PR Whitaker

Member Stories




To put the record straight, Arnold was not a Teddy Boy; anyone from that era will remember them as sporting a DA hairstyle, drain pipe trousers and choice of shoes featuring crepe soles. He found a shoe shop in Morley Market that sold crepe shoes with ¾ to 1-inch-thick soles and when questioned for his choice the response was that they lasted longer before they wore out and there after he became known as the Gildersome Teddy Boy.


I came into contact with Arnold when I joined the West Leeds Motor Club in 1958; he had become a member a few years earlier after following motor cycle trials and scrambles on his road bike and it was his mother who persuaded him to join a club and take part in these events himself. Two club members Geoff Broadbent and Tommy Wortley informed him of a 500 BSA competition bike for sale owned by a mechanic who prepared the speedway bikes at Odsal the home of Bradford Speedway. This bike was a genuine competition hard tail (no suspension at the rear) which came with a low and high compression pistons which could be changed to compete in either trials or scrambles.


The headquarters of the West Leeds club at the time was The Wyther Hotel in Armley and Arnold and I use to order ½ pint of beer each which lasted all night. One meeting the landlord Reuben remarked “I am not going to get rich out of you two buggers”. Arnold may have had a guilty conscience for at the next meeting he ordered a full pint and this was noted in the club's minutes

quote “Mr Teal appeared at the meeting and surprised everybody with having a pint in his hand; it was noted he still had it at the meeting end”. At least it could be said that Arnold had increased the landlord's wealth with the purchase of the extra ½ pint.


After leaving school he studied engineering at college and worked for a time at Wilson & Mathieson's in Leeds, manufacturers of The New World Cookers, doing tests on the final products although his main interest was in agriculture and eventually switched employment to an agricultural contractor.


On one occasion Arnold had entered the BSA in the Ilkley Grand National Trial which was held on a Saturday and had a front wheel puncture on his way to the event; he was unable to take out the spindle so rode it to Bill Bancroft's motorcycle shop in Horsforth and they spent the whole afternoon removing the forks and applying oxyacetylene to remove the seized spindle. You could say that became now his method of maintenance and preparation - agricultural. The following year he did make the start; however according to Barry Robinson, the motor cycle correspondent Arnold was the first rider to retire when the separate gear box on the BSA came adrift; you sometimes cannot win.


In the late 50's a few members of the club rode up to Scotland and spectated at the Scottish Six Days Trial and one year a week before the trial, Arnold decided to graft on a swinging arm suspension to replace the hard tail on the BSA.He was still working on the bike through the night before we set off on the Sunday and had not quite completed the work mainly the fitting of chain tugs to adjust the chain; he solved this problem by carrying an assortment of different sized nuts to pack behind the rear wheel spindle, Rolls Royce engineering standard and it worked. Arnold was deceptively smooth and quick as a rider especially in muddy conditions; whilst spectating at one particular section in the Scottish there was another spectator on an immaculate Matchless or AJS and after a while we all set off across the moors following this geezer on the AJS (you could ride the sections and follow the trial in those days). He was quick and there was Arnold up his chuff, quicker and quicker they went with this bloke looking over his shoulder and right up where the sun does not shine was Arnold on his BSA lash up. When eventually we reached the road one of our group, Reg Roberts enquired as to whether any one of us knew who Arnold had been following; he was by name Bob Mann's the competition team manager for the Matchless& AJS manufacturers and one of the top riders in the country in his younger days representing Great Britain in the International Six Days Trial for a number of years besides competing in national trials in the UK.


