1908: Riders pick their teams

WHAT FOLLOWS IS NOT THE MOST EXCITING feature to be found in this timeline of motor cycling. It contains no technical innovations, no tales of derring-do and remarkably few jokes. But anyone who’s been involved with motor cycle clubs will recognise the intensity of the debate. The first generation of motor cyclists took their organisations very seriously indeed, and with good reason…

Affiliation of motor cyclists.
“As one of the delegates representing the Leeds Motor Cycle Club at the conference held at Lincoln, and also as one of the eight elected thereat to form what is now known as the reform party, I should like the pleasure of reviewing the position as it stands, and, if possible, place my view, and also that of my club, clearly before motor cyclists, with a view of formulating something of a definite character. The first and primary objection of our club against joining the ACU is the fact that it is not a parent body ; it is not the head of motor cycling. It owns allegiance to the RAC, it accepts its subsidy, and as a consideration for such it agrees to place itself under its supreme control, giving it the power of veto over any decision arrived at that shall in its opinion be detrimental to the interests of the sport and pastime of motor cycling. That the veto has not been used does not in any way invalidate its nature. It may be enforced at any time, and when that time arrives who is to determine the committee of the ACU or the RAC as to the nature of what is or what is not detrimental to the sport or pastime? The RAC has recently vetoed hill-climbing competitions over public roads, except when these roads are by special permission of the authorities closed to other traffic. The ACU may rightly determine that contests of this character, under certain conditions, may justly be permitted to motor cyclists, and should the RAC place its veto upon this, who is to decide? Further, we desire some variation in the fines and penalties to which we are liable, and here I venture to state that had we had a separate organisation a few years ago something in that direction would have been accomplished. Again, what particular reason is there for the ACU to accept the controlling authority of the RAC? Would it not be just as reasonable to accept the parentage of the Motor Union or the Automobile Association? What an absurd position the ACU would be in if two other cycle unions were formed, and one became the child of the MU and the other paid obedience to the AA. Does it not seem strange that the ACU should accept a sum to be called the offspring of the RAC and then pay to the MU a certain sum for its protection and parentage? No, this will never do. We must insist upon our being at all or any cost the Alpha and Omega of motor cyclists—independent and separate…realising as we do the undisputed fact that motor cyclists are not numerically weaker than autocarists, we insist upon our freedom to exercise our maturity and to use unhampered and without restraint our knowledge and experience, independent and irrespective of motor car associations.
Hainsworth Wheater


The Motor Union Conference.
Mr F Straight, secretary of the Auto Cycle Union, writes: “In the report of the conference of the provincial clubs convened by the Motor Union, which report appeared in several London daily newspapers, I see my name appeared as supporting the chairman, Mr CH Dodd, thus implying that I was supporting the Motor Union. Will you grant me space to say that I was only present in my official capacity as secretary of the Auto Cycle Union, and in response to an invitation from the Motor Union to be present. Otherwise I took no official part in the meeting, and was only present to hear the arguments that were used.”

Mr A Candler, the hon secretary of the Motor Cycling Club, will move a resolution on behalf of the executive at the annual general meeting, “That in the opinion of this meeting of members of the Motor Cycling Club, affiliation to the Auto Cycle Union should be continued during 1908.” In his report to the members Mr Candler says, “It is imperatively necessary that all motor cyclists should combine together for protecting
their interests and securing the proper putting of the motor cyclists’ case when the new Motor Car Act comes up for discussion.”

The Organisation of Motor Cyclists.
“May I be allowed to utter a mild protest against Mr JH Hall’s remarks as to ‘not half’ the committee of eight having done anything to ‘justify their election’? Some may prefer to go a different way to work than has Mr Hall. Perhaps his remark is on the same plane as his boastful remark that he is the best friend the ACU has ever had. The whole of the ‘eight’ may have done a good deal. They may have effected more than Mr Hall may be aware of. Has Mr Hall consulted them all as much as ought to have been the case? Has he been as tactful as is advisable?


