Campsite with an onsite pool had a different meaning in 1989...
Campsite with an onsite pool had a different meaning in 1989…


I’ve had a really enjoyable rally season in 2019. With eight National Rallies and a superb custom show in Alfreton it made it a year to remember. Strangely I said exactly those words 30 years ago this month back in 1989 at the end of another memorable year on two wheels.


Col's 1989 Paddy Smith's
Col’s 1989 Paddy Smith’s
And his 2019 Crusader rally patches...
And his 2019 Crusader rally patches…

The 1989 season had a Bank Holiday rally to the Isle of Wight, a trip to Scotland for the end of May bank holiday, a trip to Wales in late July and five other Nationals covering the North East, the North West, the South West and the South East of the country. The Alfreton Leisure Centre, scooter only custom show was the highlight for many scooterists though.


The opening paragraph describes EXACTLY how the main calendar of events for the 2019 season has just panned out too!

But in many ways, things couldn’t be more different now. So here are a few of my memories and recollections of how times change – but with a few similarities thrown in, and maybe a couple of myths uncovered.

Cars were as popular on rally campsites in the late eighties as they are now...
Cars were as popular on rally campsites in the late eighties as they are now…


A little something for the weekend?


It’s plain for all to see that the world of scootering is far busier, and possibly more diverse than ever here in the UK. The choice of different events is massive. National Rallies where you see pretty much all types and styles, member-only rallies, scooter only rallies, Euro rallies, club rallies, alliance rallies, sporting and route riding events, even events aimed at families.


If there is one comment that I hear, and read over and over, it’s the


Let’s get back to eight or nine big National Rallies each year, there are too many events on!”


Well firstly, for almost the last 40 years there always has been an organised fixture list of between eight and 10 National Rallies every year. Some of us still follow that calendar religiously, and secondly, there have always been plenty of other scooter events on around the Nationals. The difference is, back in the day most Scooterists prioritised the Nationals as the main events, whereas now it’s more often not the case, people pick and choose where and when they ride their scooters and whom with, but why shouldn’t they?


NSRA Cards


If you attended rallies back in 1989,  you will remember the NSRA  members “ID cards” – a scheme brought in to try and keep potential trouble makers away from the rallies. Rally venues were announced three to four weeks in advance via a newsletter delivered by post to each affiliated club. The rally dates were announced at the start of the season, although it was common for some of the given dates to change by a week or so as the year went on. Most riders would set off without breakdown cover, and at best a cheap map to get you to the rally town. If the rally didn’t have an official campsite, we would sometimes struggle to find a B&B that would let us stay and caravan holiday parks were very reluctant to have us in, most had signs up saying ‘NO SCOOTERS.’


If you wanted to pre-book accommodation you had to literally go through tourist information to get the numbers for local B&Bs. Then phone them up individually to try and find one that was vacant and would let you in (if you could afford to ‘go posh’ that is) – no one-click or internet searching back then.




Planning ahead


How different now then, that all dates and venues for the 2019 National Rally season were announced at the end of 2018. Giving you all a full six months notice of the next event, or as much as 12 months notice for the final events (it’s been that way for years now). Pretty much everyone I know now has breakdown cover and sat nav or smartphone guidance to the venue. Back in the day you got there and back on a wing and a prayer. Accommodation is often booked online without even speaking to a human, and caravan holiday parks not only welcome us, but they also cry out to host rallies. These things would have seemed unimaginable 30 years ago.


Good thing?


Scooters are often seen and used in all types of magazine and TV advertising these days, it wasn’t common at all back in the day. So when the BBC filmed part of the Fred Perry documentary at the Whitley Bay rally, and the band The Fine Young Cannibals used scooters and Scooterists for the video to their single “Good Thing” it caused a real buzz for the summer of 1989.


The first national of ‘89 was Easter weekend. A rally at the Isle of Wight with a campsite based at a farm with a particularly muddy entrance to the site. I’m not sure how many rally-goers would choose to camp in mud in late March these days? In contrast, the 2019 Easter rally was the Scarborough National – a B&B rally that turned out to be the warmest Easter Bank Holiday weekend ever in the UK. The Spa venue welcomed us with open arms and is the biggest and best indoor venue in the town.


The second rally of ‘89 was May Day weekend at Great Yarmouth – a mega-popular rally throughout the 80s. It was voted the best rally of ‘89 at an end of year poll. This year’s May Day rally was to Weston-Super-Mare; a great rally with good facilities at the rugby club campsite, and again the biggest and best venue in town for the night do on the pier.



Fort William 


The third rally of 1989 at the end of May was the ill-fated Fort William – a rally technically cancelled just four days before it was due to take place because of opposition to our arrival. The rally still went ahead but may well go down as the worst attended rally of the 80s because of the confusion. Scottish Police and authorities didn’t welcome travelling Scooterists back then. Girvan and Dunbar’s police forces both showed support to Fort William for NOT making us welcome, due to their bad experience of previous scooter rallies.


The 2019 end of May rally to Kelso, as ever made us very welcome. It’s been one of the set in stone rallies for a good number of years now. A top-notch rally that runs like clockwork every time. It will be a tearful day in the “World of Col” if and when it ends. Its Showground campsite is the biggest and best venue in the town.


I left this year’s Kelso and headed up to Fort William to give the town my own 30th-anniversary two-fingered salute! Reminiscing actually…



A local’s view


Three of us were in Fort William recently and we got talking to a couple of locals in a pub. The conversation got around to scooters and the 1989 Fort William rally. This bloke was suddenly wide-eyed and in full-on reminiscing mode. He told us that the rally literally changed his outlook on life. He realised there was more out there than mountains and lochs.


He was just 14 at the time and walked across the campsite, looking on in awe at all these scooters and their eclectic owners. He could remember some of the scooters in great detail. He couldn’t believe that 30 years later we were still doing it, still riding to far off towns on little scooters and that he may well have bumped into us back then. It was a huge thing for a small town in the Highlands and for a young lad in town. How many more people have we affected in a positive way over the years? 



Fred Perry documentary - Whitley Bay 1989



Whitley Bay


The fourth rally of ‘89 was in June at Whitley Bay – a venue not visited since the early 80s. A first-time visit for many of us. The original date was postponed and then swapped back with just weeks to spare (imagine doing that now in the age of mostly pre-booked accommodation?).


Four rallies into 1989 and we’d already had confusion with two of them. Whitley was a popular rally that was promoted to Bank Holiday status for the next two years. Blessed with good weather, I was sad to see it leave the calendar of Nationals. 2019’s fourth National was Kent’s BIG 7 rally near Tonbridge – possibly my favourite one of this year – a real old school vibe with everything on-site and yet more scorching weather.


Kelso and Big 7 are two inland rallies back to back that to me feel more like an 80s style rally campsite than most other venues. BIG 7 if you miss it “You’re missing out” sort of goes the tag line. Incidentally, every National of the 1989 season was at a coastal town, rather than inland.


1989 Scooterist fashion guru, Col (centre) styles it up...
1989 Scooterist fashion guru, Col (centre) styles it up…


Coming up in part 2 next week…


We’ll have the second half of the 1989 season and loads more photos to help you reminisce.  


Words and photos: Col


Col’s 1989 RALLERY – who do you recognise?

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