Wednesday, February 06, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: LES HIGGINS, 'PRIVATE OWNER'


While researching the mkVII KTT, I was reminded of Les Higgins, who rode such in the '38 Isle of Man TT, and wrote a book about his racing exploits, 'Private Owner' (Foulis, 1948 - I suggest bookfinder.com, or ebay). He was never in the top ranks of riders, but writes about the life of a typical 'clubman', the uber-enthusiast who spent all his money and free weekends racing at Brooklands, the TT, the Ulster, Donington Park, etc, filling up the ranks of the 'also rans', and the principal customer for racing machinery such as the KTT, Norton Model 30, Excelsior Manxman, etc.

Top pic is a scan of the cover, showing Les racing his MkVII, and the second pic is Les at the '38 TT (from the Keig Collection Volume 1). The caption from the photo: "Between 1938 and 1951, fairhaired Londoner Les Higgins had seven goes at the TT and finished once, 29th in the 1939 Junior on the machine pictured. His infinitely more memorable achievement was the original 'Shell History of the TT' which he painstaking compiled in 1953." Higgins also wrote 'Britain's Racing Motor Cycles' (Foulis, 1953 -he was clearly busy writing two books in 1952!), which is a well-written historical survey, full of anecdotes and details, although the photographs are sparse, the opposite of the modern trend in motorcycle books ('chopper' books have almost no text at all, probably for the better...).

Here are some extracts from 'Private Owner' : "...an agent whispered into my ear the news of the birth of a new KTT. I straightaway parted with the Mark V and placed an order for a new Mark VII...a few weeks later the agent telephoned to say that Veloce were despatching thr KTTs very shortly but were only supplying them to TT entrants. This was a step I had not considered taking, but I decided that if competing in the Island races was the only way to get the KTT then I had better enter!"

No comments: