A SLUK back at Kelso National Scooter Rallies | NOSTALGIA
When I’m putting together these rally flashbacks, it is always my intention to try and stir up some good memories for you, the readership. I’m always chuffed when someone tells me they were happy to see one of my photos here on ScooterLab of one of their scooters at a rally. Sometimes one they no longer own.
As I look through my archive of literally 1000s of photos, the ones from Whitby, Tenby and now Kelso are making me feel like I’ve just lost out in some 1980s TV quiz show – where the host is saying in my ear “Here is what you could have won.” Not being able to attend rallies that I genuinely love is driving me up the wall.
If any of you have read through any of my previous rally writes ups you will spot that I’m very passionate about the National Rally side of Scootering. And the Kelso rally features highly in those feelings. Although, I must admit, to some people I may seem a bit of a latecomer to the delights of this Scottish border town rally. My first trip there was back in 2007 which was the 5th big rally there, or 6th rally if you include Euro Lambretta in 2004.
Read on and all will hopefully become a bit clearer…
Ayr Scottish National
Back in 2000 and 2001 the Scottish National was early on in the year and hosted both times in the town of Ayr. Two great rallies with great facilities at the racecourse campsite (it frightens me to think that was 20 years ago). I enjoyed these two far more than my previous visit to Ayr in the mid-90s.
By 2002, I don’t think I’m being unkind by saying the Scottish National was in turmoil. The date was set for mid-August, but no definite announcement on a town, or venue right up until about three weeks before it happened. The Borders town of Hawick was picked, but, with a serious lack of, (and very late) advertising it was poorly attended. The amount of travelling English and Welsh scooterists was pitiful (by normal standards anyway). I received a warm welcome as ever, but the rally didn’t have the same buzz as a regular rally in Scotland. I think it will go down as the smallest attended National in recent decades. I’m also quite sure that this rally was the only National in four decades with no official rally patch to commemorate it. Many of the regular and influential Scottish Scooterists were saying that for 2003 the rally may head back to Ayr or somewhere completely new. I secretly hoped it would move back to Ingliston the home of the superb Farmyard rally.
One thing is for sure, stood at the bar in the football club rally venue in Hawick back in 2002, absolutely no one could have imagined that we were only about 20 miles away from what would become a legendary scooter rally venue. The single longest-running large scale inland scooter rally in the UK – Kelso.
2003 a new Scottish National is born
By the time the list of National Rallies for 2003 was made public, Kelso was firmly advertised for the end of May as the 3rd National. But with a strange twist, it would run simultaneously with the Skegness rally. Two Nationals on the same weekend bemused many of us? I felt it would just dilute both events, but chose to travel to Skegness having enjoyed rallies there a few times before. This National Rally venue clash of both Kelso and Skeggy happened again in 2004 and 2005. Although by 2007 Kelso was the only official end of May National Rally and it has been ever since. In my opinion, it gets better and better each year.
Here is some info on the Kelso rallies so far:
2003 first rally to the Border Union Agricultural Showground in Kelso, I think it’s also called Springwood Park? Skaville headlined this one.
2004 Who’s Who played the rally. A better-attended rally than the first one, with a reasonable group of Austrian scooterists in attendance. Quite coincidently I had bumped into this pack of riders broken down at the bottom of my street in Scarborough. They were in the UK for Euro Lambretta Number 15 (also in Kelso) but the following weekend after the National. It was their plan to take in both rallies within the space of nine days. Grateful, but not needing my offer of tools, they looked astonished as I set off, loaded with camping luggage in the other direction (to the Skeggy rally).
2005 again growing in numbers, Scarlet Blue and The More Specials played this rally.
At the 2006 rally, the band Basket Case made their first of three appearances so far at the BUAS venue. Punk always seems to go down really well at the rally. Lots of Scots like old school 80s vibes in the night dos.
2007 was my first visit to Kelso, and I was blown away with the size of the rally and the great facilities at the showground. Within an hour of pitching my tent I was regretting having not come to the rally in the previous years. The Harringtons and The Complete Stone Roses played to the masses.
2008 saw the Jam DRC and Neville Staples play the rally. Although I seem to recall a short power cut knocking out the beer pumps (only in Scotland).
Onto 2009, the rally was looking better and better each year and is always very well organised. Beery Tweed and the Chasers played the rally, as did a very slimmed down Buster Bloodvessel and his band Bad Manners. The rally legend looked to have lost half of his body weight since he last bounced around the stage to entertain us.
Kelso Rallery 1
2010, for some reason I found myself setting off at first light on the Friday morning to the rally. Keen to get there I guess, but completely unnecessary as my journey is only about 170 miles. I made good time on my standard but trusty PX 200 E, and was amused to find out I was the first paying rider through the gates that weekend. The Ray Summers Experience and Pama International played this one. Sadly the age-old and boring ‘too many cars and vans on the site’ debate reared its head at the rally, and although 4-wheelers are parked away from the scooter camping, their very presence annoys some Scooterists.