“I would like to reply to a letter referring to me written by Mr JJ Hall, chairman of the Eight, and published in your issue of the 1st inst. In the letter, Mr Hall throws out two challenges to me, which, however, I do not propose to answer, inasmuch as I think that before Mr Hall challenges me to substantiate my statements he had better reply to my challenge to him, which was published in the RAG Journal of November 4th last, and never answered. The matter I refer to was some wild statement not founded on any fact whatever, and contained in a letter from Mr Hall in a previous issue. This I challenged at once, and, as I now say, was never answered. Under these circumstances, I must decline to answer any further letters of Mr Hall’s until he substantiates his statements or withdraws the imputation. The letter from the other disciple of ‘Reform’ in your last issue, Mr Vaughan, is too absurd for words, and the best way to treat such letters is by silence, in which way I shall treat this one.
T Straker, Hon Sec, Hull ACC.”

The Motor Cycling Club AGM.
Following on the elections of the committee, the following motion was proposed by Mr Arthur Candler; “That in the opinion of this meeting of members of the Motor Cycling Club affiliation to the Auto Cycle Union should be continued through 1908.” Mr Candler stated that this was a matter for the members to decide for themselves, but he would like, however, to point out, now that the question of new legislation would be shortly put forward, it was time something should be done. Should they continue their affiliation to the ACU, or should they be directed by a body consisting almost exclusively of car owners? While the questions dealing with exceeding the speed limit and driving to the public danger were under consideration, would it not be selfish for motor cyclists to stand aside and not work in unity for the motor cycling movement? Motor cyclists, in his opinion, ought to remain independent of motor car owners. Mr Van Hooydonk then explained the situation in 1907, when the Motor Cycling Club joined the Auto Cycle Union to obtain the benefits of the Motor Union. Now the Royal Automobile Club has dissolved partnership with the Motor Union, and the Auto Cycle Union has severed its connection also with that body, none of these benefits would be lost, since the Auto Cycle Union is associated with the Royal Automobile Club, which can give all these advantages equally well. He then went on to explain the meaning of the veto, and took pains to show how it could not possibly be prejudicial to their interests. In his opinion, they ought to join the ACU and then work for reform, and when the time comes for new legislation motor cyclists would be a large body and of sufficient weight to make their views heard; in fact, it would be as strong as any body of motorists in the world. Dr Moss Blundell said he had been attending meetings of the MU on behalf of the Motor Cycling Club for some time, and he had no intention whatever of helping the Motor Union in any way. He had attempted to get on its committees with the object of helping motor cyclists, and do all in his power in every way, but he had been barred in his efforts at every turn. Dr Blundell was exceedingly strong in condemning the Motor Union. Again, as regards motor cyclists, he pointed out that the Union had done exceedingly little for motor cyclists. The matter was then put to the vote and carried unanimously.

1908 AA LOGO

“The secretary of the Auto Cycle Union has circularised club secretaries to the effect that the Union has given notice to terminate its agreement with the Motor Union, and will continue the existing relations with the RAC.”

The ACU Council Meeting.
“I wish to say a few words in reply to Mr T Straker of Hull. The greater part of [his] letter is too foolish for words, and too ridiculous for notice—simply parrot talk—but when he says the Council meeting was a ‘packed one’, and that the reforms are ‘ridiculous schemes brought forward by outsiders, and prompted by nothing but jealousy’, he is making statements which are, to put it mildly, not true, and I challenge him to prove them: 1st, ‘that the meeting was a packed one’; 2nd, ‘that the scheme is prompted by nothing but jealousy’. If Mr Straker will prove his statements, I shall have pleasure in sending £2 2s to you to hand over to some charity. It will perhaps be remembered that Captain Foster, another Hull gentleman, said the ‘eight’ were a racing clique. As I happen to be one of the eight, and know the others well, I can say that a greater untruth was never uttered, and although proved to be untrue, Captain Foster never withdrew his remark. I hope we are not to take Captain Foster and Mr Straker as being representative of the Hull motor cyclists; if we are, I fear there is not much sportmanship about them.
John H Hall”