A year later we went up to Scotland in style Arnold having been approached by Gordon Carr of Cars Auto Wreckers of Leeds a fellow member of the West Leeds club with the offer of an ex WD Austin utility pick up for the princely sum of £5 although bear in mind that tradesmen's wages were in the region of £10 per week at the time. It was the basic model, one windscreen wiper and cable brakes; the deluxe version came with two windscreen wipers and hydraulic brakes and this unit had a maximum speed of about 50mph if you were brave enough and could keep it in a straight line and it was very reluctant to stop. It was a beautiful Sunday morning when he came to collect me and the bike. Arnold had fitted two brand new tyres on the front and after inspecting the tracking from the front adjusted the tracking with a pair of stilsons and then we were on our way to meet Fred Reeves who was travelling with us on his Norton sidecar outfit with his trials bike on board and then on to Silsden to pick up Tony Bailey. Tony's grand-father was a poultry farmer the same as Arnold and his luggage with his change of clothing and parts were in a chick food bag West Yorkshire's equivalent to the Louis Vuitton range of luxury travelling luggage. Reaching the A6 near Kendall (this was before the M6 was built) the front end tracking was checked; half the tyres were scrubbed off to the canvas so out came the stilsons; the tracking readjusted the other way. As we approached the Shap's the weather changed and it started to rain and this was when we discovered that the windscreen wiper did not work; a nail was in the arm and it had to be operated by hand. There was over a 100 miles to go to Lochearnhead where we to stay overnight and it rained all the way and so the right hand operated the wind screen wiper and then the left and then the right again and when you had enough swapped positions from the rear to the front and vice versa. Tony and I had wrists of 5-inch circumference and by the time we reached the digs these had developed to 6”.


That Austin utility travelled thousands of miles up and down the country as Arnold competed in scrambles, sometimes on his own and on occasions with fellow riders. One event he entered was a Ripon scramble at Hutton Conyers with Fred Reeves who was campaigning a BSA 250 c15 at the time. The rear brake pedal return spring on his faithful 500 BSA had long been broken but this had been replaced by a Rolls Royce rubber band. On presenting the bike for machine examining the official being the late Tom Ellis the rubber band broke when the rear brake was operated. Unperturbed Arnold explained he had plenty of spare rubber bands back in the pick up; to which Tom Ellis replied “well I suppose it's alright it's your neck that's at stake”

After the meeting the bikes were loaded up and they made their way back to Leeds via Harrogate. Approaching the centre downhill the lights were at red with a line of stationary traffic and although Arnold had slowed the van down it still continued to roll and Fred was now hopping about like a jumping jack in the front. With what looked like a disaster about to take place the nuts of the engine were revved up and the gear lever slammed into bottom gear. The rear wheels locked up with skid marks on the road and yet it still continued to roll forward at about 2 or 3 miles per hour so Arnold pulled out and overtook the line of traffic and as they reached the lights they turned to green and over the junction and up the hill to Leeds they went; Fred had probably aged by 30 years.


The old BSA was finally retired and replaced with a 250 Greeves scrambler fitted with the Villiers 250T twin engine bought from a rider in the North East by the name of Heckles I think who had used it for grass track and sand racing. The standard fuel tank had been replaced with a 1 litre tank from an NSU Quickly moped which held sufficient fuel for scrambling. Arnold and Fred Reeves entered a winter scramble down in Derbyshire which may have been one of the winter TV series as all the works bods were there and it was a complete mud bath which as mentioned before suited Arnold down to the ground as he was brilliant in muddy conditions. His heat was the last one before the final and he easily qualified and came in to the paddock to top up the fuel. Removing the tank cap a dollop of mud unbelievably slithered off his helmet straight into the tank. There was no time to do anything about the situation as they were calling out the riders and lining them up for the final. Arnold got a cracking start and was in 3 rd or 4 th position for about 4 laps well into the prize money and one of the Dot works riders, either Pat Lamper, John Griffiths or Bill Barugh attempting to overtake him with no success and then the inevitable occurred and the dollop of mud worked it's way into the carb and that was that. Any sane person would have been effing and blinding it and possibly kicking the bike up in the air but Arnold just pulled into the side until the race was over and then calmly pushed the bike back to the paddock; what an unfortunate piece of luck. Arnold's strength as a rider was his stamina with 10 or12 lap races over gruelling circuits such as the Cumberland Grand National, covering the final laps at the same speed as the early ones. There was no grading system at the time like the present but would have almost certainly been graded as an expert.


