I’m sure most SLUK readers are parents of teenage (or older) children by now. Can you imagine letting your precious 15-18-year-old kids go off for the weekend to a 1980s style scooter rally?
Often travelling through the night with a bunch of yobbos with strange haircuts and a questionable taste in ex-military clobber. Riding on barely roadworthy motor scooters – or travelling in the back of an illegally overcrowded van. Getting up to god knows what with these new found friends. With no mobile phones back then, there was no way of knowing if they’d even got there safely and the chances of them phoning home were slim. Just the thought of it is enough to make most modern cotton-wool-wrapped kids phone Childline. It’s hardly surprising that we were the last big youth cult.
I’m sure we’ve all got memories of those formative years, stories that are so far-fetched that we hardly believe them ourselves and ‘normal’ folk would take them with raised eyebrows and a big pinch of salt. Like the time some friends kidnapped a donkey in Oban and zipped it into an occupied tent in the middle of the night. Or the club initiation ceremonies that sometimes went a little too far. We want to hear your stories and recollections so we can share your early years of scooter-fuelled hedonism with SLUK readers. Before that, here’s a little taster of my first rally memories.
DISC ’85 school trip
We hired a 53-seater coach – whilst still at school and filled it with a disparate bunch of 14 and 15-year-old mods and wannabe scooter boys and girls, for a day trip to DISC ‘85. After this, I had to wait a while to get stuck into ‘proper’ scooter rallies.
My first couple of Nationals were in the summer of 1987. I was still 16 at the time, and had a Vespa 50 Special but wasn’t able to ride with the big boys yet. I travelled through the night to Margate in the back of a beaten-up old hire van with 20 skinheads and a couple of us wide-eyed young scooter boys. We followed the scooters for 250-miles of never-ending dark A-roads. Arriving at dawn to a wet smoke-filled jungle-like campsite, scooters and ridge tents as far as the eye could see.
A weekend of firsts
That weekend I queued up for a Paddy Smith patch and witnessed the delights of my first glassing incident, saw (and smelt) how quickly CS gas can clear a pub and watched a bloke drinking a pint of still warm piss for a few quid. We played 50-a side football on the beach and across the main road to kill time after the pubs closed on Saturday afternoon. This was what I’d been dreaming of for the last few years (although drinking urine and ending up bloody and scarred, nose dripping with snot and eyes streaming weren’t the stuff of my dreams).
What a dump
My next rally was to Weston-Super-Mare, again it was a late-night van journey. Arriving after everything had closed (not that any pubs were letting us in that weekend anyway) a couple of us wandered around the late night/early morning rally campsite – conveniently located on an ex-council rubbish tip with no facilities. Our van driver had a few drinks when he got there and passed out in the back, meaning our tents and sleeping bags were locked safely away until morning. I ended up wrapped up for the night in a sheet of discarded polythene and slept beside a warming campfire. Thankfully I didn’t turn into a withered oven baked crisp packet overnight.
New Vespa T5
It wouldn’t be until the first rally of 1988 when I could finally ride my brand-new red Vespa T5 to the Isle of Wight. E294 BAL (it’s still out there on a SORN according to the DVLA) was bought on finance from Norrie Kerr and Dave Webster at MSC on my 17th Birthday. I accidentally wheelied it away and could finally spread my wings. I was still on L-plates until May that year but rode to the IOW two-up, with a full licence holding mate on the back (you were allowed back then), Gray took over the riding for motorway stretches. We’d never set off to a rally until after everybody finished work on Friday afternoon. So once again we rode through the night, this time with the Mansfield Monsters, including NRC Chairman, Jeff Smith (who had various injunctions out against him that prevented him going over to the island).
The 1986 riots were still fresh in people’s memories, the tabloids dubbed us ‘Scooter Scum’ and we were hated by authority and the general public. We were stopped a couple of times on the journey there – the first time before we’d even got out of Mansfield! Jeff proudly showed the police his court papers when they asked if we knew about the injunctions. Arriving at the ferry port very late at night to find ‘sin bins’ on the dock, anything deemed to be a weapon was thrown in the bin, including essential tools. That first ferry journey was so exciting though, riding on and off a ferry with hundreds of scooters can still make my hairs stand on end.
This would be the last time I trusted a back up van to take my luggage though. We lost van driver, Alf, and our luggage after the ferry and ended up sleeping on top of a public toilet on Sandown seafront – not very warm at Easter with just a riding jacket to keep the cold out. The following two nights we moved to Ryde and slept in some massive concrete pipes on a car park. The official campsite was a quagmire, so the pipes were fairly luxurious accommodation in comparison. It didn’t seem to put me off though, I rode to every National that year and many more to follow and will be riding to many more once this virus is under control and we’re allowed out to play again.
Sadly many of my early photos were lost in a house move but hopefully you’ll have great memories and a nice set of grainy snaps to help bring them to life.
1980s memories and confessions
Confess your 1980s scooter rally tales, sins and stories to SLUK. We can’t promise to absolve you of all blame but offloading will give you some kind of closure on those troublesome times. You can email your story to editorial@ScooterLab.UK
Looking for more 1980s scooter nostalgia? Scooteboys – The Lost Tribe is the book that defines our history and culture. Get yours here.
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