The ACU Fifth Annual Dinner.
“Colonel HCL Holden, RA, FRS, made an excellent chairman. After the toast of ‘The King, the Queen, and the Royal Family’ had been given, Colonel Holden, before proposing the toast of the ACU, referred to a letter which had been received from Mr TK Hastings, president of the Federation of American Motor Cyclists. Mr. Hastings regretted that the great distance between New York and London prevented his attendance. (Laughter.) He wrote in glowing terms of the great consideration, hospitality, and courtesy he had received at the hands of the Union during the 1907 reliability trials. He hoped to participate in the Land’s End to John-o’-Groat’s trial, and had much pleasure in again presenting the Hastings Trophy for the best performance of a private owner in this year’s long distance competition. (Cheers.) Colonel Holden, in proposing the toast of ‘The ACU’, referred to the change of name. It was, he said, a good omen; union meant strength. He thought the motor bicycle was the most marvellous of all the instances of automobilism. People said that to balance a bicycle and to manage an engine was a most rash thing to attempt. That was why, he considered, the De Dion firm made a tricycle, and now at the present time the tricycle is practically dead, and the motor bicycle survives. It will travel as fast and as far as a car, and, seeing the excellent performances made by motor bicycles in the ACU trials, the limit of endurance of one of these machines did not seem to be yet reached. The Union had been lucky as regards its officers; it could find no better chairman than Mr Todd and no better secretary than Mr Straight. Mr Robert Todd in response spoke of the termination of the agreement between the RAC and MU. It had come about because both bodies found they could not both sit on the same side of the fence at the same time; the ACU had therefore thrown in its lot with the RAC, whose secretary, Mr JW Orde, had done excellent work for the Auto Cycle Union. Touching on Col Holden’s remarks about the early De Dion tricycles, he remembered it was stated in the catalogues that motor bicycles were not recommended, and would only be made to order. Dealing with the question of taxation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was busy arranging for old age pensions, and for these he would expect the motor cyclist to contribute. He considered that to approach him would be almost useless, but at any rate an attempt would be made to get motor cyclists’ taxes fixed as low as possible. He noticed that many members of the Cyclists’ Touring Club objected to motor cyclists in that body, and he thought it would be a good opportunity for motor cycling members of the CTC to join the ACU. He was glad to see that there was peace in the ranks of motor cyclists. Mr RH Head, chairman of the Motor Cycling Club, then replied. He said the ACU had always been considered by his club as a useful and important body, and his club had been anxious to associate itself with it. It had, however, been thought somewhat of a weakling. A committee of eight surgeons resolved to operate upon it, and removed its appendix, the word ‘club’, and substituted another, the word ‘union’. His club, the Motor Cycling Club, the oldest motor cycling institution, was its staunchest supporter.”


To help motor cyclists decide which association they should join “and which offers the greatest advantages for the amount of the subscription” The Motor Cycle gave the AA, the ACU and the MU space to state their respective cases.

ACU: “This Union, until recently known as the Auto Cycle Club [glossing over some intense infighting], was formed in 1903, and is the governing body of the sport of motor cycling in this country. It is also the largest motor cycling organisation, having a total membership exceeding 2,000, including private members and the members of thirty affiliated clubs. The main objects of the Union are to act as a society of encouragement, to safeguard the rights and privileges of motor cyclists, and to take action where advisable in cases where general principles affecting the rights of motor cyclists as a whole are involved…as far back as 1904, the ACU was instrumental in fighting and winning a test case, on the issue of which depended the question whether motor cyclists were to carry a red rear light… through the Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, the ACU approached the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to obtaining a reduction in the taxes for motor cyclists…” Benefits, it said, included “post free, weekly, a copy of the Royal Automobile Club Journal, the official organ of the ACU…free registration on the competitors’ register; reduced entrance fees in competitions, trials, races, etc; legal information, advice, and assistance; special touring facilities and Customs advantages on the Continent; information on the best routes at home and abroad, and assistance in planning tours”. Then there was legal advice and, possibly, legal aid, not to mention “a comfortable club room in Piccadilly where members can consult all the motoring papers, write letters, and use the telephone…Another very material benefit which the ACU has conferred upon motor cyclists is the great improvement which has taken place in British machines, due largely to the various trials and competitions promoted by the Club, of which particular mention should be made of the Six Days’ Trial, the International Auto Cycle TT Race, Quarterly Trials, Hill-climbs, the Side-slip, and Silencer Trials—the valuable data obtained as a result of these trials being of the greatest assistance to the manufacturers. During the winter months a series of papers on subjects of interest to motor cyclists are read, and all members are invited to attend and take part in the discussions which follow…”