Any travelling overnight, accommodation had to be 3,4 or 5 stars; after spectating at the British round of Coupe De Europe the equivalent of the 250 world championship today, at the Shrubland Park circuit near Ipswich with Arnold and Fred Reeves where Arthur Lampkin and Dave Bickers were battling it out for the title, we headed up the East coast each of us having booked a day's holiday on the Monday with the intension of visiting Cleethorpes and Skegness on the way home. It was late at night and dark when we decided to park up and spend the night and pitched Arnold's 5 star two-man tent on a patch of green, very cosy for three. The following morning Arnold crept out of the tent in his underpants for a call of nature only to re-enter at great speed followed by a chorus of female whooping. We had pitched on a suburban patch of green opposite a bus stop where a line of ladies was waiting for the bus to arrive, definitely not 5stars.


Arnold's main interest was in farming and he worked Nursery Farm into a viable concern mainly through poultry although at the time agriculture markets were up and down and at times he was working full time and at others having to find a part time jobs to keep afloat. The West Leeds Motor Clubs annual dinner raffle request always benefited from Arnold donating a dozen eggs each year. One year the club put the boat out and held the annual event at the rather swish Parkway Hotel in Leeds, you could tell it was rather posh for the beer came in jugs instead of pints and the waiters wore dicky bows and penguin suits. Unfortunately for the Parkway management the dozen eggs devoted for the raffle was won by one of the wild “yoofs” present and as the evening went on a cat and mouse game ensued with the “yoofs” lobbing an egg on to the dance floor where upon one of the eagle eyed waiters would sweep down and remove the broken mess with a serviette and this carried on until the supply of eggs was exhausted; what a waste of the little Lion grade eggs.


Following a successful decade or more of scrambling Arnold switched to the new sport of Enduros and competed for several years riding a Greeves Pathfinder superseded with a Kawasaki 175 KDX mainly in the British 2 Day Championships. Entered one year in the Welsh 2 Day International Trial he faced a problem with an a very officious machine examiner at the machine weigh in. His preparation of his machines is best described as agricultural and for the rear riding number plate utilised a 4-pint plastic milk bottle split and wrapped over the rear mudguard and the black back ground had probably two seasons of different numbers painted over. To make matters worse this was an International event and riding numbers were obliged to be painted yellow over a black back ground and not the normal white over black. Dispatched to rectify the colours, yellow paint was acquired but no brush; Arnold's agricultural knowledge solved this problem a lump of grass dipped into the paint and dabbed over the numbers a Van Gough paint job it wasn't. Back to the machine examiner and it would be an understatement to say he was not impressed with the lumps of grass and grit stuck to the still wet paint job, the verdict was no start. The response from Arnold's protest was for him to contact the clerk of the course a Roger Mauphling, who was an expert side car rider in his day and was responsible for having a side car class in the Welsh that brought a contingent of sidecar crews from across the continent each year and when he was eventually located and being one of the old fashion school brigade gave the OK for Arnold to ride.

He had a very good ride on the first day with no problems; bikes were held in the parc ferme overnight and could only be collected 10 minutes before your start time to carry out any maintenance. There were no camel backs in those days so it was either a small tank or bum bag but Arnold used an ex WD Army knapsack with his spares etc.

Patiently waiting on the start line on the second day the commentator, a Dave Smith who commentated on all the British Moto Cross championships and the World when it was held at Hawkstone Park, quote; “riding no? . Mr J A Teal from Leeds. Oh! Oh! very impressive ride yesterday only a few minutes lost and in a silver medal position (in those days once you were one minute late at a check that was the gold medal gone west and dropped down to silver up to 20 minutes late and then consequently down to bronze) I must say he is very calm cool and collected and indeed looks as though he is just going to work with his sandwiches in his knapsack”

Arnold maintained his good ride on the second day and obtained a coveted silver medal no mean feat for an ordinary clubman.


Paul Whitaker