortnight she would give Geoff some money from her pension, which he put aside in a drawer for her funeral.

As this money accrued, a friend from Wollongong tipped him off about a bloke wanting to sell three old bikes, including a Gold Star BSA. He wanted $7000, even though it was in pieces.

Geoff had long coveted such a bike, and often argued with Peter over who would be the first to get one. So he didn’t hesitate and readily agreed to buy it.

Geoff adjusts the seat on his 1928 BSA

Geoff adjusts the seat on his 1928 BSA 500cc with a side-valve motor. Awaiting a knee replacement, he is unable to kick-start his machines, and will therefore be joining the 100th Anniversary of Australia’s First Grand Prix rally next month in a supporting role, not as a participant. Photo: John Thistleton.

Suddenly realising he needed cash, he went to the drawer holding Betty’s funeral fund. “There was almost $7000 there, so I grabbed it and jumped in the car with Wayne and went and bought the bike. I didn’t tell Sue.”

On his return he decided to tell his wife.

“By the way, your mother has to live a few more years,” he said.

Betty did just that and Sue took charge of the funeral fund.

Original Article published by John Thistleton on About Regional.

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