I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


A message from one of my motorcycling heroes - from the days when motorcycle racing was a clean, sporting event, with riders in sober black leathers (no advertising), riding "real" motorcycles (not sounding like vacuum cleaners enclosed in Easter eggs).

Six-times World Champion, 33-times Grand Prix winner and‘Birthday Boy’

Geoff Duke OBE.

“As I celebrate my 90th birthday on Good Friday, I just wanted to thank you all for your kind messages, cards and gifts. It is always a pleasure to receive a letter from a fan and wonderful to know there are so many of you out there who remember fondly my racing days.

Unfortunately, I am no longer able to reply to all your kind messages and requests for autographs, but I wanted to let you know how much your letters mean to me. I remain a keen follower of our sport, and have always enjoyed meeting you and reminiscing about the old days at events all over the world.

Although I can’t make it to as many meetings as I have in the past, I hope to follow the 2013 season, especially the Isle of Man TT, which, as many of you know, is my ‘home’ event and has always been one of my favourite circuits.

As I mark my 90th birthday with my family, I will be recalling my career and remembering all the fans who played such a large part in it.

Thank you all.

Please watch the following link:


Roderick Robinson said...

The greatest tributes arrive informally. There was a time - it may have been imaginary but that didn't matter - when cops stopped speeding motorcyclists and opened up the dialogue with: "Now then, now then. Who do you think you are? Geoff Duke?" Later this informal crown passed to Stirling Moss.

People outside motorcycle racing knew him. He was of course successful but there was more to it than that. Something to do with his handsome, boyish face and his modesty. He also looked the part and I believe he may have been one of the first racers to adopt a one-piece set of leathers. There's a famous photograph of him from the rear, tucked in behind the fairing at speed. The passage of air is working on the stretched-tight leathers creating a fixed set of ridges which look like exaggerated ribs. And of course there's that easily recognised helmet of his - white with a circular symbol at the front; a symbol I never identified at the time and have no interest in identifying now. Any more than learning some fascinating detail about his eyebrows.

He also plied his trade at a time when the mortality rate among bike racers was horrific. Adding to his unassuming heroism.

All this happened before I joined MotorCycling because I can remember how that magazine covered his retirement. The editor, no less, had gone to see him and asked a sentimental question. Duke pondered what he'd been asked and the editor - maintaining the sentimental moment - wondered whether Duke's mind had briefly flitted away to one of the racing circuits he'd graced. "Solitude, perhaps," the editor speculated. It was the first time I'd ever heard of that circuit.

The headline read "Duke jacks it in" - the operative phrase having emerged from Duke during the interview.

Sure, one of my heroes too. But I am saddened by your allusions to "clean" racing of a bygone time. The details you mention are unimportant; bike racing remains the same terrifyingly demanding sport and for me Duke and Rossi are equally heroic. I would ask too whether the words "clean" and "real" are appropriate when referring to an era where organisers took a very casual view of humans and required young men to risk - and give up - their lives against stone walls and tree trunks. "Cynical" and "exploitative" seem more apt.

And yes I can remember when the decision was taken to drop the TT from the world championship on the grounds that it was not only dangerous but - given that it is a time trial - somewhat boring to watch. OK the TT and the Northwest 200 still exist and are available for those who care to test themselves in this way. But they're no longer obligatory for professional racers and I for one am glad, as I would have been when gladiatorial combat was finally retired.

Avus said...

Thoughtful and appreciative, RR and I take on board your critical comments.
The "symbol on the front of his helmet" was the red rose of Lancashire - him being from that County. I can see that, as a (lapsed) Yorkist, you may well have "no interest"!

hhb said...

I think I sent you a postcard of him once? I watched the film, did I see him raise his hand in thanks when overtaking another racer? A true gentleman.

Have you still got your round, cork lined 'skid lid'? The photo of you wearing it, is sittting on top of my bookcase!

Avus said...

Yes - a true gentleman and continued so after retirement to the Isle of Man, where he set up his business "Duke Enterprises".
And yes, I still have that helmet, bought in 1966 when it was already out of fashion. But kept in the cupboard now and never worn due to extreme age - the helmet not the wearer! (in the event of an accident it would now be about as protective as an Australian Akubra).