The Motor Union (founded by the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland to handle legal issues and incorporating the Motor Vehicle Users’ Defence Association); in 1907 the MU broke away from what had become the Royal Automobile Club but, as its badge reflected, this was still primarily an automobilists’ organisation. Many of the benefits were the same as offered by the ACU; in addition MU members were promised “the benefits of affiliated membership of the Auto Cycle Union…Protection on the highway—the Union prosecutes in cases when cyclists are obstructed or assaulted. The Union protects the interests of motor cyclists at national and local inquiries affecting motorists, and arranges for their direct representation at such inquiries whenever they request it or it appears desirable. Week in, week out, the Union negotiates for the reduction of bridge and ferry tolls, the abolition or improvement of level crossings, the removal of dangerous corners, the cutting of hedges, and the removal of restrictions. Much of this work is silent and unreported. The Union secures, whenever possible, free admission to exhibitions and reduced charges at hotels, etc.”

The Automobile Association was set up in 1905 as The Motorists’ Mutual Association to consider ways to overcome the perceived police oppression of early motorists and their use of speed-traps. Within a week it was renamed the AA and hired a motor cyclist and three pedal cyclists scouts to patrol main roads and warn members of police traps). “We are affording to motor cyclists our well-known privileges both as regards our system of agents and the patrol organisation on all the principal roads in England, who warn car drivers and motor cyclists of any dangers on the road, and render assistance when necessary, conducing to the comfort and safety of all users of the road…The privileges we are affording motor cyclists do not constitute membership, but simply the road privileges of the Association.”


An ACU council meeting in London decided, following fierce debate, to remain in the RAC, but with full autonomy as regards motor cycle events, and to bring Scottish and Irish riders into the ACU fold.

Following an equally fierce debate the ACU voted to offer individual membership (at five bob a head) to riders who wanted the benefits it offered but were not clubmen. This seemed a done deal but the ACU’s Relations Sub-committee threw a spanner in the works by upping the subs to a quid for urbanites or 10s 6d for rural riders. Some ACU clubs, notably the South-East [London] Auto Cycle Association (SEACA) and the Bradford MCC launched 5s “associate membership” schemes to fill the gap. The Motor Cycle warned: “We have supported the ACU through thick and thin, but we must say that the present policy is a weak one, for the simple reason that there is nothing to prevent a body like the SEACA eventually becoming a sufficiently powerful appendage to sway the body of the canine known as the ACU.”

“i ope yu will forgive me for ritin to yu. but i am a demon for wantin to no things, and wen i sees this in ure paper—”The very existence of the ACU depends upon Funds”—i goes to our captain and says, ure smart can you tell us wat it means, an he says, yu’ve got to reed atween the lines, so i gets a big glas an lucks carefully, an i can’t see nothin, so i says to meself, the Editor of our paper is the man to put me rite’, an wat i wants to no is, supposin our club ad fillyated in ianuary we shud all of us ave ad the club paper sent to us every weak, wich wood av cost the ACU 2s 2d for postage. Our filly ashun fee is only 2s ahead, ow do they get the funds they want. i ope u wont laff to much at me for ritin to yu, but i think the ACU mite send us the 2d per member insted of the paper, and fillyate us for nothin. The ACU wud av a full membership and our club wud av mor money.

“Mr Frederick Straight, Secretary of the Auto Cycle Union, on his new Triumph.”

The ACU and Unattached Riders.
“At a committee meeting of the ACU on the 12th ult the question of the association of unattached riders was referred to the Legislative Sub-committee. The report was that a scheme of association was not wanted, and should be rejected. This report was then submitted to the General Committee and accepted, and a resolution passed that an associate scheme be rejected. In the meantime it is worthy of note that the Brighton and District MCC is enrolling associate members at 4s per head, the South-eastern Auto Cycle Association at 5s, and among other advantages the last-mentioned club is just concluding an agreement for a reduced insurance policy. The Bradford MCC, and, we believe, the Newcastle and District MCC, have also similar schemes.”