2011, Advertised in advance that there was a parking charge of £50 for 4 wheelers. This caused quite a lot of debate, but was an attempt to discourage cars and vans attending the rally. I feel for the organisers who seemed to get criticised no matter what decision they make. Basket Case and the legendary Secret Affair played this rally.
Kelso Rallery 2
The rally in 2012 had The Ska Tonics and Mod Life Crisis playing. Yet another great event at the showground but with some accidentally misleading advertising for the rally (more on that in factoids).
2013 proved to many of us just how cold camping can be. Leaving the night do having watched Spear of Destiny, we were greeted with a bitterly cold campsite. Some scooters and tents were white over with frost. The temp allegedly dropped as low as minus 5 during the night. Capone and the Bullets also played that weekend.
Kelso Rallery 3
Of the 17 Kelso rallies in a row so far, the 2006 one was the only one that didn’t have National Rally status. As mentioned earlier, it was doubling up with the Skegness rally at the same time, and Skeggy was the National that year. However, it’s highly unlikely that this fact will have altered anyone’s enjoyment of the 2006 rally.
The 2012 rally was advertised as the 10th-anniversary rally, when actually it wasn’t. 2012 may have been the 10th rally, but a rally that started in 2003 will have its 10th anniversary in 2013? It takes an anorak like me to spot something this irrelevant. Factually correct adverts or not, Kelso is a superb rally. ROLL ON 2021.
2014, the largest group of scooters I’ve ever travelled North with met and set off up to Kelso in 2014. A massive pack of scooters from all over England, headed by VFM supremo Steve Foster, who had rallied a few friends to help him celebrate his stag weekend at the rally. A particularly good one it was too, although it was one of the wettest journeys I’ve had to Kelso over the years. The Stories and The Clone Roses entertained.
The weather at the 2015 rally was glorious. I think this was the first and only time the custom show was held outside in the sunshine, rather than its usual home inside the main hall. Rather bizarrely there was also a giant inflatable pub in the middle of the camping field. The Redstarts and The Talks played this rally. I remember going back to my tent in the early hours thinking I won’t sleep for the loud music, only to realise I still had my headphones on from the silent disco. It had been a long warm drunken day.
At the 2016 rally, The Guardian newspaper came to do an interview and photos. How times change from the red top newspapers slagging us off in the 80s. A decent article, but many of the reply comments to it on the internet were from idiots that don’t get what we do, or why we do it. King Kurt played at this rally. Another great event.
2017 was one of my favourite rally seasons in a long time. It was the year I set out on my own personal challenge to ride to all the Nationals on a standard PX 125. I was chuffed to be able to blog about it here on SLUK. The journey to Kelso was slightly slower than normal for me, but very enjoyable and the warmest ride I’ve ever had to the rally. Being asked to help to judge the custom show was a real task but an honour. The Skababs, The Dicksons and The Signatures all played this one.
2018 was another warm dry journey. A great rally and again very chuffed to be asked to try and do the rally justice, in the form of a ScooterLab write up. The giant and colourful motorised beer garden that is Kelso showground never fails to impress. Basket Case played their 3rd Kelso this weekend, the band ‘Start’ also played.
2019 shock horror! How dare they? A price increase? A new weekend ticket price of £20. All this fun for a measly 20 quid? The rally organisers had managed to keep ticket prices to £15 for 16 years on the bounce. To be blunt here, if you don’t think that a fiver increase after all that time isn’t still extremely good value, I think there’s something wrong with you. It’s also worth pointing out that a big chunk of the car parking charge at the 2011 rally, was given straight to charity. Are Scottish people greedy? It wouldn’t appear so to me. Another brilliant rally. Warm and dry until Sunday anyway. The Gimme Gimme Gimmes, The Substitutes and Suspect Device played this one. Another rally write up here on SLUK, and my journey home was made a whole lot more fun by going via Oban, Fort William and John 0′ Groats – a detour that added 750 miles to the ride home.
Kelso Rallery 4
2020? And so onto what should have been the 2020 rally. I’m hearing that the line up – The Odels, The Substitutes, and Neville Staples – will be delayed until the 2021 rally in its usual venue and end of May slot. And at the minute that seems a lifetime away. I’m gutted to be missing Kelso this year, I’m sure loads of you are too. This weekend’s Virtual Kelso Rally will hopefully fill a bit of the void, and if a picture paints a thousand words, look in the rallery as there are 300 pictures to remind us what we are missing
People often ask if Scotland is ready for a different National venue to replace Kelso, but equally many say why change something that isn’t broken? I guess as long as lots of riders still attend the rally, it will just run and run.
The Kelso rally is a well-run event. It takes about 30 fellow scooter riders to steward and run it over the weekend. Some of them probably putting in 40 to 50 hours of work over the course of the rally. That’s without numerous hours of organising in the weeks leading up to the rally. The Scottish No 1’s work hard and then party hard, and for that we salute you.
Thanks go to Dave Gale and Scott Southon for supplying rally patch images and info on the ones not in my collection.
Stay safe, until we can ride safe SLUKers.
Kelso Rallery 5
Kelso National Rally patches
We now supply Arai, RST and AGV…